On iPhone and iPad Screen Protection: Why It Matters + Some iPhone 4 Results | iLounge Backstage


On iPhone and iPad Screen Protection: Why It Matters + Some iPhone 4 Results

Almost every time we post an article dealing with iPhone or iPad cases, there are subsequent (and semi-heated) discussions in the comments threads regarding the merits of film-based screen protection. Over time, the comments have largely polarized into three perspectives:

“I love my screen protector,”

“I use and like screen protectors but have trouble getting them to be bubble- and dust-free like the ones in your photos,” and

“I hate screen protectors, they look dirty and terrible and my iPhone/iPad is impervious to scratching so it doesn’t need it anyway.”

Okay, “hate screen protector” guys, consider your point made, vote registered, and voice heard. You hate them. Got it.

But for everyone else—those of us who really don’t like having to wipe down our screens every day or two because of all of the fingerprints, or are concerned about scratches, dirt and the like—we’re posting a quick update on two things that might be of interest. First, the current state of iPhone 4 anti-glare screen protection, and second, how to apply a screen protector without making it look crappy.

Power Support Anti-Glare

We’ve had the chance now to test iPhone 4 anti-glare films from United SGP, Incipio, SwitchEasy, Griffin, and Cygnett, and the results have been consistent with past ones we’ve seen on iPads, earlier iPhones, and iPods: the United SGP film is better than its competitors. At least, for now—Power Support’s film for iPad is spectacular and likely to be a rival on the iPhone 4 given past experiences, but the iPhone 4 version still isn’t available.


United SGP Steinheil Anti-Fingerprint

Most of the companies that sell film—the vast majority, really—buy the material from Chinese factories that are willing to churn cut pieces out at very low prices, guaranteeing high profits while skimping on quality. Almost every case that comes with free film uses Chinese stuff. The consequential issues we see most often are prismatic effects, or rainbow glittering on the screen, and edges that are either cut too precisely or not precisely enough to the curves and holes on a given device’s face. If the film’s not cut properly, aligning the film on the screen can be difficult, overlapping onto the black plastic edges of the iPhone 4 or iPad screens in a way that makes the film peel off over time. Some film solutions also have unusually large holes that offer too little protection or otherwise look weird after they’ve been applied, no matter how well you’ve installed them. By comparison, higher-end film is almost invariably made in Japan and a little more expensive as a result: United SGP sources its film from Japan and then finishes it in Korea, while Power Support’s film is purely Japanese. Properly cut film makes alignment easier and the film stays on almost indefinitely. The film is thicker, and consequently more durable, as well as optically superior to the cheaper stuff. We’ve had the same piece of Power Support film on one of our iPads now for three months of very active daily use and it’s in perfect shape.


Griffin’s Screen Care Kit (Matte)

What is the real value of keeping a piece of protective film on an iPad or iPhone for months? Well, in the case of the iPad, it means that we literally haven’t had to wipe the screen down because of fingerprints more than once per month, if even that often. Anti-glare film basically removes the need for daily or every-other-day smudge cleaning, which is the major reason we prefer it to the glossy and mirrored films that are also sold for these devices. Additionally, iPad anti-glare film can limit the driver-blinding sunlight reflections a passenger’s iPad can give off in a car. We haven’t seen one that’s perfect in this regard, but most of the anti-glare films we’ve tried offer better results than the glossy uncovered iPad screen, for sure. For the iPhone, it means not needing to worry if a coin, a key, or some other metal item accidentally winds up in the same pocket as the glass device. This does happen, and if it does, scratching can result. As hard as the glass on new iPhones is said to be, the oleophobic coating is softer and can show marks. If you don’t care, you don’t care, but if you do, a layer of film can make the difference between thin hairline marks and pristine surfaces.


Incipio’s Anti-Glare Screen Protector

The other thing we wanted to share was some advice for avoiding imperfections during the installation process, which we originally posted as a (buried) comment to an earlier article. First was to (a) buy properly made film, followed by (b) prepping your screen by using tape and a wipe to completely remove all dust before the film is applied. It helps to apply film to a just-purchased device, but proper cleaning with complete dust removal can make application just as problem-free. For iPads in particular, step (c) was to turn the iPad to horizontal orientation, use the Home button hole to get the initial proper alignment, and gently adjust the angle of the other side - before plunking the film down - to make sure the film doesn’t hit the iPad’s surface and then need to be pulled up and pushed down. Finally, step (d): apply the film and work the air bubbles out. Anything that’s small and remains there is most likely a dust speck you missed. With good film, you can gently pull up the film and tweeze it out, sometimes made easier with a little moisture on a finger—properly made film is hard enough that it won’t bend during this process. Cheaper film will get ruined, so it might just be best to accept the imperfection as is.

Hopefully, this will help those of you who are interested in screen protection for your new iPhones and iPads. We’ll follow up with responses to questions in the comments thread below.

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I have an iPhone 4 and an iPad (both since launch), and I’ve never wiped the screen on either one. They only look slightly dirty/fingerprinted when the screen is off. I don’t understand people who obsess over cleaning the new oleophobic screens. They look great with zero effort. Previous screens had to be cleaned often, but the oleophobic ones don’t need it.

Posted by Muero on July 27, 2010 at 1:22 PM (CDT)


“...those of us who really don’t like having to wipe down our screens every day or two because of all of the fingerprints, or are concerned about scratches, dirt and the like…”

1. There’s an oleophobic coating, remember? It makes wiping off the fingerprints easy.

2. And that coating is on: GLASS. Which, with a little care and a lot of common sense, doesn’t scratch.

My iPhone 3GS passed the one year mark last month. The only “protection” I have for it is an otherwise empty front pants pocket. The screen still looks and works like new.

Posted by Farnsworth on July 27, 2010 at 2:01 PM (CDT)


Thanks Jeremy,

Just 2 more thoughts - would you recommend using gloves at all? And also, using “tape” means applying the sticky side to the whole surface to eliminate particles right?



Posted by Alicia on July 27, 2010 at 2:16 PM (CDT)


#1, #2: That thing above about “vote registered?” Yeah, that again. Heard it before, you don’t need them, don’t understand people who want them. Got it.

#3: Hands (and gloves) are different, so even though I personally would say “no,” there’s no need for gloves, someone with really moist or dirty hands might benefit. But then, the gloves might be dusty or dirty. It’s impossible to provide one right answer for every person and situation.

What I can tell you is that there are three situations in which dust impacts installation of these films: stuff that’s in the air, stuff that’s on the screen already, and stuff that’s on your hands. Working in a dust-free environment obviously helps. Making sure the screen doesn’t have ANY residue or dust is a must. And having clean hands makes a difference too. Having applied a lot of film over the past X years (and also watched it be applied by professionals), my experience is that stuff already on the screen is the biggest problem, but people who stick their fingers all over the protector or work in dusty environments might have issues, too.

And yes on tape. Some film comes with a “dust removal film” in the package, while other film includes an adhesive protection layer that can be used as an alternative to scotch tape. This step can be totally skipped if you use a microfiber cloth to completely remove dust from the surface of the iPhone.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on July 27, 2010 at 2:54 PM (CDT)


Re keeping dust away during installing - someone (can’t recall who) mentioned that installing near a boiling kettle/pan helps to ‘capture’ any airborne dust particles before they get a chance to land on the screen/film.

As for being careful - I’m very careful but went with the anti-glare film on my iPhone 3G. It still managed to pick up the odd mark which of course is on the film and not on the phone glass - one is removable, the other isn’t….

Posted by Bob Levens in UK on July 27, 2010 at 3:00 PM (CDT)


Jeremy, take it easy. You said you’d heard from people who hate screen protectors. That’s not me, so don’t say you’ve heard from me before. I always had screen protectors on my original iPhone and iPhone 3G. I was mentioning the oleophobic coating, because I believe it changes the game, but it was not mentioned in the write-up.

Posted by Muero on July 27, 2010 at 6:51 PM (CDT)


You forgot to mention that another reason to use a screen protector is the added strength it gives to the glass panel in case of a face down drop (or any drop).

I was horrified to read you recommending using a moist finger or tweezers to remove a missed dust spot, metal tweezers on a glass surface, really?

The tried and tested method is to use Scotch Tape gently applied to the dust spec then carefully removed, not wet fingers/sharp metal objects, sheesh!

Posted by Chris on July 27, 2010 at 7:08 PM (CDT)


#6: It should be have been clear from the introductory text itself, but that wasn’t a request for all of the people who don’t want to use screen protectors to come in and say why they don’t like or use them. The point has been made. It was actually a request NOT to post those comments in this thread as they’ve been made ad nauseum already. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

#7: That was tweezing the speck of dust from the film, not on the glass screen, so no need to be, uh, horrified. And the slightly moist finger solution has worked flawlessly maybe 15 times in personal experience. Moisture (actually washing the static cling surface completely) is recommended by a number of film makers, however in our testing the more thorough cleaning had as much of a chance of increasing dust as removing it.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on July 27, 2010 at 7:22 PM (CDT)


I use the “Power Support” screen for my Ipad and it is as awesome as advertised. A couple of tricks is to wash your hands and stay away from vents blowing AC or heat where dust is actively flying around. Next if you do have a speck or two stuck under the film, use tape to remove it from the film when you lift it back up, since this is where it will most likely stick. I used the little tape tab that was on the film’s protective cover as “tape” and it picked off the dust specks from the film and my ipad is bubble and dust free.

Posted by John on July 27, 2010 at 8:24 PM (CDT)


Thank you for this article! I know where to buy my next screen protector (from United SGP). I would love to go without one, but I’m very attached to my iPhone and shudder to think of a scratch on its screen.

Posted by Simon Boulle on July 28, 2010 at 9:02 AM (CDT)


I have used Power Support on my ipods and iTouch and love their quality. I have had no issues in 3 years. I now have an iPhone 4 and bought the SwitchEasy Nude case that also came with a free screen protector. I do like their screen protector, and have no bubble or fit issues. I may switch it out with a Power Supoort version once they are released.

Posted by Jim on July 28, 2010 at 4:30 PM (CDT)


Of all the screen protectors I’ve tried over the years and in the last couple of months with the iPad and iPhone 4, Zagg’s invishield is the best.

Different to install, as its wet, but that’s where my local best buy comes in. They install if for $7, well worth avoiding the annoyance. It seems easier to get a dust free, no air bubble install on it, and the feel when its on is closest to the original glass of all the ones I’ve tried.

Sure it gets the odd finger print—although not as many as a naked device—they wipe off well.

Posted by Jen Kuiper on July 28, 2010 at 10:56 PM (CDT)


The Zagg Invisibleshield is probably the worst of the full body films we’ve tested in recent years. What isn’t evident after initial application is that it yellows over time, which the company has tried to pass off as a feature rather than a problem. If it wasn’t for the super heavy marketing it receives, some of which we have found very suspicious, it would have faded away as a third-rate option long ago. The film from United SGP and NLU is a better value.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on July 29, 2010 at 12:18 AM (CDT)


I use regular adhesive tape to remove any stray dust particles that are causing bubbles. Pry the film up, insert the tape face up, and let it gently touch the bottom side of the film. Works like a charm! In fact, it works so well, I can change film in a dusty room.

Posted by Aceon6 in New England, USA on July 29, 2010 at 8:50 AM (CDT)


You can apply the film in the bathroom, with the shower running on hot for a while (not too steamy), and the water vapor will trap dust particles and make installment easy.

Excellent article, Jeremy.  I haven’t cleaned my iPad screen since May when I applied my film.

Posted by DP on July 29, 2010 at 1:56 PM (CDT)


To echo other points:
Do in a hot bathroom after someone showers.
Do close the door.
Do wash your hands.
I use the black cloths that Apple gives with Cinema displays and MacBook Pros to clean.  They’re black, and lint-free.
Perfect every time.


Posted by sb on July 29, 2010 at 8:37 PM (CDT)


I stumbled upon this tip for dust/speck-free film application when I was applying a screen film for my iPad. You might find this helpful.

Most films come sandwiched between 2 peel-off layers. “A” covers the actual static cling (sticky) side for sticking to your screen. The “B” layer protects the protector surface itself, and you remove this after the film application.

The tip is that the “B” layer sticks to the actual protector using static cling, which means its great for picking up dust and specks. If you stick and peel “B” from the screen, it removes dust and light fingerprints as well.

To apply the actual protector - remove the “B” layer first and stick it to the screen. Peel back a little “B” from the bottom of the screen and “A” from the protector, align up the home button and line up the protector. Apply by peeling back B to expose the screen, while peeling back A to expose the protector and kind of ‘roll’ it onto the screen. Does the trick for me every time, hope it does for you.

Posted by Kit on July 30, 2010 at 8:16 PM (CDT)


I spent half the night tying to get a good installation on Power Support anti-glare film. Part my fault, part the fault of a few things not said.

My fault: I tried to push out the bubbles with a credit card. Uh-uh. I suppose that doesn’t work on this film because it is thicker than the ones I’ve used in the past. So I lifted and re-lifted the film before discovering that persistent—and I mean persistent—finger pushes worked.

Not said: Using (Scotch) tape to “lift off specks,” gently or not, from the film leaves smudges. Of course, multiple lifts resulted in multiple smudges. Result: An ugly piece of film. Cost: $30.

The kicker: Even with the film on, I found the glare still present, more diffused, but therefore an even wider circle—and plenty objectionable, to me, at least. Of course, the colors were duller, too; but to me, even worse was the added fuzziness to letters.

Since then I have used the iPad in the house and in the car (as a passenger), and I have never found that I couldn’t find an angle for viewing.  I’m sure I could install another film now. But why? (Fingerprints? I keep a microfibre cloth tucked in the back of my case and a very gentle swipe or two leaves the screen totally clean.)

To each his own.

Posted by cfant on July 31, 2010 at 2:11 PM (CDT)


The Power Support film is one of few that will survive a proper washing under a sink faucet, assuming that you don’t let it touch something dusty or dirty during the wash. It also should have zero issue with credit cards, as I’ve used them on PS films myself numerous times and even seen PS staff use them at trade shows. The company is one of few that do not include a card in the package.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on July 31, 2010 at 4:59 PM (CDT)


I’ve been using the Power Support film on my Ipad the past 2 months with mixed feelings. It’s excellent for minimizing glare. Attaching the film was easy for me, no dust bubbles. The film has a nice texture for touching the screen. The film reduces fingerprints, although I didn’t mind wiping the screen with a cloth every so often.

The downside is that text is not as crisp. ILounge rated this anti-glare film as being clearer than most. The text in IBooks seems a good bit blurrier than without film.

Posted by Adam on August 1, 2010 at 10:37 PM (CDT)


#13 In the greater Denver metropolitan area, there are two Apple stores inside shopping malls (one near my home and the other nearest my work location). Outside of each store, there is a kiosk for ZAGG Invisibleshield within a few dozen feet of the front doors. A little suspicious, as you say, but pretty effective judging by the long lines on iPhone 4 launch day.

Posted by DLF on August 4, 2010 at 12:28 PM (CDT)


A few months ago I decided to remove the hideous-looking 6 month old Invisibleshield from my iPhone 3G when I came across a rather intelligent-sounding comment that questioned the whole rationale behind applying protective film to a glass surface. The argument was made that anything hard enough to scratch glass would also scratch the film. It made sense at the time so I never bothered to replace the film. The problem with this ‘hardness’ argument is that it doesn’t take into account the issue of PENETRATION. My 3G’s screen now has a scratch that is not only visible but deep enough to feel when I slide my finger over it. The result of slipping the phone into what I thought was an empty pocket for all of 15 minutes. I’m still not sure of the culprit but I have no doubts that a screen protector would have at least reduced the damage, if not prevented it altogether.
As for Invisibleshield, while being the most forgiving of screw-ups during application, the full body protection after about two months started to attract lint and peel away from the sides and rear of the phone. The face protection seemed to almost ‘shrink’ as the gap between the edge of the film and the edge of the glass got bigger over time. Not to mention the yellowing that also occurred. Definitely not worth the price.

Posted by Paul on August 31, 2010 at 9:33 PM (CDT)

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