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Review: ClearTouch screen protector adds reachable Android-like back button to iPhone


While iOS and Android have for the most part caught up to one another from a software feature perspective, lack of a handy back button is still one of the biggest sources of embarrassment for iOS devices. BoxWave’s new glass “ClearTouch SmartButtons” screen protector has built-in buttons that aim to solve some of the back button issue on iPhones, so I took it for a test drive…

Android has long had a system-wide physical or software “back” button, conveniently located in an easy-to-reach bottom corner that takes the user back to the last used screen. Apple, however, has a back button in the upper left corner that only works within apps and not system wide. Reaching Apple’s back button is enough of an issue that the company rolled out a software feature called Reachability with the larger iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to make reaching buttons at the top of the display easier. But that didn’t help much and in my use feels like a clunky solution to the problem.

BoxWave-cleartouch-04Lack of a back button is still often one thing Android users hold over iPhone users. My last interaction with Android users at a social gathering ended in pointing and laughing as I attempted to tout the new contextual back button in iOS 9, a software button that appears in the upper left corner of the display that aims to make jumping back to the last used app easier. But the new feature is far from successful at solving the overall problem.

While the BoxWave screen protector with built-in buttons is a big improvement, it’s not perfect. It’s essentially just moving the buttons normally located in the upper right and left corners of your display to an easy to reach location on either side of the home button. And it worked flawlessly for me during my tests after taking a minute to get used to the amount of pressure required. It does take a tap much harder than a tap of a touchscreen or Apple’s MacBook trackpads for example, but once you get used to the amount of required pressure, taps were recognized just as consistently in my experience. 

So it solves the issue of reaching Apple’s contextual and in-app back buttons (and any buttons that appear in the upper right corner), but that doesn’t solve the issue of Apple not having a system-wide “back” function. In other words, you’ll be limited to whatever buttons are in those locations in the app or iOS screen you’re currently viewing.

My one complaint: The screen protector isn’t exactly a perfect fit or the iPhone 6 I tested it on. As you can see in the photos above and below, it stops just short of the rounded edge/bezel of the display, making the outer edge of the screen protector visible when the display is off. But it’s not an issue when the display is on as it lines up perfectly with where the screen meets the bezel.

The product comes with the tempered glass screen protector and a small lint-free cloth and alcohol pad to clean the device before applying the screen protector. You simply remove an adhesive backing on the screen protector, line it up with the device and press down to make sure it grips the entire screen. It’s a hard piece of tempered glass, not a flimsy film like other screen protectors, so there’s not much concern with air bubbles or damaging the product during installation. You’ll just need to make sure the device and your hands are as clean as possible so nothing gets trapped underneath. And I had no problems removing the screen protector, but the adhesive will eventually wear so reapplying is hit and miss.


At $20 or less, to me it makes a lot of sense to opt for the BoxWave ClearTouch over another screen protector that doesn’t offer any functionality beyond protection. The product is on par with other glass screen protectors I’ve tested from the well known brands, and so it’s worth the few extra dollars to get the addition of the invisible buttons built-in.

The BoxWave ClearTouch SmartButtons screen protector is available for the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus ($20.95), or the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus ($17.95) now.

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  1. crichton007 - 7 years ago

    Is anyone else grossed out by how grimy the home button is in the lead photo? I feel like I need to wash my eyes just because I saw it.

    • charismatron - 7 years ago

      Didn’t notice it until you pointed it out. That’s pretty nasty!

  2. rogifan - 7 years ago

    iOS not having a back button is an embarrassment? Really? Having a back button when a link inside an app takes you to another app makes sense. But I don’t agree that a universal back button is the right idea. Just because Android does it doesn’t mean iOS needs to do it too.

    • netputing (@netputing) - 7 years ago

      Well, as an iOS and Android user let me tell you that the back button on Android is probably the feature I use the most and miss the most on iOS… so yes, it is really lacking on iOS. It is so useful. It’s only when you lose access to it that you really realize how much you appreciate it.

      • Raheel Sadiq - 7 years ago

        You can alwasy edge swipe from left to go back, and the transition is pretty smooth and interactive

  3. pdjhh - 7 years ago

    Complain about it or not, it’s pretty innovative.

    • Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 7 years ago

      I just got a screen that does this feature, but it’s a different brand, there are several different brands that have this same feature. it does work pretty well and yeah, I do use that feature. Is it embarrassing? Just a little, but not enough to switch to Android. My biggest gripes about Android haven’t been fixed and probably won’t be and they are a lot more important than whether or not I have a back button on the bottom of the device, which I can add if I want to.

      The problem with ALL platforms and brands is that you will always find room for improvement, there is NO SUCH THING as a perfect computer device, a perfect OS, or a perfect company. I just use what works best for my needs and Apple does the best job in this area and it’s more than a superficial feature that it doesn’t have.

      For those that want the feature, there are several brands to choose from.

    • iali87 - 7 years ago

      As an Iphone, android user, I think everyone use the back button very frequently and having it in all apps next to your home button is a plus. I don’t like that I have to go to the top to get to the back button.

  4. In what F’ed up world is the iPhone not having a back button an embarrassment? You know what is an embarrassment? This site. It’s completely run by pro-Google sycophants. Seriously, this site has become pathetic. It tries ever chance it gets to post Google and Android related articles.

    • rogifan - 7 years ago

      Yep. The same people that post here also post at 9to5Google. This is no longer a fan/rumor site. It’s just a generic site that is more negative than anything else.

  5. Esteban Giraldi - 7 years ago

    People not seems to know swiping to the right will make you go back

  6. I can’t fathom being the slightest bit embarrassed A. Around Android users and B. About the horrible Android back button. The iOS one is infinitely superior as it is contextual and tells you where you will be going. The Android back button is roulette. Maybe you’ll go back to the last app. Maybe you’ll stay in the same app and go one screen up in its hierarchy. Maybe you’ll go to the home screen. Who knows!

    • iali87 - 7 years ago

      It looks like you never used Android and thats why you don’t know.

      • samuelsnay - 7 years ago

        I’ve used android recently. It’s still a stuttering shitty mess.

      • Brian - 7 years ago

        It’s a lame rip off. What is there to know that isn’t completely obvious?

  7. Robert Stukenbroeker - 7 years ago

    Apparently swiping right to go back is too hard.

  8. motronic - 7 years ago

    This droid feature isn’t required. I mean many could argue it but on iOS, just swipe from left to right… No back button needed. Not even reachability.

    • mytawalbeh - 7 years ago

      Completely AGREE.
      I don’t need that back button on the bottom just because the other platform has it. I never complained about going back where I am a PLUS iPhones user.

  9. charismatron - 7 years ago

    “My last interaction with Android users at a social gathering ended in pointing and laughing as I attempted to tout the new contextual back button in iOS 9.”

    Pro tip: go to other social gatherings. Like, seriously. Do it now.

    • Brian - 7 years ago

      I think you are confused about that even being a social gathering.

  10. rafalb177 - 7 years ago

    Yeah, just add more buttons. Make it more like BlackBerry. Make progress.

    • Brian - 7 years ago

      Yes! Just keep adding more and more and more buttons, that is truly the answer. LOL

  11. pecospeet - 7 years ago

    Having never seriously used an android device, I had no idea that I should be embarrassed by the lack of a back button. I have never missed it or thought that having one would enhance my experience. I’m quite happy with swiping to the right. – and also quite happy continuing to live in my little isolationist Apple world.

  12. Paul Andrew Dixon - 7 years ago

    Saw this on kick starter a while back – but it has a huge flaw – it misrepresents itself as a ‘back button’… in actual fact it just allows a portion of the screen to be ‘active’ in two zones… for example, when using safari the address bar with the back button disappears – when it disappears it means you cannot hit the back button…
    on some apps the back button is at the bottom – therefore it wont work again as a back button.

    For example – on the app stores main page, this button will work as “categories”…
    When you are playing games, they are still active zones and if caught can disturb the game…

    in short – it’s a nice idea, but you might as well use reachability because this screen protector can be frustrating at times

  13. bennynihon - 7 years ago

    I wish Apple would introduce gestures to the bottom of the phone much like the Palm Pre had. It was as simple as swiping from right to left (much like you can now do within an app for iOS) to go back. The lack of a button keeps the phone clean looking, and there’s no worrying about precisely touching a back button

    • Brian - 7 years ago

      Like the newton rip off? LOL, I’m sure they will get right on it.

  14. coolfactor - 7 years ago

    “Apple, however, has a back button in the upper left corner that only works within apps and not system wide. Reaching Apple’s back button is enough of an issue that the company rolled out a software feature called Reachability with the larger iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to make reaching buttons at the top of the display easier.”

    Does the editor check the author’s work? Reachability was added last year due to the larger phone screens released. The “Back” button is a feature added this year and does work system-wide when going from one app to another, not within apps. Apps have always had back-and-forth navigation within them since the very beginning.

    Disappointing article. I couldn’t even finish reading it.

    • coolfactor - 7 years ago

      Replying to myself… I guess the author was referring to the back-navigation button at the upper left (separate from the newer “Back to app” button that was added in iOS 9.0). Hmmmm, how do I remove my own post? I guess I was reacting to the very clear bias against iOS in this article. I’ve always found the back button on Android phones to be a very confusing interface because you really don’t have any idea of where it’s going to take you. Context is lost so quickly.

  15. mpias3785 - 7 years ago

    Interesting tech and handy for switchers, but for someone who has owned an iPhone for years, potentially disruptive. Kudos to the engineer, though. Very well implemented! I’d like to know how they did it!

    • Brian - 7 years ago

      Seriously? It’s just a fiber wire. There is nothing to this, and if you look at it just right, you can see it? Who wants a screen protector? Not me, and I have never scratched my iPhone screen.

  16. ロハン増進 - 7 years ago

    This is really interesting thing….Yes, back button is there in ios in many forms as back in top, swipe to left, double tap on home button. But having only one sure method to go back will be hassle free, confusion free and easy to use feature. Let see how it goes down the road

    • Brian - 7 years ago

      It’s not even remotely reliable, nor did all the extra buttons make any sense. This is for people who can’t have enough buttons on their mouse, etc…

  17. Dustin Moskowitz - 7 years ago

    I’ve had the Halo Back protector on my 6 for about 3 weeks, and am ready to ditch it. It makes the new Back feature of iOS 9 more difficult to press, and it doesn’t always register a press either near the home button or over the area that it is supposed to work. Great idea, but the implementation just doesn’t work as well as pressing the areas myself.


Avatar for Jordan Kahn Jordan Kahn

Jordan writes about all things Apple as Senior Editor of 9to5Mac, & contributes to 9to5Google, 9to5Toys, & He also co-authors 9to5Mac’s Logic Pros series.