When we first heard about Spigen SGP’s GLAS.t ($28) for iPhone 4/4S, the idea seemed kind of absurd: a glass iPhone screen protector? The thought of sticking one sheet of glass to another for protection isn’t necessarily intuitive, and based on our past experiences with exceptionally sharp and truly dangerous versions of this concept, a thinner version didn’t necessarily seem like a great idea. But the company formerly known as United SGP surprised us, getting glass-on-glass protection very close to right. Updated February 27, 2012: We’ve added some extra, important details about how GLAS.t breaks to the bottom of this review.
GLAS.t is a single sheet of 0.4mm-thick tempered glass. It’s completely flat, with the only openings being those for the iPhone’s front speaker and Home button. The installation process is about as straightforward as it gets: once the screen has been cleaned well with the included alcohol wipe and cloth, you simply peel the protective film away from the glass, line it up, and press down in the center. You can actually see adhesive bonds forming from the inside to the outer edges. The included squeegee helps to push any big bubbles out, and Spigen SGP claims small ones, if there are any, will disappear in about 24 hours. We had no bubbles after our installation.
Once in place, the covered screen is virtually indistinguishable from an unprotected one. GLAS.t is crystal clear, so the iPhone’s screen looks exactly like it would without a protector on it—those looking for an anti-glare finish won’t find it here. It’s also just as responsive as an uncovered screen; we didn’t encounter any problems with it registering our touch. The oleophobic coating actually does as at least as good of a job as Apple’s at preventing oil buildup; over extended testing, we actually found that fingerprints were basically invisible with the GLAS.t installed, and we didn’t see any scratches or other marks appear on the glass. The tempering process makes it so that if the protector were to break, it would do so in small pieces rather than large, sharp ones, an issue we had with earlier glass screen covers from companies such as IvySkin and Artwizz.
GLAS.t does have a couple of small issues. It only offers one shot at installation, so it’s important to get it right. Unlike the better films available, you don’t have the ability to peel the glass up and reapply it. The tolerances allow for just the tiniest bit of forgiveness, but if you’re not confident in your ability to line it up correctly, we recommend asking a friend who has some experience. Positioned properly, it comes right up the edges of the display. It’s also important to ensure that the screen is absolutely clean, as any dust or dirt will show through the glass. Ideally, Spigen SGP will incorporate some sort of alignment tool in the future, or even a second sheet.
The other downside is the thickness that the protector adds. It’s almost unnoticeable during normal use, but it will cause issues with some cases. Specifically, cases with hard protective lips around the bezel may not fit properly with GLAS.t installed, though shells, rubber cases, and others will work without issue though. The thickness also changes the feel of using the Home button as it’s more deeply recessed. A set of six stickers—two black, two white, and two colored—are included to raise it just a bit, but they’re not quite flush with the screen protector. Either is easy to get used to, but definitely different than what Apple intended.
We’ve recommended screen protectors for years now as an inexpensive and unobtrusive way to protect the iPhone’s fragile glass display. GLAS.t is more expensive and more obtrusive, but also more protective. It’s the right solution for those who are specifically concerned about the safety of their displays and don’t care about an anti-glare finish. For everyone else though, a good film will be likely be a better option. The sheer quality of the product earns it a B+ rating; users who want something like this will be impressed by how good it looks and feels.
Update: Our original review was published on February 1, 2012 after several days of testing. After one month of testing GLAS.t, the glass screen protector developed its first issue when placed in a pocket with coins: a tiny chip in the glass. The chip led to a thin crack within a day, though as promised by Spigen SGP, the glass crumbled in a manner that didn’t create sharp or large shards. When we removed the screen protector—which wasn’t necessary for anything but cosmetic reasons—we were relieved to see that there was no damage to the iPhone’s own glass, and that pulling GLAS.t off was as simple as peeling upwards from the opposite end of the protector. A much larger fracture developed in the glass during the removal process, as shown in the photo below.
GLAS.t’s single biggest issue is that it has no edge protection of its own. The iPhone 4 and 4S have almost invisible rings of plastic around their glass screens to protect chips, so if you’re not going to pair GLAS.t with a case that extends to cover its glass edges, you can expect chips and related issues like the ones above. With a proper case, however, you can expect an equally clear and decidedly superior anti-fingerprint solution to what Apple provides for its own devices.
Company and Price
Company: Spigen SGP/United SGP
Compatible: iPhone 4/4S