An Update On Screen Protection For The Third-Generation iPad
Just like the iPhone and iPod, some people leave their iPads completely bare, risking dents and scratches. Other people use cases and/or protective film to keep their devices looking factory fresh until they’re ready to sell or hand down to a lucky family member. Because our editors have witnessed (and occasionally experienced) the sort of damage that drops and scuffs can cause, we prefer cases, and many of us have used protective screen film, too—at least until recently. Apple’s ultra-sharp Retina Displays have heightened awareness of a long-standing issue with some screen protectors known as the “prismatic effect,” by which plastic shields can scatter each tiny pixel into its rainbow-colored components, transforming a crystal clear screen into a glittery mess. Cheaper films often scatter the pixels in a pronounced way; better-made films from Japan and Korea often have less prismatic distortion, but not zero, and cost more—as much as $30 per sheet for the iPad.
A low level of prismatic distortion was tolerable—not ideal—with iPad and iPad 2 screen film; Apple’s earlier 1024x768 displays didn’t beg to be examined up close, and seriously benefitted from protection, particularly anti-glare coating. Fitted with anti-glare screen film, these iPads became much safer and easier to use in cars and generally outdoors, where they would otherwise be highly reflective, accidentally redirecting sunlight towards users and onlookers’ faces. Top films also dramatically reduce the impact of fingerprints, cutting an iPad’s wipe-down needs from daily or weekly to bi-weekly, monthly, or even bi-monthly. The only noteworthy offset in the best film we tested was a very modest blur, which softened the edges of pixels in a generally inoffensive way.
When Apple added a Retina Display to the third-generation iPad, quadrupling the number of pixels in the screen, it didn’t “break” previously-developed screen film; it just magnified existing film flaws. The previously slight blurring in anti-glare films softens new iPad screens enough to make them look closer to their iPad and iPad 2 predecessors—not identical, but not as sharp. Moreover, the prismatic effect now reflects four times as many dots, creating a rainbow-like shimmering that’s particularly pronounced in white parts of the screen, but apparent elsewhere, as well. For the first time in years, we’ve found ourselves peeling off currently available screen film in favor of a bare display—not because we don’t want the glare and fingerprint reduction, but because they make the new iPad’s screen look bad. Crystal clear film, depending on the vendor and model, typically offers great protection and superior visibility, but no anti-glare and limited anti-fingerprint benefits.
We wish we had better news to report on the accessory front. After the new iPad was released, we reached out to leading iPad 2 screen film vendors to see if they were planning anything new, and disappointingly, there hasn’t been any update from the Japanese film experts at Power Support, which previously made the best anti-glare film we’d tested across earlier Apple devices—in fact, the company is currently selling its “HD Anti-Glare Film” (shown in the photos here) as “compatible with the iPad 3.” Leading Korean rival Spigen SGP is working on new options, and has already sent us a sample of its perfectly clear but prohibitively expensive GLAS.t, but hasn’t said anything on anti-glare film. Other companies are continuing to sell or bundle the same films for the new iPad as they used for the iPad 2, which most often looked noticeably worse than Power Support’s and SGP’s versions, and will be particularly problematic on the new iPad. Simplism’s new anti-glare films went on our iPads only to be removed quickly thereafter due to distortion.
All of this leads to a simple recommendation, at least for now: unless you’re OK with compromising the performance of the Retina Display, don’t buy iPad 2 anti-glare screen film for the new iPad. At $30 per sheet, the cost is too high for a solution that noticeably compromises the clarity of the 2048x1536 screen. Our hope is that developers are working on improved solutions, but the continued silence suggests that users might be waiting for a while. We’ll be sure to share any updates as soon as we have them.
If you have a comment, news tip, advertising inquiry, or coverage request, a question about iPods or accessories, or if you sell or market products, read iLounge's Comments + Questions policies before posting, and fully identify yourself if you do. We will delete comments containing advertising, astroturfing, trolling, personal attacks, offensive language, or other objectionable content, then ban and/or publicly identify violators. Wondering why we're talking about something other than iPods? Check the Archives: Backstage has been here and kicking it since 2004.
- Apple now selling SIM-free iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus
- AT&T opens up Wi-Fi calling for iPhone
- Battery impact of Samsung vs TSMC A9 chips overestimated? (Update: Apple response)
- Apple TV, iPad Pro to be sold online in late October, in stores early November?
- iBooks adds exclusive enhanced editions of Harry Potter series
- Report: Barclays to launch Apple Pay support in the UK early next year
- Apple reveals Beats Pill+ speaker
- Antitrust monitor: Apple is ‘its own worst enemy’
- Report: Apple holding $181.1 billion in offshore tax havens
- Apple releases fourth iOS 9.1 beta, third tvOS beta to developers
- Creative Sound Blaster Roar 2 Bluetooth Speaker
- Parrot Airborne Night and Airborne Cargo Drones
- Griffin Survivor Journey and Survivor Summit for iPhone 6/6s
- Parrot Jumping Night and Jumping Race Drones
- Trident Case Aegis Pro Case for iPhone 6/6s
- Scosche boomBOTTLE+ Waterproof Wireless Speaker
- Just Mobile Quattro Folio for iPhone 6s
- X-Doria Defense Lux for iPhone 6s/6
- Spigen Perfect Armor for iPhone 6s, Slim/Tough Armor for iPhone 6s Plus
- Spigen Neo Hybrid / Carbon / EX + Ultra Hybrid for iPhone 6s/6s Plus
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 9.0
- Under the Radar: A closer look at smaller iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus changes
- A First Look at iOS 9’s Transit in Apple Maps (Updated for watchOS 2)
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iTunes 12.2
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 8.4 + Apple Music
- CE Week 2015: IK Multimedia, Monowear’s Apple Watch bands + More
- Live From CE Week 2015: Brand New iPad, iPhone + Mac Accessories!
- Opinion: The ‘Grand Experiment’ of shifting to Google Photos
- Will removing a credit card from Safari also remove it from Apple Pay?
- Can I mute Handoff calls coming into my Mac from my iPhone?