iPhone screen protector adds two 'smart' buttons to the glass

PureGear's $40 tempered-glass shield makes it easier to thumb your way around big-screen iOS.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
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Back in May I wrote about the Halo Back, an ingenious-sounding iPhone screen protector with a twist: You could tap the bottom left corner of the glass and it would magically reproduce the tap at the top, the idea being to make big-screen iPhones easier to navigate one-handed.

Halo Back was a successfully funded Kickstarter project -- I know, because I was one of the backers -- and according to recent updates, I should be getting my glass pretty soon.

But imagine my surprise when two other companies recently reached out with nearly identical products that were just starting to ship. So was the Halo Back just a copycat of other screen protectors already in development? Or did other vendors jump on the idea and simply beat Halo Back to market?

I'm not sure, but I will say I'm seeing more and more instances of seemingly original Kickstarter projects that prove to be little more than "adaptations" of existing products. As with anything, I guess, it's buyer beware.

This is not to say the Halo Back will be a disappointment or was even a bad deal; I was happy to get one for $17.

However, when PureGear offered to send me its new Tempered Glass with Smart + Buttons screen protector, I jumped at the chance.

Note the use of the plural in this product's name: unlike the Halo Back, this piece of glass has two "smart" buttons, not just one. That means you can tap in the lower-left corner to reproduce a tap of the iOS Back button, or tap the lower-right corner for any top-right button that may be out of thumb's reach. Two is better than one, right?

Like other PureGear screen protectors, this one comes with a plastic tray and simple step-by-step instructions designed to simplify application. I have to admit, it works: the glass landed atop my iPhone 6 Plus with ease, though just a smidgen off-center.

Just as important, the smart buttons work as advertised. It took me awhile to retrain my brain to reach for the bottom of the screen instead of the top, something I've been doing for the past five years. And it was fairly rare that I found any use for the right-hand button, the exception being the Mail app: I'd tap it to hit the Edit button, then select the messages I was ready to bulk-delete. Handy!

The product is available for iPhone 6/6S. At press time the company couldn't confirm compatibility with the iPhone 6/6S Plus, specifically those models' new 3D Touch feature.

Is this worth $39.99? That depends on how often you find yourself frustrated trying to use your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus one-handed. If your thumb is constantly coming up short, a "smart" screen protector like this is a nice addition. Plus it provides added protection against scratches and drops, always a plus.

Your thoughts?