Updated: May 17, 2022
Apple first released their Ceramic Shield protection with the iPhone 12 and even with the iPhone 13, it has been one of the biggest durability claims from the company. So, how does a Ceramic Shield protected display fairs in long term when you use no external protection what-so-ever on your phone? That's what we're discussing in this article.
I've been using the iPhone 12 since December 2020 and for the majority of it's lifetime, I haven't used a case. I did buy one and put it in for a month or so, but that was literally it. That means my phone has been completely exposed to different surfaces indoors and outdoors and, spoiler alert, it's not all sunshine and rainbows.
What is Ceramic Shield? (And what it's not!)
In order to add some resistance to screen cracks, Apple reinforced the glass protection of the iPhone display with Ceramic Microparticles adding an extra layer of toughness. That in theory, should make the glass more resistant to cracking when it hits a hard surface as Ceramic's crystalline molecular structure makes it harder and much more resistant to changes in the temperature.
However, I've seen a massive number of users getting Ceramic Shield confused with Sapphire which is one of the hardest materials in this class. I want to be very specific here and mention that, Ceramic Shield has nothing to do with Sapphire. Although, it is harder compared to glass, it is no where near the hardness and durability of sapphire.
How did Ceramic Shield fair against long term use?
I've never used a screen protector on my iPhone 12, which means the only protection I had on my display for more than an year, is that Ceramic Shield coating. I have used it in a very regular way, like any general user would do and the experience is kind of a mixed bag for me. In some areas it did well, but in others it failed pretty bad.
I have multiple scratches on the display
After, more than a year of use, I have multiple scratches, including both light and deeper ones. The first one was caused within 7 days of purchase and I have no idea how it got there. I have the same to say for the other scratches as well. Although, I don't really know the exact time either for when exactly the other scratches appeared.
I have a crack on the display glass
There is also a crack right below the earpiece on the top. This happened by the phone slapping shut on a table made out of engineered wood, and it was just placed horizontally on it's side as I was watching a video. Apple's durability claims, where the phone is supposed to survive while dropping on the floor from your pocket, failed really bad in this case.
What caused the issues?
However, after a through evaluation, I have a pretty good idea what may have caused these fails and why the Ceramic shield didn't really hold up as promised. I'll explain this in two parts, one dedicated to the scratches and the the other dedicated to the crack.
What cased the Scratches?
Based on my personal usage and the experience of several other users I've talked to, scratches seem to be a pretty common issue with Ceramic Shield. That is kinda weird considering it is supposed to be more durable. However, do notice that Apple never claimed improved scratch resistance, so they were probably aware, this was going to happen.
If we get into the basic physical properties of glass, the harder the glass is, the more easily it'll break. So, it seems like alongside adding the ceramic micro coating, Apple also made the glass itself softer to minimize further risk of cracking when dropped. The overall achieved drop resistance is probably being achieved by combining both these factors.
What caused the Crack?
Even with Ceramic Shield and so many claims of crack resistance, my iPhone 12's display glass cracked from slapping shut on it's face on a table when it was standing on it's side. That's the minimum distance possible for it to fall and do consider, the phone wasn't even in the air when it happened.
People who dropped their iPhone 12s on the floor have actually often seen them to survive with no cracks. Even my mother dropped her iPhone 12 Mini on the floor from the bed and it was completely fine. For my phone though, it broke pretty easily. Here the area where the screen cracked is pretty important.
As the crack is located right below the earpiece, I realized that it's actually the most fragile area on the entire display. The speaker, the front camera, the Face ID hardware, all are tucked below this area of the screen. That means, there's a lot of hollow area with no proper structural support under the Notch. My display was hit on that area first, and as a result, it cracked.
If your iPhone drops and hits the Notch area first, there's a good chance it'll crack. Ceramic Shield won't do much in this case.
Should you trust Apple's claims on Ceramic Shield?
Apple heavily advertised the durability of their new iPhone displays (iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 series) thanks to Ceramic Shield. For the most part, it does hold up to its claimed potential. But, do take these claims with a pinch of salt as the display definitely didn't do great with scratches and there are definitely weak spots where it can easily crack.
If you drop your phone a lot, blindly believing in Ceramic Shield and Apple's claims regarding it, might not be the best decision. You need to use a case because, if you break the screen, your warranty gets void and display replacements will cost you a lot of money. If you have been using phones without a case for while, and don't usually drop them, then maybe you can avoid the case.