Why your new iPhone is way more scratched than your old one

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My iPhone screen is a mess. Some of this mess makes sense: I expect nicks and scratches on my screen when my iPhone, for example, falls out of my pocket onto cement. However, many of these scratches have mysteriously accumulated over time without any misuse on my part. Under direct sunlight, it is a massacre. If your iPhone looks about the same, you might wonder why newer iPhones get scratched so easily.

Since there are smartphones, the threat of micro-scratches exists. Most phones use glass for their screens (a lot for the back as well) and scratches on the glass. The ease with which the glass scratches is determined by its hardness: most glass used for smartphones displays scratches at a level 6 on the Mohs hardness scalewhich means it will only be scratched by level 6 or higher materials.

That’s why you can put your phone in your pocket and not immediately see 1,000 nicks and scratches of all the hidden dust and debris: it takes specific materials to leave a mark on your iPhone. Still, they’re there: sand, for example, isn’t kind to your screen, so there’s always the risk of scratches when you don’t expect it.

But for a seemingly sizable swath of the tech community (myself included), our iPhones are scratching a ground more frequently these days. I have an iPhone 12 and an iPhone 12 Pro Max, and both phones have their own range of scratches. Some customers even notice scratches almost as soon as they take their new devices out of the box. It seems unlikely that there is After level 6 or harder materials floating around us, so what happens instead?

The closer you look, the worse it gets.

The closer you look, the worse it gets.
Photo: Jake Peterson

Does stronger glass really mean stronger glass?

Since the iPhone 12, Apple has used a glass technology called “Ceramic Shield”. Although the term sounds fancy, it’s actually a marketing ploy, because the new iPhone glass comes from the same company that makes most smartphone glass displays, Corning.

That said, it’s impressive technology: Ceramic Sheild adds nano-ceramic crystals into the glass to improve durability. Apple claims that Ceramic Shield “is tougher than any smartphone glass”, and while there may not be a good standard to confirm this claim, the latest iPhones are more drop protection than previous iterations.

Ceramic Shield means your iPhone is less likely to shatter on impact when you drop it, which is a good thing. However, chip resistance is not the same as scratch resistance, even though the two sounds are related. After all, if Ceramic Shield glass is so tough, wouldn’t it resist scratches like it resists drops?

In fact, the reverse is apparently true. Creating glass that resists chipping often means making it more susceptible to scratches. This is how Marques Brownlee (MKBHD) explains things in his opinion on the iPhone 12: After normal use, its review unit quickly picked up some ugly marks on the screen, matching many of our experiences.

Brownlee points to the inverse relationship between the two properties: more shatter-resistant glass is softer, making it more susceptible to scratches, while harder glass won’t scratch as easily, but this tension makes it more susceptible to scratches. break on impact. . “Ceramic Shield is softer and therefore more prone to scratching,” is a claim you will see all over the internet.

However, it can be difficult to find solid data to support this claim about smartphone glass. One of YouTube’s top sustainability reviewers, JerryRigEverything, comments on how the iPhone 12 Pro still scratches at level 6 on the Mohs scale, with “deeper scratches at level 7”, which puts it in line with most other smartphones without Ceramic Shield. That said, it doesn’t confirm that the new iPhones are less scratch resistant than before. On the other hand, he reported weaker scratches on the iPhone 13 Prowhich could indicate improved scratch resistance.

However, the anecdotal evidence supporting the scratch susceptibility of recent iPhones is staggering. A Google search reveals complaint after complaint about surprising scratches on Ceramic Shield iPhones. At the top of my search was a Apple’s 2020 thread on the iPhone 12and one iPhone 13 Reddit Thread, but there are many other results to sift through. While you will see some proud users reporting no scratches on their device, many report the opposite. Some opted to opt for a screen protector from day one to prevent scratches.

If that’s true, and there’s a trade-off between scratch-resistant glass and shatterproof glass, you’d probably prefer your iPhone to be the latter. Scratches are annoying, sure, but cracked and shattered glass is worse. A scratched screen is still perfectly usable, while a cracked screen may require an expensive exchange. Even if it’s usable, it can be dangerous: I’ve cut myself on a cracked iPhone screen before. Not funny.

The good news is that there is a simple, long-standing workaround: screen protectors! These thin layers of glass or plastic (but preferably glass) can help protect your iPhone screens from scratches and cracks, making them look great. and retain their resale value. Not everyone likes the look of a screen protector, but you might prefer it to the Jackson Pollock of scratches your screen will soon become.

Even if it’s too late for your screen, you should still consider a protector. While it won’t retroactively remove your scratches, a screen protector can help hide the scratches on it. I’m considering one for my 12 Pro Max for this reason: the screen will never be worth its original value, but at least a screen protector could hide some of those weird patterns.