The Apple Watch Ultra is an incredibly rugged device. It’s made for extreme sports and active people like hikers, climbers, and divers, and Apple used every trick in the book to make it the perfect sports watch for these athletes. But will it withstand everything you throw at it, or does the Apple Watch Ultra need a screen protector to guard it even more?
The Apple Watch Ultra doesn’t necessarily need a screen protector. It has a sapphire crystal glass face over its display, which doesn’t easily shatter and is highly resistant to scratches. However, even though it’s difficult, it can still scratch and crack, so a screen protector is a good idea.
As incredible as the Apple Watch Ultra’s screen is, nothing on earth is entirely indestructible. So, what are the risks? What can you do, and which actions should you rather avoid? Will a screen protector help protect your Watch Ultra at all? Let’s take a closer look.
How Robust Is The Apple Watch’s Screen?
Apple put every effort into ensuring that the Apple Watch Ultra is robust enough to survive even the hardest of extreme sports. In its efforts to protect the screen from cracks and scratches, Apple used the very best in watch faces: sapphire crystal glass.
What Is Sapphire Crystal Glass?
Sapphire crystal is not glass. It is a transparent crystalline ceramic made of pure aluminum oxide with no natural contamination, making it entirely transparent and colorless.
On a technical level, sapphire crystal belongs to the corundum group, which boasts the second-highest hardness rating on the Mohs scale. To put this into perspective, diamonds have a Mohs scale rating of 10, while corundum materials like sapphire crystal are rated at 9. In other words, it’s only slightly lower in hardness rating than diamonds.
This fact makes sapphire crystal perfect for watch faces, despite how expensive it is, and by using it for the Watch Ultra, Apple placed this particular smart sports watch on par with some of the most costly and elite wristwatches on the market.
What Does Sapphire Crystal Mean For The Apple Watch Ultra?
Sapphire crystal screens like the one on the Apple Watch Ultra don’t scratch easily. In fact, it has a hardness rating of 2,000 HV(Vickers Pyramid Number). For context, stainless steel is rated at just 200 HV.
This means it can only be scratched by anything with a higher hardness rating, like diamonds, which are rated between 4,500 HV and 10,000 HV. Some very hard rocks will also be able to deal scratch damage to the Apple Watch Ultra screen.
The hardness also means that it’s very difficult to crack or shatter the screen of an Apple Watch Ultra.
YouTuber TechRax tested the Ultra shortly after it was released. He performed a few tests that are painful for technology fans to watch, but his results were very enlightening.
First, he performed the drop test. He dropped the Watch Ultra face-first onto a cement surface. That same drop was enough to shatter the screen of a regular Apple Watch, but apart from some light scratches and dents on the titanium frame, the face was unscratched.
The next test he performed was to put the Watch Ultra into a jar full of iron and steel screws and shake it vigorously. Again, the Watch Ultra didn’t have a single scratch on its face.
The third test was an actual hammer. TechRax placed the Ultra on a flat surface and dropped a heavy hammer on it. Again, no cracks or scratches on the Watch. So, he started hitting it with the hammer, increasing the amount of force with every hit. Eventually, the surface underneath the Watch began to crack and break, but the Watch Ultra still had no scratches or cracks on its screen.
As he carried on, eventually, the Watch died and refused to switch back on, after which he unleashed the hammer on the screen at full force. This did ultimately crack the screen, but the amount of power it required was immense, and the Watch’s electronics gave in before the screen even began to show scratches.
Do You Need A Screen Protector For Your Apple Watch Ultra?
By all indications, the Apple Watch Ultra doesn’t need a screen protector. The screen is hard enough by itself to be highly scratch-resistant and shatterproof, and it’s unlikely that a screen protector will add any benefit to its already excellent protection. In fact, it may even ruin the aesthetics of the Watch Ultra, which is pointless if it doesn’t serve a purpose.
Most people who have been using the Apple Watch Ultra agree with the statement that you don’t need a screen protector, but to be fair, we should also look at the other side.
A Possible Exception
Finding cases of scratched or cracked Apple Watch Ultra screens online is nearly impossible, except in cases where people tried to see how much damage they could inflict before it started to show as TechRax did. However, user ASquared44 on the MacRumors forum had a strange experience.
The user claims that they’d been using an Apple Watch Series 4 with a sapphire crystal display for years and never had a problem, but after only twelve days of wearing the Apple Watch Ultra, the screen has a very noticeable scratch. They also provide photos of the scratch, and it appears pretty severe.
What makes matters worse is that the user claims to have not done any hard work over the twelve days that could have caused the scratch. It’s pretty unexplainable since there should be no logical way for this to happen unless there was a flaw in the sapphire crystal screen.
There is one remote possibility that could explain it, though.
Sapphire crystals have one significant weakness: they’re highly reflective. This could cause severe glare, which is not great, especially since the target market for the Apple Watch Ultra is athletes and participants in extreme sports. It’s not good to look at your watch and get blinded by the sun and unable to see anything on the watch’s screen.
For this reason, Apple (like most watch manufacturers that use sapphire crystal watch faces) applies an anti-glare coating to the screen. This coating usually goes on the inside of the watch face on mechanical watches, but that’s impossible to do with the Watch Ultra.
So, even though the screen itself won’t scratch easily, it is possible to scratch and damage this coating, which is likely to happen anyway. According to some users, the layer comes off very quickly, even as little as one month after buying it, especially during extreme activity.
In other words, even though it’s unlikely for the screen to pick up scratches, the anti-glare coating can be ruined quite quickly, which might be a good enough reason for many people to use a screen protector on the Apple Watch Ultra.
The Apple Watch Ultra’s screen is made of sapphire crystal glass, which is almost as hard as a diamond. It will not scratch or damage easily, making a screen protector largely unnecessary. In the isolated cases where they do get damaged, it’s likely just the anti-glare coating that gets scratched and not the screen itself, though that might be enough reason to still get a screen protector for it.