My phone case has a screen protector that annoys the heck out of me — but I wouldn’t ditch it

google pixel 6 pro in case with built-in screen protector
(Image credit: Future)

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with screen protectors. No matter how hard I try, or what measures I take, I always botch the application somehow. Those problems are magnified tenfold when a curved display like the one on my Pixel 6 Pro is involved, to the point where I ruined several perfectly good screen protectors because I just couldn’t get them to stick properly.

While display glass durability has improved a lot over the years, it is still glass after all, and glass will still break and scratch without protection. So I had to resort to buying the Poetic Guardian Case, a $17 heavy duty phone case with a built-in screen protector.

For the most part, the case works pretty well. It's protected my phone from plenty of falls and deflected plenty of nasty stuff away from my screen. But, it still manages to bug the ever-loving heck out of me sometimes.

Poetic Guardian Case for Pixel 6 Pro: $17 @ Amazon

Poetic Guardian Case for Pixel 6 Pro: $17 @ Amazon
If you're looking for all-round protection for the Pixel 6 Pro, I can recommend the Poetic Guardian case. Not only does it offer protection from falls and bumps, thanks to its rubber frame, it also includes a built-in screen protector. Which is perfect for those of you that struggle to apply ordinary screen protection to a curved display.

Screen protectors on cases don't offer a perfect seal 

google pixel 6 pro in case with built-in screen protector

(Image credit: Future)

The key thing about screen protectors is they stick to your phone and aren’t supposed to come off again. Once that covering is on, and the air bubbles have been dealt with, nothing is getting in or out of that seal. Assuming you did it correctly that is. But if your case has a built-in screen protector, it’s a totally different story.

While the screen cover does stick to the screen pretty well, it’s not a semi-permanent bond. That case has to be able to come on and off as you need, right? And you’re not going to want to have to pick up a brand new cover every time that happens. And that allows all manner of dust and debris to get inside.

It’s a problem I have to contend with quite regularly. It doesn’t matter what I do, the fact that the screen protector isn’t semi-permanently stuck to the screen lets dust particles get inside. More-so around the cutouts for the selfie camera and the top speaker grille. 

For the most part these little specks are pretty harmless. They’re there and plainly visible, but they’re not doing any actual damage. Though it does mean I have to take the screen off my phone every couple of days and clean it all out. It’s rather annoying, to be honest, and I can’t help but feel disappointed in the fact that this could have been avoided if curved displays didn’t mix well with screen protectors.

google pixel 6 pro in case with built-in screen protector

(Image credit: Future)

The worst part is the little pieces of grit that manage to get between the screen protector and the display. They sneak through, despite feeling enormous, and feel like they’re actively scratching away at my screen with each swipe of my thumb. So those have to be removed right away, and I just have to hope more dust doesn’t make its way under the screen protector in the process.

But like vacuuming up all the fur produced by my two labradors, that’s just a fact of life for me with my current phone. It’s not ideal, but it feels better than the alternative.

I'm not about to let my phone be naked either

google pixel 6 pro in case with built-in screen protector

(Image credit: Future)

The Pixel 6 Pro is a reasonably durable phone thanks in part to its Gorilla Glass Victus display. Not the sturdiest display glass around, but still some of the best you can get on a phone that isn’t the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. But that doesn’t mean I’d carry around my phone every day totally unprotected.

As YouTuber, and regular durability tester, JerryRigEverything likes to say, “glass is glass, and glass breaks.” It scratches too, especially if you’re carrying it around in a bag or pocket every single day. The last thing I want is to have to deal with collections of scratches or dents that may occur throughout my phone’s 2+ year lifespan. 

And it’s happened enough times that I’m not willing to risk letting my phone go around naked for all that time. In fact the small amount of time my phone didn’t have any kind of screen protection, because I was unable to get a screen protector to stick for long enough, I already started seeing tiny faint scratches appear on the display glass — especially in bright light.

google pixel 6 pro in case with built-in screen protector

(Image credit: Future)

Am I being overly protective? Maybe. But at least now I know that whenever my phone gets dropped or comes into any potentially-damaging scenario, the cover screen is going to be taking the brunt of the damage.

And that did happen during my trip to IFA in Berlin last year. I got off a rental scooter I’d been using to get about, only to find the cover screen had a giant gash in it. I’m not entirely sure how, but my phone had been in my hand so I could navigate and something along the route had done the damage.

The plastic cover is a lot weaker than a phone’s display glass. I know that because all the much larger scratches the screen had accumulated in the time I used it. So it definitely came off worse for wear than my Pixel 6 Pro’s screen would have done. But believe me, it was a pretty big gash, and I’m not so sure the glass would have come out completely unscathed.

Bottom line

Admittedly I did have to buy a new case following that event. It was a lot worse than a scratch, and there was absolutely no continuing with such a big scar on the front of my phone. And the prospect of spending $20 on a brand new case is a lot better than having to fix a damaged screen. It’s not like there’s a Google store nearby.

But that doesn’t mean I have to be totally happy about the whole situation. I doubt anyone would like to take a cover off their phone to clean out the stray dust every few days. Especially since the basic design of the screen protector lets in all manner of debris. 

But even so, the alternative is likely to get on my nerves even more — especially now that my phone is closing in on its third birthday. The longer that phone screen stays free of serious damage, the happier I’ll be.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.