Apple Watch

Does the Apple Watch Need a Screen Protector?

Since the iPhone 4 was launched in 2010, Apple products had a reputation for being very fragile and easily succumb to scratching. But since then Apple has made huge strides with the Ion-X and sapphire glass that covers the screens of their products, including the Apple Watch. At the first glance, it can sound a bit excessive to use a screen protector on the Watch. 

No glass is fully scratch-resistant, and all modern materials, no matter how advanced they are, can either offer decent protection from scratching or from cracking, never both. Thus having a screen protector or protective case for Apple Watch is something to consider. 

For some people, screen protectors are a way to mar the perfect look of their Apple Watch. But there are many reasons why you should use them. 


Apple has come a long way in its glass technology since the ancient times of a decade ago, and Watch 6 features the most scratch and crack-resistant glass to date. Both the Ion-X and sapphire screen covers are as good as it’s possible, but they are still bound by the laws of physics and eventually will be damaged from everyday use. 

Our mobile phones we all just shove in pockets, throw in bags, and abuse many ways; which makes use of screen protectors and cases an absolute necessity. Smartwatches are not submitted to such conscious harsh treatment. Instead, damage to them comes from various bumping and brushing on surfaces we don’t even notice. Edges of desks, walls, or even branches, dirt, and sand in nature and on trails. 

Inconveniently cosmetic damage to your smartwatch is not covered either by the warranty or by the AppleCare+ plans. Once it becomes marred with scratches you are stuck with a device that is just downright unsightly but scratches also decrease the structural integrity of the screen and make it more likely to shatter. 

Many people very often avoid using screen protectors because they are always made out of inferior materials compared to the glass of electronic devices. This applies to the Apple Watch screen protectors. This opinion is a misconception, screen protectors are not intended to be more resilient than the screens but to get damaged instead of them. That’s why they are inexpensive and can be replaced very easily and cheaply. 


Currently, there are three models of Apple Watch available for purchase, and they differ both in price and materials they are made of. Watch Series 3 and SE come only with an aluminum body, with which is only an Ion-X screen available. The newest, Watch 6 Series, has three options for the material of casing, aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium. 

The aluminum and stainless steel options feature Ion-X screens, but the titanium has a sapphire glass screen. Both materials come with advantages and drawbacks which are conditioned by the laws of physics. It is impossible to create a glass that is both extremely scratch and crack-resistant. Scratch resistance is produced by a rigid crystalline structure that is resistant to bending, while crack resistance by a flexible crystalline structure. 

Ion-X glass 

Apple’s Ion-X glass is a product very similar to Corning Gorilla glass. It’s similarly produced by “cooking” common soda-lime glass in a solution of potassium salts. This high-temperature treatment causes the sodium ions in glass to dissolve in solution and be replaced by larger potassium ions which increase glass’ density and make it much more shatter-resistant than common glass. 

This treatment produces glass that is very resistant to impacts and drops but severely lacks scratch resistance. Because it is a very inexpensive production process, it is used on less expensive Apple Watch variants. Ion-X glass is also very resistant to bending and can survive the pressure much higher than the more expensive alternative. 

Though a cheaper variant, for many people this is a superior option as you can very affordably protect it from scratch with a screen protector, while its resistance to breaking is a desirable characteristic. 

Sapphire glass 

The natural sapphire is a crystalline variant of aluminum oxide, that has a specific hardness that is second only to diamond. The glass made of artificial sapphire has hardiness that is nearly identical to natural ones, and this makes it a material with the highest hardiness level available on market. 

This hardiness means that it is very hard to scratch, and you will need a material that has hardiness near or equal to that of diamonds to do so. But this resistance to scratching comes with a drawback. When it cracks it shatters. This is not an unusual thing, it’s the nature of materials. 

Artificial sapphire glass is also very expensive to produce, which is why you will find it only in more exclusive, luxury products with a higher price tag. 


There are three types of screen protectors you can purchase for your Apple Watch, film, tempered glass, and cases. Besides choosing the one that provides you a desirable level of protection, you should be aware that it actually fits your watch. Apple Watch Series 3 comes in 42 and 38 millimeters case sizes, while Watch SE and Series 6 in 44 and 40 millimeters dimension. 

Improperly fitting screen protection will give you an improper level of protection, and in the worst-case scenario be absolutely unusable, or create problems that interfere with the normal function of your Apple Watch


Film screen protectors are the cheapest kind and in general of the lowest quality. They are made of various types of very thin transparent plastics that provide the least of screen protection from both scratching and breaking. Because they are inexpensive to produce, they are mostly sold in a pack of 6 or 10, and your main concern is potential scratching of the screen they are not perfect. 

Because they are flexible films, many are perfectly fitting and conforming to the curvature of the screen. 

Tempered glass 

Either chemically or thermally treated glass has higher scratching and shattering resistance to untreated glass. Tempered glass screen protectors most often are intended to shatter on impact, and that way dissipate the energy of impact and protect the screen. They are always at least twice thicker than film protectors. And provide much better protection than film type. 

They are more expensive than film type, but packs of 2 or 3 screen protectors are similarly priced to a pack of 10 film protectors. A drawback of these protectors is that they are rigid, and the majority do not offer a full-screen cover because curved glass is very expensive to make and is fragile which makes it hard for packaging. 


Another type of protector is cases that come in several sizes and shapes. Generally speaking, there are two types, full enclosure, and top-cover cases. Top-cover cases are very similar in design to silicone bumper cases for phones, but instead of being mounted on the back, they go on top of the Watch. Usually, they are very good at absorbing impacts but very easily acquire scratches and dirt. 

Because they are not glued to the screen, moisture can condensate under them. They very often have painted edges, which makes them a suitable choice for customization. 

Some models of this type of protectors are made of polycarbonate plastic, while some are actually tempered glass. The last one doesn’t suffer from condensation issues, as they are commonly glued to Watch. 

Full enclosures, just as their name suggests fully enclose the body of your Apple Watch, and often come with a strap of their own. The most common material is a combination of polycarbonate and TPU plastic. While these materials don’t inspire the confidence of tempered glass, they do their job very well, and in some cases have a better water ingress rating than the Watch. 

Steven Carr

Steven is a certified IT professional and gaming enthusiast. He has been working in the tech industry for over 10 years, and specializes in all things Tech-related. When he's not geeking out over the latest hardware or software release, he can be found testing out the latest video game.

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