The Pixel 6a checks as many boxes as possible for being a $449 smartphone, but is Google’s budget handset durable enough to be used without a screen protector? There are a few obvious considerations you make when buying a phone. You want to ensure the display looks good, the processor is fast enough, and the battery lasts to keep up with your daily use. But those aren’t the only things that make a good smartphone.

Just as important for many shoppers is a phone’s durability. Smartphone durability is made up of a few different factors. For starters, you probably want your phone to have an IP rating for dust and water resistance. It’s also important that your phone have a durable frame. Accidents happen, and in the event that you drop your phone, it should be made well enough that it survives a few tumbles.


Related: Does The Pixel 6a Have An SD Card Slot For Expandable Storage?

Another durability point to consider is whether or not a phone needs a screen protector. Different smartphones come with varying types of glass covering their displays. Some glass is more durable than other options, meaning some phones need a screen protector more than others. Such is the case with the Google Pixel 6a. Covering the Pixel 6a’s screen is Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Gorilla Glass 3 is durable against everyday wear and tear, but most Pixel 6a owners should be cautious and get a screen protector just in case.

The Pixel 6a Has An Old Version Of Gorilla Glass

A Google Pixel 6a laying on a table. It's next to a notebook that someone is drawing in.

The reason for this has to do with the version of Gorilla Glass that Google chose for the Pixel 6a. While Corning makes some of the best smartphone glass available, Gorilla Glass 3 is one of its oldest versions, having originally launched in 2013. At the time, Corning was promoting Gorilla Glass 3 as having a ‘proprietary glass composition’ that made it 4x more scratch-resistant compared to competing aluminosilicate glasses.

While Gorilla Glass 3 remains fine protection for smartphone displays, it’s been succeeded by multiple generations of newer and more durable Gorilla Glass — including Gorilla Glass 4, Gorilla Glass 5, Gorilla Glass 6, and the current Gorilla Glass Victus. And Corning’s made a lot of improvements since then. Each generation has dramatically improved durability. Gorilla Glass Victus touts up to two meters of drop protection, which is multiple times stronger than its predecessors.

Does that mean Gorilla Glass 3 on the Pixel 6a is bad? Not at all. If you’re careful with your smartphone and rarely drop it, the Pixel 6a’s Gorilla Glass 3 should do a fine job protecting the phone against small scratches, drops, etc. But you should know that the level of durability is substantially less than what you’ll find on more expensive phones like the Pixel 6 Pro and Galaxy S22 Ultra. Some folks may be fine using the Google Pixel 6a without a screen protector, but if you ask us, we’d recommend getting one.