The Galaxy S4's 5-inch display is brilliant but frighteningly so, and protecting such a large pane of glass is a tall order. Tempered glass screen protectors have been our most favorite means of screen protection since the day the first concept came to market. There are plenty of options out there to pick from if you want to protect your Galaxy S4, and one of those is Colorant's USG ITG+ Impossible Tempered Glass. And if it's anything like Colorant's USG ITG Plus for the iPhone 5, then we've got a pretty good feeling about this bigger piece of tempered glass goodness. Should you be spending more on these high-end screen protectors, and if so, will the USG ITG+ be the tempered glass guardian to get? Find out in the full review down below!
Tempered glass screen protectors are trending now more than ever, and there's a race between companies to release thinner and thinner offerings without compromising on tensile strength and features like oleophobic coatings and special silicone adhesives that help make these tempered glass screen protectors very appealing. It's true that Gorilla Glass is one tough piece of chemically treated tempered glass that just so happens to live on every Galaxy S4 device. Protecting it with more glass will seem like an outrageous thing to do, and you're probably scratching your head right now.
As weird and ironic as it may seem, we have tested this method of glass screen protection on Apple devices and found it to be superior to plastic screen protectors which just scratch up very easily and don't offer as much protection and clarity as some of these tempered glass screen protectors. Not to mention the unmatched glass smoothness you get compared to PET screen protectors, including the expensive ones. As we've said before, you can never rely on your Gorilla Glass screen to not crack or scratch because it does more often than not. And when you drop your Galaxy S4 with the USG ITG+ applied, more likely than not it should keep your original glass screen intact even if the USG ITG+ cracks.
The reason why anyone would even consider getting and using a tempered glass screen protector is for the sole reason that is serious scratch protection without knowing it's there. Colorant's USG ITG+ for the Galaxy S4 is just as good as its smaller iPhone 5 counterpart. That means unhindered screen clarity and sharpness, ultra-smooth actual glass touchscreen experience and full tactile control as if you weren't using a screen protector at all. Even the capacitive off-screen buttons of the Galaxy S4 work flawlessly with the USG ITG+ applied.
Installation can be as nerve-racking as a first date only because with the special gap-less silicone adhesive these tempered glass screen protectors use means that the glass cannot be repositioned if you mess up the alignment. You've only got one shot at centering and aligning the USG ITG+ as best you can. Thankfully, with such a large surface to work with, applying the USG ITG+ onto the Galaxy S4's screen is a piece of cake. As long as you've made sure to properly clean your screen right before application, you should not have any air bubbles or lint trapped underneath the glass. In my case, installation went very smoothly but I haven't taken much time in perfectly centering the protector. In retrospect, the Galaxy S4 USG ITG+ isn't any more difficult to apply than the iPhone 5 variant.
Like others like it, the USG ITG+'s silicone adhesive spreads the glass across the Galaxy S4's screen it what looks like a bonding process that isn't of course permanent. Speaking of bonding, you can remove the USG ITG+ without it leaving behind its silicone sticky adhesive. And unless you've messed something up, you'll never want to remove it in the first place.
After around 24 hours and a good rest, the USG ITG+ has adhered itself onto my Galaxy S4 in such a flawless way that I had a hard time telling if I actually did install it the other day or maybe it was just a dream. The two or three little air bubbles I saw trapped underneath the glass from the previous installation day were totally gone as promised. You can see them above moment after applying the USG ITG+. Overall the final result is a clean, bubble-free installation that's so precise it looks like the Galaxy S4 came with this glass screen protector bonded and pre-installed out of the box. These silicone adhesives work wonderfully to create a gap-less vacuum application unlike ordinary screen protectors, it's just too bad they can't be reasoned with once they've done their magic.
Fingers glide across the oleophobic-coated glass like they do on the bare touchscreen display - which is tempered and laminated so that it doesn't shatter into harmful pieces that will damage your actually glass screen. Instead, the USG ITG+ holds itself together as a single piece that is cracked but still maintained due to its see-through laminated layer which for the most part holds it together. And at 9H surface hardness, the USG ITG+ is one tough piece of glass to scratch compared to regular plastic-made screen protectors which we all know show scratches, scuffs and fingerprints like crazy.
Edges and corners are polished, rounded and tapered to give you the best experiences out of using your Galaxy S4 with this tempered glass screen protector applied. Once you reach the end of the touchscreen, your finger will slide off the edge of the glass like a beach ball smothered in KY Jelly. It is as pleasing as it sounds. And although the thickness of the glass isn't as thin as some of the other alternatives on the market, Colorant has done a tremendous work in designing the USG ITG+ in such as way that you hardly notice any difference between having this tempered glass applied or not at all. There is a but...
Where you will notice a difference is when you come to press the home button. That 0.4mm-thick layer of glass creates a recessed opening where the home button resides, and while this cutout is rounded, it still doesn't feel very pleasant to the touch each time you come to press a home button.
To fix this issue, or in this case to sweeten the deal and fend off other rivals, Colorant included an aluminum pill-shaped button veneer of sorts which you can stick right on top of the Galaxy S4's home button to fill in the gap created by the thickness of the tempered glass. The result is a slightly improved user experience and a svelte or arguably tacky looking brushed aluminum button...nonetheless. It's nice to see a more detailed brushed aluminum button inlay included rather than some jelly bean plastic button that falls apart once removed. It's worth noting that besides the brushed aluminum look, the button also has a polished chamfered edge making it look a lot like Spigen's Aluminum Home Button; or simply it matches the original Galaxy S4 home button.
It may add some thickness to your Galaxy S4's glass display, but it won't hold you back from using protective cases such as Element Case's Atom S4, Eclipse S4 and a whole bunch of other cases that don't overlap the Galaxy S4's white bezel. What enables the USG ITG+ to fit well with other cases is the fact that it is cut slightly narrower all around which means that it fits perfectly over the glass portion while the edges are tapered in such a way that you really don't notice there's another piece of glass sitting on top. There's another advantage to the USG ITG+'s design which is that its corners and edges are less prone to chipping upon direct impacts.
With flip style cover cases the situation is a bit different I'm afraid. Apparently the thickness of the USG ITG+ is still considerable to the point where you won't be able to comfortably use cover cases like Samsung's official Flip Cover Folios and Vaja's Nuova Pelle or Agenda case covers. Conversely, you will be able to use Spigen's Slim Armor View as it was designed with tempered glass screen protectors in mind.
Taking a look at what comes inside the slip-packaging we can see that there are two dust removal stickers along with a cleaning cloth and the aluminum home button. Although it isn't recommended that you try to reposition the glass, you can in some cases remove trapped dust using these helpful stickers by lifting one part of the glass. From my experience applying quite a few tempered glass screen protectors, you can sometimes ruin the silicone adhesive by trying to lift up the glass in order to clean up a dust particle. Pro tip: Get it right the first time. Apply in places where airborne dust and lint are kept to a minimum like the bathroom.
Along the top edge of the device, the USG ITG+ is cut to reveal the Galaxy S4's earpiece and barrage of sensors while the front-facing camera is left covered underneath the glass - which makes no difference I might add anyway. The cutout is also tapered and rounded and will not hurt your ear when held up to it.
The only two caveats that I can think of are the one-time difficulty of installation which can be challenging to some - but at the same time it's also an issue that concerns all tempered glass screen protectors; as well as the thickness of the tempered glass. Why would Colorant bother selling a 0.4mm version when we all know including Colorant that a thinner version is possible and even an unquestionable follow-up if not already available now. That is the only drawback to Colorant's USG ITG+ that makes Spigen's thinner 0.15mm Glas.t Nano Slim tempered glass screen protector that much more appealing in comparison.
And so yes it is in fact $2 more expensive at $35, doesn't come with an aluminum home button and has no rounded edges which actually makes the USG ITG+ a worthy choice still at $33. But then again, an aluminum home button isn't required when the thickness of the glass is thin enough to not overlap the Galaxy S4's home button. With that being said, it's tough to give a recommendation in favor of the UTG ITG+ over Spigen's Glas.t Nano Slim because thickness does make a big difference no pun intended. However, we really do think it's a great tempered glass screen protector and even though it may be slightly thicker than the Glas.t Nano Slim, the USG ITG+ has done its job remarkably well which is enough to give it a solid recommendation.