Warning: Today's column contains premeditated acts of violence and a disturbing underwater survival test that may upset people who have strange, obsessive relationships with their mobile devices.
We're off to an extremely destructive new year with a screen protector that claims it's impervious to scratches and a mobile phone that insists it can last up to 30 minutes underwater on a single breath and still live to make a call to Hoboken, N.J. (Of course, those claims deserve a challenge.)
The Armorz Stealth Extreme R for iPhone 5s/5c ($39.95, armorz.com) is the first screen protector made with a 0.4-millimeter-thick sheet of Corning's Gorilla tempered glass. Gorilla glass, in my experience, earns its name but never have I intentionally tried to scratch it, pound it with a hammer or run it over with a truck.
Yes, this is serious. The Stealth Extreme R, double the thickness of Armorz Stealth Extreme Lite protector for iPhone 5/5s/5c ($34.95). Its hardness is rated 9H, the highest rating on the pencil-hardness scale. That might not sound too tough, but it should resist scratches by the hardest-grade pencil pressed against it at a 45-degree angle.
A 9H pencil? Armorz shows photographs of the screen with a drill and hammer posing menacingly. My test screen, in fact, resisted multiple attempts to scratch or gouge with a Philips-head screwdriver. Then, placed on a driveway (the iPhone safely in the house), I ran it over several times with 10-horsepower snowblower. Not a single scratch or smudge.
Next, I placed it under the front tire of a Ford Ranger pickup truck, turned the ignition and moved forward, back, then forward again over the poor little Stealth Extreme. This time, it cracked but did not shatter (as promised). At this point, it still could have served as iPhone protector — it uses a silicon adhesive, no sticky glue, so it's easily removed and carefully reapplied — but it wasn't done with the beat-down.
Finally, I reached for a hammer. When finished, the Stealth Extreme looked like a car windshield after a stone shower — spider-web cracks leading to longer, singular cracks. But it remained in one piece, never shattering.
Sorry about that, Stealth Extreme. But you proved yourself a tough screen protector. You're nearly impervious to scratches and resist fingerprints. You could guard my iPhone any time.
Kyocera Hydro XTRM
Finally, a mobile phone for klutzes. The Hydro XTRM, available from MetroPCS and other carriers, is an otherwise unspectacular 4G Android phone running the Jellybean (4.1) operating system with a Snapdragon (1.2 gigahertz) processor and 4-inch (400x800) display.
Yet it is certified for IP57, an international Ingress Protection Rating for water immersion in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes, and meets military standard 810G for shock and drop survival.
MetroPCS is so confident in the Hydro XTRM that it supplies its own dunk tank, a plastic cylinder with "fill to here" marking. So after filling to here, I dropped the trimphones into the tank for a 29-minute, 45-second dunkathon. For most mobile phones, this would be a death sentence.
"We've done a number of dunk tests," says Chuck Sweeney, senior vice president of business development at Securranty, an online provider of extended warranties for electronics. "Most recently, we tested an HTC Droid and an iPhone. We put them both in literally for five seconds. The Apple phone started flickering within 10 to 15 seconds, and within 30 seconds it was dead. The HTC Droid seemed to be fine for about a minute, then it started to flicker and went dead."
The Hydro didn't flicker, didn't die. It survived! (Celestial music, please.) I didn't drop it until, oops, just now. It still works, though maybe not quite as smartly as an iPhone or HTC Droid.
Armorz Stealth Extreme R for iPhone 5s/5c
Price: $39.95 (also available for iPad Air, $89.95, and iPad Mini Retina, $69.95).
Good: Strong like a bull, resists fingerprints, better than plastic protectors at replicating screen surface.
Not so good: Expensive; do not run over with a truck.
armorz.comKyocera Hydro XTRM mobile phone
Price: $169, with monthly plans starting at $40 (MetroPCS)
Good: Not afraid of water, dropsies.
Not so good: Tough, but only a so-so smartphone.