November 1, 2014 4:23 pm
Updated: November 2, 2014 3:49 pm

Tech untangled: Tips to protect your smartphone


*Steve Makris is a technology expert who does a weekly Tech Talk segment during Edmonton’s Sunday Morning News. You can watch his segment above.

Smartphones are the most expensive, abused and neglected devices we depend on. We toss them on our car seat, drop them off the night table, sit on them, drop them on the driveway and, yes, drop them in the toilet.

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It doesn’t take long to show wear and tear on a brand new phone. Despite your initial cradling, nicks on body edges and screen scratches build up quickly, taking the newness out of your constant companion.

A phone’s poor external appearance can easily drop its resale value by $100, so making the effort to keep it new pays off. Here are some tips on protecting your phone.

Screen protectors

Screen protectors cost $10 to $30 depending on the material they are made from. All styles protect your screen from every day wear, but the pricier models offer better protection from harder drops and impact. Screens pay themselves off quickly because even with care plans, including Apple Care, you still end up paying an additional fee for getting your screen replaced.

Screen protectors are easy to put on, especially the dry kind that only require a spotless screen. If you miss-align, you can try again. The wet style of screen protectors test your patience and are better left to the pros. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, get a cellphone store or mall kiosk to do it for you.

There are three kind of screen protectors, starting with the cheapest:

  • PET: Polyethylene terephthalate protectors, for older phones, to protect against light scratches but not hard, glass-shattering drops.
  • TPU: Thermoplastic polyurethane screen protectors perform better the PET, keeping away grease and fingerprints. They are self-healing when scratched. They absorb light drops, but don’t have the hard, glass feeling of original screens.
  • TG: The best, in my opinion, are tempered glass screen protectors. They have multiple layers including non-reflective hardened glass, are a fraction of a millimetre thick and will ultimately sacrifice themselves, shattering into pieces in the hardest drops, saving your original phone screen. Here you will find screen hardness ratings at 9H or more.

Gorilla Glass, featured in better phones, protects against impact – often demonstrated with hammers and nails, but it still scratches. If you are a beach bum, get a glass screen protector to keep sand away. I recommended you use screen protectors in addition to cases. Some cases offer better value when they include a mid-level quality screen protector.


How do you choose from thousands of phone cases? Before I get started, here is the most important, overlooked detail you should check out in a phone case – its edge-to-edge screen access.

The sides of all cases go a little higher, slightly overlapping the screen, protecting it when the phone is placed upside down or when dropped on its corner. That little overlap varies in shape, thickness and how much of the screen edge it covers. Better cases pay attention to this detail; not getting in the way of your fingers as they touch the screen edges. Try screen access on any case before you buy one. Finger shapes vary; some won’t be able to properly touch the screen’s edge on thicker or wider case designs.

There are three kinds of cases designed to progressively protect against bumps, drops and impact.

Ventev Penna handcrafted leather and micro fibre interior with slightly raised protective bonding on the side oozes class


Ultra-slim, skin tight cases come in hard, soft plastic/rubber or leather. They are minimally invasive, but protect the least against drops. Quality designed slim cases from, also available on Amazon, embed a sense of class in their products, including car, home chargers and stylish USB cables.

The minimalist clear polycarbonate hard plastic Via Snap, $ 19.99, is for showing off your new iPhone 6.

The thicker Aria model, $24.99, with a hard back shell and soft drop absorbing edges features non-slip strips across the back – great for counters and cars. The exquisitely hand-crafted premium leather Penna, $34.99 ($10 cheaper on Amazon), features microfibre interior and a thinly bonded shock-absorbing screen edge. The attention to protected buttons with even thinner leather oozes quality. You get to smell the leather!

Otterbox Defender series for the iPhone 6 has three shell layer design for complete protection against dust and high impacts



Next up are the well-known OtterBox cases, which put protection in front of style. Available for the iPhone 6 and other makes, the lightest Commuter model, $44.99, features a one-piece hard shell bonded to an interior soft shock absorbing interior.

The Symmetry two-piece is soft inside and hard outside and offers better protection and slightly more screen on the edges. It also comes with a screen protector.

The ultimate Defender, $69.99, is a three-piece shell offering the best protection against the elements and impact. It has a built-in screen protector with a thin, water-tight membrane for the iPhone 6 touch fingerprint reader. The outer shell is a belt case.

Canadian Caseco ID Wallet Folio Case for the iPhone 6 features flip cover with window for quick access to time and weather


Toronto-based Caseco fiercely competes against the big guys with innovative and stylish cases of its own. They are offered in a wide range of prices, models and tonnes of colours. Some models cost more than brand names, with good reason.

Their Folio cases for large screen phones, for example, feature a smaller window on the front flap, showing quick views of time, weather and, depending on model, the ability to make phone calls without opening the front cover. The exterior faux leather is decent and the suede inside is high quality. The reflective window also acts as a mirror when the phone is turned off. The ID Wallet Folio for the iPhone 6, $49.99, in 10 colours, has a built-in two-card slot. The Smart Folio for the Samsung Galaxy S5, $39.99, in seven colours, works with the Smart Folio app, which is available on the Google Play Store. It saves on battery usage.

The Caseco Samsung Galaxy Note 4 or note 3 Shock Express Case, $34.99, has ergonomic curves for better handling, a shiny hard outside shell and inner soft rubber cushion. It also comes with a screen protector.

The ultra-light and clear Luscent armor case, $29.99, with gentle ergonomic grip sides features inside crumple zones in every corner for best shock absorption. The uniquely molded, mini horn sound enhancer for the iPhone’s speaker improves sound in noisy places.

Belkin Grip Power battery case for iPhone 5 doubles talk time wih built-in 2000 mAh battery


Belkin’s Grip Power battery case, Grip Case for iPhone 5/5S, $19.99, features a built-in 2,000 mAh chargeable battery, which doubles your usable time. Available in three colours, it is graspable and protects against wear. It also has full button protection and charges its battery and iPhone with an external, cheaper micro-USB cable. And it’s included. Nice. A new slim grip case for the iPhone 6 is shipping now and available in Canadian stores.

The Exoskeleton for the iPhone 6 is a one piece aluminum shell adding less than one penny thickness is size


The attention-grabbing Exoskeleton, available at Kickstarter at a pre-order price of $55 US, will put all iPhone 6 and Plus 6 bending issues to rest. It has a feather-lite, one-piece aluminum-machined body with an easily accessible bottom slot and inside cushion pads. Inventor, Robin Hartley, is known for his first man powered Guinness Book of World Records submarine, which was inspired by beehive honeycomb shapes for the Exoskeleton. Hartley also machined the keel wings for New Zealand’s Black Magic boat in 1998 that won the America’s Cup race. Now he brags about the toughest case for the iPhone 6, which adds less than a penny in dimension thickness.

© 2014 Shaw Media

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