I was appalled; surrounded by just over a dozen friends and lacking adequate digits to count the number of cracked or severely scratched screens in the room. One of the only exceptions was my wet-soap-slick HTC M8 that had survived a good amount of waist-height drops due to its Nillkin glass protector.
If you want to avoid such a grim fate, we all know the drill. Head down to the nearest phone shop and have them install a protector for you. The attendant will charge you $10 for a plastic film with either a gloss or matte finish depending on what you ordered. Recently tempered glass screen protectors have become increasingly prevalent, they are optically indistinguishable from your factory screen and retain that smooth oleophobic feel under the thumb. There`s no rainbow, no bubbles (as long as you wipe down your screen) and you`ll never need to replace it unless you drop your phone.
The only catch is that they`re not cheap. Common brands such as Zagg and Mime offer quality glass protectors for around $35 USD, not bad given that it`ll last as long as your phone, but still a large investment for such a simple accessory. There are a few budget glass protectors such as my previous favourite, the Nillkin 9H+, going for around $7 USD. And of course, there’s an abundance of cheap $2-$3 protectors floating around eBay and Aliexpress. A few XDA posts have vouched for a brand called Mocolo, a tempered glass protector claimed to be as good as the best that retails for $5 a pair! Today I`ll be comparing the Mocolo protector to more expensive models from Nillkin and Zagg to demonstrate the differences between brand-name and generic protectors. So does Mocolo deliver? And are these cheaper protectors are really any worse than their brand name counterparts.
Packaging plays a surprisingly large role with tempered glass screen protectors, especially when it takes so long to receive them; it`s not a great feeling when your one month wait surmounts to a cracked protector. Luckily, both the Nillkin and Mocolo protector that I have here today are well packaged, perhaps better than most western brands. What`s even nicer is that they send them in pairs, give one to a friend perhaps?
A nice cardboard flip case is reinforced by a plastic skeleton that houses the protector and some accessories to aid installation. I did appreciate the cloths included with the protector, a wet swab style cloth and a more typical microfiber variant. The wet cloth, unlike most, was not overly moist. The biggest problem most people have is that their screen is dirty when they install the protector. Wet wipes introduce a new problem, water streaks beneath the adhesive, they dry over time but leave some nasty residue that streaks the screen, not great. The semi-moist wipe provided by Mocolo is the best of both worlds. In addition, you receive a few tabs to remove dust and a card to squeegee out bubbles.
More expensive protectors will also ship with an anti-static pad that prevents dust from settling on your screen during installation. It`s not necessary but can make the installation process a lot easier. Using a wet wipe will achieve a similar anti-static effect but can result in streaks, be sure to let the screen dry completely before installation and wipe with a dry cloth after to remove residue.
As you can see from my rather poorly constructed stop-motion, the protector lies inside a cardboard pouch within a very premium feeling soft-touch plastic bag, a nice touch. So overall It`s a pretty good setup and makes the protector just that little bit easier to install.
In my experience, the main differences between a good budget glass protector and a proper brand name equivalent are the coating, configurations offered (thickness and rounded edges), packaging and adhesive quality.
The biggest issue I noticed when switching from a Zagg tempered glass protector to the Nillkin/Mocolo protector was definitely the oleophobic (oil repelling) coating. It was a bit thin and wore off far too easily, leaving the screen feeling tacky. This coating also makes the screen easier to clean, so if you find grime adhering more vigorously to the glass, then perhaps the coating is wearing thin.
In addition, some cheaper protectors have unreliable adhesive. For example, a generic protector I purchase for my Camera had imperfections in the adhesive producing large bubbles all over the screen, compromising visual clarity.
Regarding the various configurations offered, most screen protectors will be between 0.15 and 0.3mm in thickness, not a big difference on paper, but a large one in the hand. The Nillkin, at 0.3mm, is hardly thick, but surprisingly noticeable compared to Mime`s ghost glass at 0.15mm. The Mocolo is actually a bit thinner, in between the Nillkin and Mime at ~0.2mm. If not for rather aggressive side lighting I had when taking these pictures, you can barely see it on the phone.
I can barely tell that there is a protector on the phone and it is difficult to see as well. The screen hasn`t lost any visual punch or clarity and viewing angles are unaffected as is polarisation (still landscape on mine).
The Mocolo is actually far cheaper than the Nillkin, about $5 for 2. But the quality is reliable; the two I ordered both installed perfectly with no adhesive imperfections. The Nillkin actually has quite a few complaints on Amazon regarding adhesive imperfections, it`s always a good idea to go with a protector that has many orders and positive reviews.
As previously established, the packaging is also quite good, both arrived from China safe and sound. Both protectors have rounded edges, unlike most cheap protectors which are simply cut from flat glass, so the sides roll off gently somewhat like Samsung edge phones, curved on a smaller scale of course, but still ergonomically brilliant. This is a big feature to look out for on tempered glass protectors, look for models sporting “9H+” or “2.5D” when buying cheaper brands.
So far so good, unfortunately, what`s not great about the Mocolo protector, much like the Nillkin one, is the coating. It`s not bad, about the same as the Nillkin, but it doesn`t feel as slick as the stock glass or a higher end brand protector. Oils are easily cleaned off however, and the added friction shouldn`t be too noticeable during normal usage.
So there isn`t actually a huge difference between the far more expensive Zagg/Mine protectors and brand-name protectors from China. Whilst generic protectors might have some adhesive issues, cheaper models from Mocolo and Nillkin offer identical optics and features to their Western counterparts as well as reliable instalment. The largest difference is the oleophobic coating, which was much thicker on my Zagg protector than any other I tested. This translated to a smoother/silky feeling under the finger, easy cleaning and less smudging during use.
If you frequent use Swype keyboard and are perhpas an avid mobile gamer, looking into a more expensive protector might be worth your while. If you are a more casual user, cheaper models with good feedback will provide you with adequate packaging, reliable adhesive and clear optics for a much lower price.
When purchasing, be sure to look for certain features such as the mention of an oleophobic coating (some have none at all), rounded edges and thickness (0.3mm is standard).