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The New iPhone's Ceramic Shield Sounds Cool, But You Still Need a Case

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Image for article titled The New iPhone's Ceramic Shield Sounds Cool, But You Still Need a Case
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I have to admit that when Apple showed off the Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro Max, I thought: “Damn. That looks real nice.” Too bad it belongs behind a case.

But didn’t Tim Cook say all the new iPhone 12 models would have a new type of reinforced display called Ceramic Shield? Yeah. It also sounds cool, given that Apple says it is supposedly four times more durable in drop tests compared to the iPhone 11. There was a lot said about Ceramic Shield, but the gist of it is it’s not just glass—it’s glass “infused with nano-ceramic crystals” that make it lightweight, tougher, and more resistant to both heat and electricity.

Now, I’m not saying that’s hokey. Other smartphones, like the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, have incorporated glass-ceramics (albeit mostly for the glass backing, not the display). In CNET’s drop tests for the ceramic Samsung S10 Plus versus the regular version, it definitely held up better. I’m sure the new iPhone 12 lineup will definitely crack less than its predecessors.


But for the love of your wallet, no one should take this as a sign that a case and screen protector aren’t necessary. At this point, the naked phone enthusiasts will scoff. They will say things like, “But I just like how it feels without a case!” But just as you would wrap your dong for more reasons than just preventing pregnancy (hello, STIs), there’s more than one reason to use a phone case and screen protector.

Those nano-ceramic crystals strengthening the iPhone 12 display.
Those nano-ceramic crystals strengthening the iPhone 12 display.
Screenshot: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

For starters, it’s not just about cracks. I will point to our esteemed departed colleague Adam Clark Estes, who fucked up his iPhone X and XS for simply refusing to use a case. At the time, Apple said it was the “most durable glass ever in a smartphone, front and back.” Reader, it was not. While the displays didn’t crack, they did get tons of scratches all over them, to the point where they were visible even when the display was on. Maybe Ceramic Shield will result in the most durable and scratch-resistant iPhone display. I don’t know. Would you like to shell out anywhere from $700 to $1,100 to find out just how well Ceramic Shield holds up against your keys and whatever else you’ve got in your pockets or purse?


Secondly, Ceramic Shield is only in the front glass. According to Apple, the back is made of stainless steel and “precision-milled matte glass.” So say you do drop your phone and Ceramic Shield prevents your display from cracking. Maybe it’s got a nearly imperceptible ding or scratch that will drive only perfectionists insane. That doesn’t mean your glass back can’t get totally wrecked. iPhones are no Fairphone when it comes to repair. Any time I’ve ever had some kind of physical damage to my iPhone, I’ve been told I’ve got no other option than to send the whole thing back if I want it fixed.

We’ll likely start seeing drop test videos for the new iPhones soon, and I have every confidence that some intrepid vlogger will find a way to crack the damn display. But even if they have to go to ridiculous lengths, it still means it can be cracked. Apple said it was 4x tougher—not that it was indestructible.


I don’t know your life, but I’m an incorrigible klutz. Almost every time I’ve damaged my phone, it’s happened due to face-planting while running. One time, a guy bumped into me and my phone was knocked out of my pocket and skidded straight into the NYC subway tracks. My asshole cat has, on occasion, knocked my phone off a table just because. In those instances, not only did a case make sure my phone didn’t break, but the screen protector also took the brunt of whatever damage was inflicted. What looked like a crack to the screen turned out to be a crack in the protector.

You wear sunscreen to protect your skin. (And if you don’t, I don’t know what to say to you other than: Rethink your poor life choices and wear SPF every day.) Hopefully, you also put pillowcases on your pillows, as well as sheets and mattress covers on your mattresses. You use a tablecloth on your tables, wood sealants on your furniture. You probably buy cases or sleeves for other gadgets like Kindles, iPads, laptops, expensive headphones, and portable game consoles like the Nintendo Switch. It’s not hard to understand why we do all these things—to minimize wear and tear and protect the longevity and durability of a product, regardless of how tough that product actually is. But for some reason, some people get real weird about protecting their extremely expensive phones. For what? Aesthetics? The phone feeling a smidge nicer in your hand? There are some really stylish and functional cases out there that can help you express your personality in ways a naked phone can’t.


Again, it’s great if Ceramic Shield makes the iPhone 12 the hardiest iPhone ever. I don’t care. Wrap it up, friends, wrap it up.