Hands-on with the BodyGuardz ScreenGuardz Pure

This tempered-glass shield promises "harder than steel" protection. Here's what happened when our iPhone hit the pavement.

We've all seen them: smartphones with shattered screens, the unfortunate victims of sudden outbursts of gravity. Your heart sinks a bit, watching your friends, loved ones, even total strangers slide their fingers over that sad, spidered glass, thinking, "There but for the grace of..."

Knowing full well the costs and hassles of replacing a busted screen, I pressed a BodyGuardz ScreenGuardz Pure onto my daughter's hand-me-down iPhone 4. At 13, well, she's been known to drop stuff.

And just the other day, she did. I'd been planning to write about the ScreenGuardz Pure already, just hopefully without any drop-test data. So much for that.

The all-glass ScreenGuardz Pure can withstand scratches and knocks, but when it comes to gravity, well, it's still glass.
The all-glass ScreenGuardz Pure can withstand scratches and knocks, but when it comes to gravity, well, it's still glass. BodyGuardz

Unlike most screen protectors, this one is made of glass -- specifically a "special chemically tempered glass exceeding the hardness of steel." Hardness notwithstanding, the ScreenGuardz Pure looks and feels just the same as the iPhone's own glass. That's definitely not true of most of the plastic protectors I've tried, which add drag to your screen swipes and can definitely reduce screen clarity. Save for a sliver of extra thickness (which can get in the way of some total-enclosure cases), it's like there's nothing there at all.

But if it's really harder than steel, can it survive teenager-level abuse? BodyGuardz has a couple videos demonstrating the shield's ability to withstand scratches from metal objects and hard knocks from other metal objects -- though most modern smartphones can already do likewise.

No, the only litmus test that really matters is phone + gravity = pavement. In theory, the extra layer of glass should bear the brunt of any damage -- but would it?

When my daughter called from another room, "Dad, my screen broke," I expected tears and dollar signs. And, sure enough, upon inspection, I discovered cracked, spidered glass in one of the top corners. But no tears from me or my daughter: the cracks appeared only on the ScreenGuardz Pure. Underneath, the iPhone appeared undamaged. Huzzah!

Available for iPhones, iPads, the Samsung Galaxy S4, and the Samsung Galaxy Note II, the ScreenGuardz Pure starts at $39.95. It includes membership in the company's Advantage program, which affords you 20 percent off on future purchases and lower-cost replacements. For example, a new protector for our iPhone 4 would run $12.95 shipped, not another $40.

Ultimately, I'm glad my daughter's iPhone was wearing one of these, though I'm a bit disappointed it cracked like, well, glass upon hitting the ground. Maybe a better form of insurance would be a Cellhelmet case , which offers a kind of extended warranty: If the iPhone breaks while inside, Cellhelmet will repair/replace it for you.

What are your thoughts on screen protectors in general? Have you found one that's particularly good at surviving drops? Tell me your horror/salvation stories in the comments.

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