Home

 › 

Products

 › 

Reviews

 › 

5 Reasons I Would Avoid an Apple Watch Screen Protector, and What You Can Use Instead

5 Reasons to Avoid an Apple Watch SE Today

5 Reasons I Would Avoid an Apple Watch Screen Protector, and What You Can Use Instead

If you’ve got an Apple Watch, you might wonder if you need a screen protector. After all, they add bulk and cost more money. The good news is that if you don’t want one, you can probably get by without one. Personally, I would never use one. Let’s examine why I would never put a screen protector on my Apple Watch.

It Can Damage the Oleophobic Coating

screen protectors
An Apple Watch has a high-quality oleophobic coating that adhesives can damage.

Oleophobic coating is an important part of touchscreen-based technology that we often don’t consider as much as we should. It is an anti-oil coating; it prevents the oils from your skin from getting all over the screen and making it greasy. Since the coating rejects oil, it also helps prevent your screen from getting fingerprints all over it, which can make it easier to read while the coating is intact.

It’s worth noting that oleophobic coating will wear off eventually, no matter what you do. While cleaning your screen with only a microfiber cloth can help preserve the coating, it will eventually wear off and your screen will start to get oily and retain fingerprints. This issue is a natural progression of oleophobic coating and is inevitable with the current technology associated with it.

However, some screen protectors can prematurely damage the oleophobic coating of your Apple Watch. In some cases, users have even had the oleophobic coating of devices stripped off by screen protectors upon removal. Some screen protectors come with their own oleophobic coating, particularly those made of tempered glass. However, if your device’s original oleophobic coating has been stripped, you’ll most likely need to apply a screen protector with oleophobic coating to get it back.

You can also reapply the oleophobic coating yourself if you have the technical knowledge and materials. Apple won’t do it for you, even if you ask nicely.

It’s relatively similar to greasing a cake pan; you apply a few drops of the coating to your screen and spread it with a finger protected inside a plastic sandwich bag. Naturally, you don’t want to use your finger without a protective coating since mixing the oils from your finger with the oleophobic coating will ruin it. 

Still, there’s no point in resetting the coating — which requires 8–12 hours to set and bond to the glass —if you’re just going to strip it off with another screen protector. If you’re going to stick another screen protector on there, another oleophobic screen protector would be more cost-effective.

The Screen Protector Can Be Too Bulky

If you’re someone who values the sleek look and feel of technology, a screen protector can add noticeable bulk that damages your experience. If you want true protection for your screen — from scratching and shattering — you need a tempered glass screen protector, which is around 0.25 oz per protector. The Apple Watch Ultra is only 2.15oz. That means the screen protector weighs just shy of 1/8th the weight of the entire watch.

Now, you can reduce that amount by getting a film protector which will be a bit lighter. However, that means your Apple Watch won’t be protected from shatter damage since film protectors don’t absorb the shock when you drop the watch. If you drop an Apple Watch with a film protector on it, it’s no different than dropping it without the protector at all; the glass under the film will shatter and the film will be intact since plastic film doesn’t shatter.

A 0.25 oz weight might seem light, and objectively it is. However, when you consider that 0.25 oz is a bit shy of 25% of an Apple Watch Series 8 and 12.5% of an Apple Watch Ultra, that’s actually a pretty large increase. If you think 12.5% isn’t a high amount, consider a more extreme example: a car. The average car weighs around 4,100 pounds. That means a 12.5% increase in weight is an additional 512.5 pounds! At a weight in the ounces, you might not notice it right away, but it is a significant weight increase.

Will everyone on Earth notice the additional 0.25 oz added to their watch? No, definitely not. However, some people will. Additionally, some screen protectors add height to the watch and make the screen’s edges less smooth and seamless, which may be unacceptable to people who like their technology to have a specific amount of sleekness.

Screen Protectors Do Less Than You Think

The value of your screen protector is only as good as the materials it’s made of. There are many different types of screen protectors, and they are not all equal. All screen protectors are scratch-resistant, or at least they prevent the actual screen from getting scratched. However, for many screen protectors, this is the end of their value. Scratch damage is certainly important to avoid, but it’s not the only type of damage your Apple Watch can come in contact with.

Vinyl and plastic screen protectors are scratch-resistant but offer little to no other protection. They’re cheap and relatively easy to apply, making them very popular. However, the usefulness of them is often wildly overblown. Many people believe that screen protectors will prevent your screen from cracking and shattering. They do not. The vast majority of screen protectors prevent scratching only. Shatter protection requires the screen protector to absorb the shock when the screen hits the ground, which the majority of screen protectors don’t do. If you drop an Apple Watch with a screen protector the screen will shatter underneath the protector in most cases.

There are exceptions to the rule of screen protectors being significantly less useful than the public opinion often believes. Tempered glass screen protectors — which are thicker, heavier, and more expensive than vinyl or plastic ones — will absorb fall shock. When using one of these, typically the screen protector will shatter if the device is dropped while the screen underneath is protected. Severe falls may produce enough force to shatter both the protector and the screen, but short but deadly drops will typically only break the screen protector.

So, realistically, unless you’re buying a tempered glass screen protector, you’re not really protecting your screen. It’s a phenomenon known as security theater, in which you are lulled into a sense of false confidence by the appearance of protection.

Some Screen Protectors Reduce Touchscreen Sensitivity

screen protectors
Unlike resistive touchscreens, capacitive touchscreens need thin layers to be effective.

Understanding why screen protectors may reduce your touchscreen sensitivity requires an understanding of how touchscreens work, to begin with. Modern touchscreens are capacitive touchscreens, which rely on electrical currents passed from the human body (which is lightly electrically charged) to the capacitors underneath the glass. Human bodies carry a very slight electrical charge, with emphasis on very. Even the oils from your skin can disrupt the electrical charge and reduce the sensitivity of your touchscreen.

Plastic is not electrically conductive. Vinyl, the material of most thin form factor screen protectors, is a type of plastic. Additionally, there are thicker plastic screen protectors that provide more shock protection at the cost of being significantly less electrically conductive. These screen protectors can significantly reduce the conductivity and thus the sensitivity of the touchscreen.

Glass isn’t electrically conductive either. At room temperature, it’s almost as insulative as rubber. However, it has a good dielectric constant, making it excellent for touchscreens compared to plastic. Plastic touchscreens tend to be resistive touchscreens, thus relying on the pressure of the screen to register the inputs. These touchscreens are best used with a stylus or fingernail because they require force to input information. Capacitative touchscreens require no pressure making them more accessible and convenient. However, these require a screen material with a higher dielectric constant to be usable.

Additionally, the electric charge you need to pass to the capacitors is, again, very slight. Adding more layers and thicker walls between your finger and the capacitor just naturally reduces its sensitivity. With thin screen protectors, you’re unlikely to notice the difference, but if you want real protection on your screen you’re going to sacrifice sensitivity. There’s just no way around that.

The Haptic Feedback Is Not as Satisfying

This factor is relatively personal. Many people may not notice it at all, but those who do will notice it very strongly. Screen protectors often lack the smooth physical feel that people associate with glass touchscreens. This issue is less present on something like a smartwatch, where you won’t be scrolling for hours at a time. However, it will be noticeable if you have a particular preference for the sensory input you receive from your touchscreens.

A significant portion of the haptic feedback associated with glass touchscreens comes from the oleophobic coating we mentioned earlier. This coating makes the touchscreen feel smooth and silky while also protecting the screen from oils and preventing it from becoming greasy or retaining fingerprints. It’s a double whammy of function and feel.

Some screen protectors — particularly glass ones — come with an oleophobic coating, as we noted. However, the coating is generally not as high quality as the ones used on the original screen, and plastic screen protectors generally don’t have an oleophobic coating at all. This can leave the screen feeling rough or sticky, and it will retain fingerprints and get greasy when you use it a lot.

The haptic feedback from many screen protectors is unpalatable to me. It doesn’t feel as good as the oleophobic coating used in most high-end electronics. You may feel differently, but that’s how I feel and it’s one of my primary reasons for avoiding screen protectors.

The Best Alternatives to an Apple Watch Screen Protector

If you’re still looking for some type of protection for your Apple Watch, the Otterbox is our pick for the best alternative to a screen protector.

The OtterBox All Day Case for Apple Watch Series 7/8/9 (45mm)

This bumper case provides robust screen protection by adding a shock-absorbing bumper that protects the screen by preventing it from hitting anything. Other bumpers can try to replicate the protection of an Otterbox, but few stand the stress test.

Bumper Blocks Impact Force
OtterBox All Day Case for Apple Watch Series 7/8/9 (45mm)
$15.85
  • Only compatible with 45mm Apple Watch Series 7, 8, and 9
  • Bumper guards the display, edges, and crown
  • Antimicrobial technology to protect case against common bacteria
  • Includes OtterBox limited lifetime warranty
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/02/2024 09:59 pm GMT

The OtterBox All Day Case for Apple Watch Series 7/8/9 (41mm)

This case has the same shock-absorbing bumper as the one above, but it is for the 41mm size Apple Watch Series 7-9.

Design Allows Features to Work Seamlessly
OtterBox All Day Case for Apple Watch Series 7/8/9 (41mm)
$19.53
  • Only compatible with 41mm Apple Watch Series 7, 8, and 9
  • Smooth bumper to guard your display, edges, and crown
  • Precision fit so your case will stay on under impact
  • Antimicrobial case protection
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/02/2024 10:00 pm GMT

OtterBox All Day Case for Apple Watch Series 4/5/6/SE (44mm)

Choose this case if you have an earlier series Apple Watch in the 44mm size.

Easy to Install
OtterBox All Day Case for Apple Watch Series 4/5/6/SE (44mm)
$19.99
  • Case is only compatible with 44mm Apple Watch Series 4, 5, 6, and SE
  • Made with 90% recycled plastic
  • Sleek bumper design guards the display, edges, and crown
  • Antimicrobial technology helps protect case against bacteria
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/02/2024 09:44 pm GMT

OtterBox All Day Case for Apple Watch 40mm Series 4/5/6/SE:

This is the best alternative if you have the 40mm Apple Watch from a previous series.

Sleek Design
OtterBox All Day Case for Apple Watch Series 4/5/6/SE (40mm)
$19.99
  • For use only with the 40mm Apple Watch Series 4, 5,6, and SE
  • Fit allows all features to work seamlessly
  • Bumper protects your display, edges, and crown
  • Antimicrobial technology protects your case from common bacteria
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/02/2024 09:54 pm GMT

Best Apple Watch Screen Protector Alternatives

1. The OtterBox All Day Case for Apple Watch Series 7/8/9 (45mm)
2. The OtterBox All Day Case for Apple Watch Series 7/8/9 (41mm)
3. OtterBox All Day Case for Apple Watch Series 4/5/6/SE (44mm)
4. OtterBox All Day Case for Apple Watch Series 4/5/6/SE (40mm)
  1. OtterBox All Day Case for Apple Watch Series 7/8/9 (45mm)
    $15.85
    • Only compatible with 45mm Apple Watch Series 7, 8, and 9
    • Bumper guards the display, edges, and crown
    • Antimicrobial technology to protect case against common bacteria
    • Includes OtterBox limited lifetime warranty
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    03/02/2024 09:59 pm GMT
  2. OtterBox All Day Case for Apple Watch Series 7/8/9 (41mm)
    $19.53
    • Only compatible with 41mm Apple Watch Series 7, 8, and 9
    • Smooth bumper to guard your display, edges, and crown
    • Precision fit so your case will stay on under impact
    • Antimicrobial case protection
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    03/02/2024 10:00 pm GMT
  3. OtterBox All Day Case for Apple Watch Series 4/5/6/SE (44mm)
    $19.99
    • Case is only compatible with 44mm Apple Watch Series 4, 5, 6, and SE
    • Made with 90% recycled plastic
    • Sleek bumper design guards the display, edges, and crown
    • Antimicrobial technology helps protect case against bacteria
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    03/02/2024 09:44 pm GMT
  4. OtterBox All Day Case for Apple Watch Series 4/5/6/SE (40mm)
    $19.99
    • For use only with the 40mm Apple Watch Series 4, 5,6, and SE
    • Fit allows all features to work seamlessly
    • Bumper protects your display, edges, and crown
    • Antimicrobial technology protects your case from common bacteria
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    03/02/2024 09:54 pm GMT

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a screen protector for my Apple Watch?

That depends on what kind of screen protector you buy. For most standard vinyl screen protectors, they’re about as effective as a bare screen.

Do screen protectors prevent scratch damage?

Most screen protectors resist scratching to some extent. How much they resist it is going to depend on what screen protector you buy, what material it’s made of, and how thick it is.

Do screen protectors prevent a screen from shattering?

No. Most screen protectors will not prevent your screen from shattering as they do not absorb the shock from the fall.

Are tempered glass screen protectors better?

Yes, tempered glass screen protectors are thicker and provide more resistance to both scratching and shatter damage.

What is the alternative to screen protectors?

Bumper cases (the ones with raised edges around the screen) prevent shatter damage by absorbing the shock into the bumper and preventing the glass from hitting any surface, diverting the force to the raised edge of the bumper.

To top