Accessory Review: Mongrel Glass – Galaxy S4 Screen Protector

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Screen protectors are becoming an important addition to the modern smartphone. As screens get bigger, the price of repairing a smashed screen goes up. In many cases, the price of a new screen seems at odds with the overall price you’ve paid for the device, but you’ll grin and bear it because it’s still cheaper than getting a new phone.

Mongrel Glass, from Melbourne-based Android specialists Mongrel Phones, is not your average screen protector. The most obvious differentiator that sticks out is the price: it’ll set you back $45 – about 4 times the price of your average plastic screen protector you’d buy from eBay, DealeXtreme or even just a booth in a suburban shopping centre.

Unlike those screen protectors though, Mongrel Glass is different. It’s made of 8 (!) layers of material, and even includes its own layer of tempered glass. You can find the full composition of the material and more on their site. Once you’ve applied Mongrel Glass, you get the sense your device should be impervious to most things short of an asteroid collision.

As Mongrel Phones is an Australian company, we were anxious to try the product out. Buzz and I have been using Mongrel Glass on our Galaxy S4s for a week or so now. Here’s what we found.

Application

It’s clear from a look through the packaging that a lot of thought has gone into the application and usage of Mongrel Glass. The product arrives in a padded, sealed box that contains a number of assistive devices to help you apply your screen protector:

  • Wet wipe
  • Dry wipe
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Dust removal stickers
  • Button inserts
  • Mongrel Glass – can’t forget this

The screen protector itself is packaged up as you would expect with a front and back protective film that you’ll need to remove in order to apply it to your device. What’s different though is the “positioning sticker” that’s stuck to the side, allowing you to line up the screen protector where you want it to be placed on your screen and stick it to the side of your phone to ensure you get the positioning right during application — all of this happens before you remove anything.

Once you’ve lined up the screen protector, you’re directed to use the wet wipe and dry wipe in succession to remove dust and fingerprints from your device’s screen. Anything left can then be dealt with by the dust removal stickers – just stick them over the dust and pull it up and it’s gone. After that, it’s business as usual – you remove the back film, stick the screen protector in place, then remove the front film and press it down as needed.

As the screen protector is a little more rigid and less flexible than others, and so much effort went into preparation with the supplied materials, there were no air bubbles, dust or grit and I barely had to do anything.

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My application didn’t go quite according to plan because I didn’t attach the positioning sticker to the side of the device properly, but it’s still good enough – my advice would be to check the position a few times before proceeding. If you really get it wrong, you can remove it and wash it, although we were advised to be careful if attempting this as you should avoid bending the protector (fair enough – it’s glass).

Overall I was extremely impressed with the forethought, instructions and attention to detail that’s gone into the product. It’s a cut above the rest and made application easy. It’s heartening to see that Mongrel cares about the application process and not just about getting product out of its warehouse.

Usage

The edges have a pleasing curve to them and feel conducive to running your finger over them in much the same way as the sides of the Nexus 4′s front panel did. The face of the screen protector is smooth to the touch and in no way interferes with touch functions of your device’s screen.

As you’d expect from a screen protector comprising 8 layers of material, Mongrel Glass adds a tangible layer to the front of your phone, although there’s no gap between the protector and the display. One drawback to this is that it adds enough of a layer to stop Samsung’s S-View and Flip covers from fully closing, although once you apply Mongrel Glass you might not need to use those covers to protect the front of your phone any more.

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The only clue you’ve got a thick, durable screen protector attached is the lip around the S4′s physical home button. If you need your home button to be level with your screen protector, Mongrel includes a couple of inserts in the package that you can stick to your home button to raise its profile and make it even. I didn’t feel it necessary to use them.

It’s important to note that Mongrel Glass doesn’t instantly ruggedise your phone – a drop onto a hard surface or a serious impact with the screen can still shatter your pride and joy, but it’s far more durable than a piece of plastic film which will get torn up by passing keys and it does protect your screen from many of its natural enemies. Keys and coins had no effect on the screen protector. The screen even seems more resistant to fingers, and remains perfectly visible when outdoors. What’s not to like?

mongrel-glass-galaxy-s4_3

Worthwhile Protection

With a price tag of $45, Mongrel Glass might be a tough sell to someone who just wants to protect their device against an occasional bump and scratch. Were the price to come in around $25 I think it’d be impulse buy territory and you could see consumers going for the higher priced premium product.

As someone who smashed his Galaxy Nexus screen and footed the near-$300 bill to replace it, I’m all for phone protection, especially when the value of the phones seems to be constantly rising. Ultimately it’s up to you to weigh up whether you’re happy to make the investment, but Mongrel has impressed me. In the interests of protecting your phone, and supporting an Aussie company with a good product while you’re at it, I highly recommend you give it a shot.

You can order your own Mongrel Glass for Galaxy S4 for $44.95 from the Mongrel Phones site.

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About the author

Jason hails from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane depending on his mood and how detailed a history you'd like. A web developer by day with an interest in consumer gadgets and electronics, he also enjoys reading comics and has a worryingly... (read more)

  • Brad H

    I’ve been looking at getting a glass screen protector for my S4, but I’m just a little cautious due to the fact I use TPU cases and I feel as though the rubber will peel up a protector with a bit of added thickness. Can you tell me how cases fair while using these glass protectors?

    • Mongrel Phones

      Hi Brad,
      generally we have very few issues with TPU cases, providing they fit in the first place. In fact, we recommend using at least a bumper style case of some sort to protect your phone against drops in any case. As our product is chemically tempered glass, as with all tempered glass, the edges are more susceptible to damage than the face. Even though we have rounded the edges to minimise chipping, chipping of the edges can occur where they are unprotected. Often this can be due to something as simple as rubbing the edge past keys or coins when putting the phone in your pocket. to avoid disappointment – always use a case.

      If you decide to make a purchase, as a one off, I’ll personally guarantee your satisfaction. If you don’t like the Mongrel Glass with the case send it back – we’ll give you a full refund. I would appreciate it, however, if you came back here and let everyone know how you got on.

      Hint: watch this site and wait a couple of days before you purchase. You may get a pleasant surprise.

      Geoff.

  • Nick Fletcher

    I have recently (couple of weeks ago) applied the spigen tempered glass screen protector which looks identical to yours (except it doesn’t cover the 3 sensors next to the ear piece) and it’s really nice. Some things missing from your reviewi think: the actual thickness of the protector and it’s hardness rating, eg the spigen one in using has rounded edges and is 0.4mm thick with a hardness rating of 8-9H.
    After shipping it probably works out to be about the same cost – $45.
    I love this idea; I hate cases and this a great compromise I think.

    • Mongrel Phones

      Hi Nick,
      You are right, the Spigen is a very nice product. We don’t cut out the sensors as we have not had any issues yet – although we are trialing versions with, and without, cutouts for the Sony Xperia Z at the moment. Maybe Spigen use a different silicon, or different composition glass, to us. Corning is not the only company to make chemically tempered glass and we just try to focus on getting our product right.

      Our glass is also 0.4 mm thick. Although, overall, our product is 0.5 mm thick on the S4. We do not want to go any thinner as we do not want to compromise the durability of the product. 0.1 mm is hardly distinguishable of the phone overall – but we did not want to make the glass weaker by making it 20% thinner.

      We know we can make the glass up to about 0.8mm thick – before we start to affect touchscreen sensitivity. In fact, we are currently evaluating glass that thick for our rugged tradies smartphones. Given that phones like the iPhone 5 have glass screens around 0.86 mm thick…we believe, in that market, the durability will be warranted.

      We don’t advertise pencil hardness ratings for our screens as we believe they are a bit of an advertising gimmick. The 8H and 9H ratings generally refer to pencil hardness tests

      http://www.gardco.com/pages/hardness/pencilhardness5021.cfm

      for which you can purchase expensive test kits…

      http://www.gardco.com/pages/hardness/pencilhardness5021.cfm

      …or go buy yourself some hard pencils from any good art store.

      The fact is, that Mongrel Glass, cannot be scratched by 9H pencils – the hardest rating. We exceed the ability of this test to measure hardness. I am not sure why some companies refer to this standard. It is better suited to measuring the hardness of paint and plastics. My 9H pencils cannot scratch steel – yet most steels cannot scratch Mongrel Glass. (Some specialty hardened steels may.) The important thing is to remember that this is NOT the Mohs scale – which rates diamond as having a 10 value.

      After the weekend, I hope to post a video on our site that will demonstrate this – and some other tests. Admittedly, this should have been done before now – but we have been busy with A-Tick compliance for our Black Ops mobile phone.

      Also, like Spigen, we do recommend putting a case on with the screen protector to avoid chipping the edges. From our experience, rounding the edges improves the performance – but does not prevent all chipping.

      • Nick Fletcher

        Great reply, thanks for the detail.

        regarding this:

        “We know we can make the glass up to about 0.8mm thick – before we start to affect touchscreen sensitivity”

        be careful – my friend bought the 0.26mm thick spigen glass for his HTC One and lost use of the back and home buttons.

        Regarding the hardness rating, a gimmick it may be, but people like to compare against something. Also I was commenting on the Ausdroid article not mentioning it, looking at your webpage you actually dedicate almost an entire paragraph to talking about the hardness rating… so I guess you are one of those companies that “refer to this standard” ;)
        also you say it’s 8H on your website, not 9?

      • Mongrel Phones

        Hi Nick.

        “be careful – my friend bought the 0.26mm thick spigen glass for his HTC One and lost use of the back and home buttons”

        Thanks – we are trialling each model as we go – I will pay particular attention to the One when our samples arrive next week – maybe there will also be an issue for us on that device as well. I know Jason is itching to try one out – I might make him one of the guinea pigs, and he can let us all know how he gets on. I’m not worried either way, because we only carry the ones that work.( we dumped our S3 models because of the curved screen – they were just too ugly with all the cutouts we needed to get them to sit flat.). We’d rather miss a couple of models than bring out bad glass – they’re too expensive for people to get disappointed.

        The 0.8 mm glass, we are trialing on our own rugged phones. At that thickness (almost a thick as the glass on the iPhone5) you are looking at almost 20g. It is unlikely that we will be using glass this thick on anything other than our rugged phones. Some of our rugged phones have 1.3 mm of glass between the touchscreen digitiser and the outside – without a screen protector. Outside display panels can be even thicker.

        It also needs to be remembered that different manufacturers use different materials. Our product is not made by Spigen – or even come from Korea for that matter. I expect that they may not be getting some of the other problems that we have had, to overcome, along the way.

        Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Whilst I removed these types of comments from our packaging some time ago when we became aware of how misleading they were….obviously that paragraph slipped through the cracks. This was based on the original specs given to us by the factory. I have removed it.

        ..and yes, we exceed 9H – I dare say pretty much all tempered screen protectors do, not just us. I’m having trouble scratching common float glass with a 9H.

        Currently, I am working on an article and video demo that will display all this a bit more clearly. If you find anything else that is “dodgy” or inconsistent, let me know…it’s a work in progress. Thanks for the help.

      • Mongrel Phones

        Hi Nick,

        We have been doing a bit more investigation on the HTC One. Could you please let me know the software version your friend was running – and also the carrier, if any, that supplied the phone. We are yet to get our samples in – but our initial investigations indicate that this may be a software issue regarding the calibration of the touchscreen, rather than an issue with the screen protector itself. We may either release this, after testing with phones from each carrier, or not release Mongrel Glass for this model at all. This would be in keeping of our policy of not releasing glass for models unless we are happy with the performance.

      • Nick Fletcher

        Sure, enjoy my research and failed purchase for free ;)

        Here’s the email I ended up sending to Spigen after doing a bunch of research on the issue. They had identified that after a certain software version HTC had increased the sensitivity of the buttons, but didn’t quite have it right:

        Your FAQ area says the phone works with version 1.29.709.12 or later. Without understanding how the versioning works, most people will look at the “709″ part, and assume if their number is higher than 709, then they should be safe. This was the case with me, as my phone was 1.29.841.2. 841 is larger than 709, so I thought I was all good.
        However, this part of the version is irrelevant, the 709 and 841 part of the version number just determines which region the phone is from. 709 is Taiwan I think, 841 is Telstra in Australia. Higher in this number doesn’t mean newer, it just means a different reigion. it’s the 4th part of the version that matters, “12″ in your FAQ. As my 4th part is “2″, this is why my phone doesn’t work – 2 is not higher than 12.

        I ended up rooting my friends phone and flashing a custom ROM on it, with version 2.17.401.1, and it now works. I assume when Telstra etc release the new ROM with Android 4.2.2 the problem will be fixed, but until then rooting appears to the be the only way around it. Of course this is completely region based, so if you plan on selling around the world you’ll have to check each region’s version..

      • Mongrel Phones

        “Sure, enjoy my research and failed purchase for free…”

        Totally unreasonable of me.

        Better flick me an email to

        customer-service@mongrel-phones.com.au

        Thanks for the help.

  • Mastermind

    Good review – although I’d be questioning why some one would choose Mongrel tempered glass screen protectors over a similarly priced Spigen glass protector, with the latter being a major player in the phone protection market.

    I believe that Mongrel should have put their best foot forward and introduced the product at a lower price to draw more customers into their base – before introducing premium prices.

    However, this is just my personal opinion and I do believe that this glass protector warrants a try just to see how good it really is.

    • Mongrel Phones

      Hi Mastermind,

      The simple fact is that we believe that our product is at least as good as Spigen’s – and worth every cent. We prefer to charge a fair price now rather than gouge later. If you want a cheaper product, there are plenty of suspects out there.

      If you want a better price, there may be an opportunity soon…but you need to keep an eye on this website to take advantage. Help us…and we’ll probably help you ;-) …but the opportunity will be limited.

      • Mastermind

        I will definitely keep an eye out on this website as I do check back daily.

        It’s always nice to see a company having confidence and backing their product 100%, which all companies should do.

        I’ll be looking forward to more review videos and should the opportunity come for me to purchase the protector at a price which I feel is justifiable, i’ll definitely purchase 1 and give my personal review on the protector.

        Thanks for sharing.

  • BuzzLightyear

    Could you please let us know how this protector does with fingerprints? I’m trying to find a screen protector that has some resistance to fingerprints without sacrificing screen clarity. Thanks.

    • Mongrel Phones

      Hi Buzz,
      Our screen protectors have excellent fingerprint resistance due to their oleophobic coating. We will have some videos up after the weekend.

  • Mongrel Phones

    Hi Guys…just thought we would let you know we are having a clearance sale on our Mongrel Glass. We have decided to focus on our phones.

    Other than replacement glass for the Black Ops phone, all Mongrel Glass (ie for SG4 and IPhone 5/S/C) is now $25 delivered anywhere in Australia.

    We will not be re-ordering any of these lines.