MY 3+ Years of Experience:
I'm on my second iPhone (iPhone 4). My previous iPhone was a 3GS and my partner has a 3GS. Neither of us has ever used a 'protector' with either any phone and none of them have scratches on the screens. Oh, that also goes for my year old iPad 1...it's not scratched either, nor is my over 3 year old iPod Touch 1st Gen. I put a 'protector' on my iPod when I first got it because that piece of sticky plastic came with my first iPod Touch case. Woohoo! What a deal! I gave up on that one after a couple of weeks and I've never looked back. I still use the iPod Touch and it still has no scratches on the screen.
The Background and Editorial:
There is a basic fallacy about touch screens. Many, particularly earlier touch screens on mobile devices had a mostly transparent conductive polymer screen that changed in resistance when they were touched. In contrast, the Apple iDevices have a hardened glass screen that actually does not have to be touched (although it's close) because they are capacitive, sensing the closeness of your finger or fingers. They are essentially planar proximity sensors.
The Apple iDevices' screens are glass...hardened glass. It takes quite a bit to scratch even ordinary glass. When was the last time you scratched your car windshield from the inside with your fingers or even your fingernails?
The screen 'protectors' for iPhones (iPads, iPod Touch) are pretty much a scam and a waste of money. AT&T sells them in their stores and Apple sells them in their stores and on line. They don't really hurt anything, except your eyes because they are ugly, gather dirt, are subject to the damage themselves that the glass screen does not suffer, and they are almost impossible to put on without bubbles. Not to put too fine a point on it, but even if you DO somehow manage a perfect installation (without bubbles), normal use will tend to bubble at some point unless you are very very careful. I know. Remember, I drank the Koolaid with my first iPod Touch.
I would say YES - definately use a screen protector.
You only have to look on eBay at the iphones on sale there to see many, many of them saying things like "screen scratched" "marked screen" "faint scratches on screen" etc, etc.
If you do not use a protector and you scratch your screen then you will never forgive yourself.
Screen protectors can be expensive or extremely cheap and any of them - even the cheapest - is far more acceptable than a scratch on your iphone screen.
Every iPhone I've ever owned have picked up scratches on the screens. I've had more than just one iPhone 4 due to defects.
My first iPhone 4 had for 10 months and I used with no case or screen protector, and the screen picked up a gouge somehow along with noticeable scratches both front and back.
Second iPhone 4 had for 3 months, used with a bumper and other various cases that only offered protection against death grip, had gotten minor scratches both front and back.
Third iPhone 4 which is a new white one has one light scratch on the screen and I've had it for about a month. I'm using it with a bumper.
I've had every iPhone since the 2G and the 2G seemed more scratch resistant than all the models that came after it. I had hoped the 4 would be more scratch resistant due to the marketing of the aluminosilicate glass but it dissapointed me. Anyway I hate screen protectors so I live with the scratches.
From your comment and the one prior to it, clearly, it is possible to scratch the glass screen of the iDevices. I am really curious about how it happens.
My iPod Touch is not visibly scratched, nor were either of the iPhone 3GS, nor my iPad, nor my iPhone 4. I just can't figure out what I'm not doing that you might be doing. My iPhone 4 has a bumper on it and it bounces around in my purse with a ton of keys on an open keyring and all the other junk that lives there with. It gets dropped on the floor...a lot. It goes with me on my motorcycle. My iPad is constantly being assaulted with things falling on it, a lot of them are metal. I use it when cooking, so it has had 8" chef knives bang into the screen and I've dropped it on every corner so the metal framing the screen has been deformed so badly, I had to bend it back toward the screen (i.e. brute force against a table top). The screen is still unscratched and un-cracked.
Like I said, I wonder what I'm doing right that keeps my screens from scratching or having other damage. Do you work (or play) with axes or chainsaws? Have your iPhones ever stopped a bullet for you? Are my standards for screen hygiene that low? Did I get the devices that were built specially for Steve Jobs?
Inquiring minds and all that...
Firstly are you positive you have none? Some are so light that I was only ever able to see them in bright sunlight after the screen was cleaned.
What I think scratched them is most likely sand or something similar that can scratch glass easily I never touched the displays with anything metal.
I work an office job and my iPhones normally live in my pants pocket or jacket pocket.
My first iPad and the iPad 2 have no scratches so must be sand or lint. Also I think it's the oleo phobic coating that is what shows scratches most easily.
Here's my experience:
iPhone 3GS: Over 20 months, no protector, no scratches
iPhone 4: Over 6 months, no protector, no scratches
iPhone 4S: about 3 months, no protector, long, rather shallow scratch
Conclusion: Maybe the glass or the oliophobic coating is 'softer', but I'll live with scratches. I've seen how disgusting others' phones are with the 'screen protectors' and I will pass. If it gets too bad, a new iPhone will probably be out and I will be buying one.
i wouldnt say that a screen protecter is worth the money if you only want to protect against scratches. i spendna lot of time replacing smashed/cracked screens and have found that the people that come to me with broken screens tell me that they have never used a protecter. so far i have done approximately 200 replacements and have never had a customer who used a protector. so if you have a high likelyhood of yout iphone recieving an impact i would pay the $2 for a protector to save $120 on screen replacement
I've been reading these replies, and I don't see how a screen protector can prevent a broken or shattered screen. It might keep the glass from going all over the place, but IMHO the only thing that can prevent a broken screen is a decent case or bumper.
I decided to go without a screen protector and after 6 months of ownership, with a decent case, I now have one small scratch on the back and one very tiny scratch on the front. While the phone is a work of art, I bought a phone, not a piece of art to place on the mantel. Hopefully the case will protect the phone from drops, and so far it has, but if worse comes to worse YouTube will show me how to replace the glass.
Considering the phone lives in pockets with keys and coins, I'm curious as to what did scratch it, and why it "only" has one tiny scratch on it.