If your iPhone often shares a pocket or purse with keys, coins, or other metal objects, you know the very real risk of scratching or chipping the beautiful glass screen. Screen protectors solve this problem, and some are able to absorb the damage if your iPhone drops face-down towards the ground. Today, we’re looking at rival iPhone 6 screen protectors called Alin Glass from Tylt ($30) and Impact Shield from Tech21 ($35). (Alin Glass and Impact Shield are also available for the iPhone 5/5s.)
Both of these accessories have been designed to tackle inaccurate alignment, one of the biggest issues when installing screen protectors, while offering atypically strong anti-scratch coverage for the iPhone’s often bare face. And they each command premiums over generic alternatives.
Alin Glass is the fancier option, though it’s currently available only for the iPhone 6, not the iPhone 6 Plus. Tylt’s package contains one piece of glass, a neon green alignment tool, a dust removal sticker, a cleaning cloth, and two Home Button stickers.
After removing dust from your iPhone’s screen, you slide the alignment tool onto the phone’s bottom, peel a sticker off the back of the glass, and slide the glass into grooves on the tool. The Home Button stickers aren’t worth applying if you plan to use Touch ID on your iPhone, but if you want them, they’re black or white to match your device’s face.
The installation process is supposed to be simple, but in our testing, it took a few tries to get the glass properly centered, introducing little specks of dust under the glass that then needed to be removed. Due to the curved edges of the iPhone 6’s screen, the glass stops short of completely protecting those edges, making the use of a case critically important.
Alin Glass also leaves U-shaped holes at the top and bottom. But over several days of testing, after little pockets of air had escaped from under the glass, we found the protector to be wonderfully clear and smooth to the touch – so much that the trim lines didn’t bother us as much as we’d expected.
By comparison, Tech21’s Impact Shield is available for both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus at the same $35 price; the version we tested was for the larger model. Impact Shield is made from plastic, though the specific plastic is touted as being an impact-dispersing BASF BulletShield material found in bulletproof glass. It too ships with an application tool and cleaning cloth, plus a white card to eliminate air bubbles after installation.
Tech21’s orange alignment tool is larger and fancier than Tylt’s, but works in the same way: after cleaning the iPhone’s glass face, you slide it onto the device’s bottom, peel a sticker off the screen protector, and slide the protector into the tool. With Impact Shield, you gently flex the tool’s Home Button cover upwards to get the protector’s alignment right, then check the alignment and work the air bubbles out. Despite the tool, we needed a couple of tries to get the alignment right, more critically important here because the front FaceTime camera needs to peek through a centered hole. It takes a couple of minutes to remove the air bubbles, but the process is painless, assuming you didn’t trap any dust during installation.
Once it was centered, Impact Shield had the same coverage gaps as Alin Glass, which we suspect will be fairly common on the latest iPhones. The matte anti-glare finish slightly softens the normal sharpness of the iPhone 6 Retina HD display, reducing glare and obvious fingerprints at the same time. It also gives the screen’s normally glossy texture just a hint of extra friction that some people will like; we’d call the choice between glossy and matte finish largely a matter of personal taste.
If we had to choose between these screen protectors, there would be no obvious winner. While we appreciate Tylt’s use of glass at a lower price point, we also liked the quality of Tech21’s anti-glare material and iPhone 6 Plus availability. Historically, glass is more susceptible to chipping over time — an issue mostly if you’re not also using a case — while plastic may bend if its edges aren’t covered. Neither company’s installation tool was as foolproof as it should have been, but they’re both improvements on what used to be a completely unassisted alignment process. Consequently, we’d call both of these screen protection solutions pretty good with room for improvement. We’ve previously had very good experiences with Spigen-brand screen protectors, but the jury’s still out on their iPhone 6 versions, which we hope to check out soon.