Wednesday 20 September 2017

Ask Adrian: Our tech editor tackles your trickiest technology problems


Replacing smashed screens on a phone can be expensive
Replacing smashed screens on a phone can be expensive
Samsung Gear 360
Microsoft Surface Pro
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Q: We have five phones in our household and three of them currently have cracked screens, though they all have some kind of­protective covers. Before we take on the expense of fixing them again, what's the best way to protect the screens? Is anything foolproof?

A The only foolproof solutions are ones that make the phones bulky and less usable. For example, Otterbox has a range of very robust iPhone and Android cases called the Defender Series. They're extremely effective at preventing cracked screens but they add about 30pc to the heft and weight of the phone, which might put people off. They also cost around €50, which many may not expect to pay. Nevertheless, if you really, really want to protect your phone's screen, this is the type of thing you'll need.

In reality, most people opt for a combination of film-based screen protectors and slim-fitting cases. These cost from €5 and work to varying degrees. The most effective cases have border rims that come up a few millimetres over the edge of the screen. If dropped, these heightened edges take the impact - your screen never touches the ground as the case bounces from rim to rim. As the case's edges flatten out, so does your screen protection.

Film-based protectors cut down, but don't eliminate, the chances of cracks or chips in your screen. Some people find that such screen protectors detract from the fluidity of operating your touchscreen. However, they do offer a preliminary line of defence, especially if you keep your phone in the same pocket or bag compartment as keys or coins. So for many, it's probably worth spending €10 on one.

Leather 'wallets', popular with older people, also offer good protection to phones in bags and pockets. However, they're generally avoided by younger phone users because they slow down access to the handset.

Most phone manufacturers claim that their displays are toughened up using 'Gorilla Glass' or something similar. But this offers a very cursory degree of shock protection and shouldn't be relied on. In my experience, there is no phone brand that has a noticeably better display when it comes to resisting scratches or cracks. The iPhone 7 is as vulnerable as a Samsung S8 or an Huawei P10. If your family is prone to cracking phone screens, you might consider mobile insurance. All of the operators offer it on their handsets and most policies cover screen damage. However, phone insurance isn't cheap. On more expensive phones, it's very expensive. For an iPhone 6S, you're paying €13 per month or €145 per year with 3 Ireland. For a Samsung J5 (which you're more likely to give to a child), it's €4 per month or €45 per year with the same operator. Multiply either of those policies by your five family members and you're looking at a steep monthly bill.

By the sounds of it, this won't be the first time you've gone to get a phone screen replaced. However, some manufacturers are very strict about who fixes their displays. In Apple's case, you generally void your warranty if you have a non-accredited agent (such as a random shop on the street) do the job. That leaves you with a choice of going through the official channel - which can cost up to €250 to fully replace a screen depending on what kind of phone you have - or abandoning your warranty with a cheaper option from a generic service. The common sense rule of thumb here is that the older your phone is, the less the warranty matters. (Warranties generally only last for one or two years on phones.) So it may not be worth your while.

RECOMMENDATION: Otterbox Symmetry Series (€35 from

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Two to Try

Microsoft Surface Pro  (from €1,144,

Microsoft Surface Pro

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Samsung Gear 360 (€260 from Harvey Norman)

Samsung Gear 360

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