Responses to Comments on the Apple Screen Film Ban Story | iLounge Backstage

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Responses to Comments on the Apple Screen Film Ban Story

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Thursday, March 18, 2010
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We’ve received lots of comments on yesterday’s story, “Apple bans protective screen film from Apple Store,” and that’s not a huge surprise: film is one of the most popular accessories in the entire iPod/iPhone ecosystem, and its value—particularly for anti-glare purposes—has spread to Macs, as well, with the same thing very likely to happen with iPads. In the absence of an official explanation from Apple, which we’ve been waiting on, everyone seems to have a theory as to why the company would have done something so drastic. Here are some responses to reader comments that might otherwise get lost in the growing flow of opinions in that thread:

The iPad Theory, from Marko: “Did anyone think that maybe they just need the shelf space for iPad accessories?... But I guess that doesn’t explain online store getting rid of it unless they just want to unite the offering.”

The second part of this comment answers the first: it’s not about shelf space. Additionally, anti-glare and other films would be at least as appealing for the 10” iPad screen as for the 3.5” iPod touch and iPhone ones, just as they are for the screens of MacBook computers. Unless the ban is dropped, iPad screen protectors won’t be carried at all.

The Evil Apple Theory, from Dave M.: “No one has mentioned a glaringly obvious reason. If iPhones stay perfect for years and years, no one will [buy] replacement iPhones. With scratched screens, people are likely to buy the next iPhone when they can if their screen is scratched up.”

As plausible as this theory might be on its face, it doesn’t ring true for a couple of reasons. First, Apple continues to sell bags and cases for every portable product in its store, many if not most of which provide excellent protection for everything except for their respective devices’ screens. Apple’s Stores sell everything at full MSRP with only the most infrequent of discounts, making sales of these items very profitable; ceasing sales is only reducing a revenue stream for some of its most popular offerings. Second, scratched screens—an annoyance—are far less likely to trigger a device replacement than an electronic failure of some sort, which Apple’s products tend to develop over time anyway.

The Elitist Theory, from Roadburn: “The crisp and effective functioning of a capacitance-sensitive touch screen—one that already is constructed of several thin layers—is not enhanced by slapping a piece of plastic on top. You can wrap a plastic covering all over your Roche Bobois sofa if you choose to, but that doesn’t mean the furniture-maker has to assist you in doing so. They know the sofa is better without it.”

“Not enhanced” may be technically accurate, but “not impeded” is also accurate—at least, in virtually every situation we’ve encountered with screen film. Note first that we’re talking about both protectors and anti-glare solutions, the latter of which may enable people to actually see that screen under lighting conditions that would otherwise be problematic, which would quality as “enhanced” for some users. In any case, film provides a far better tradeoff of coverage and continued functionality than any other solution we’ve tested over the past nearly nine years, in most cases with no discernible impact on touchscreen responsiveness. Contrast this with other solutions, such as the thicker clear soft plastic used in armband screen and Click Wheel covers—commonly reducing sensitivity at least a little—and the complete face coverage offered by Apple’s own solutions, including “iPod Socks” and its official iPad Case. All of these are and will be sold in Apple Stores. In this case, the “furniture-maker’s” own protective solutions are far more gaudy than the ones it’s blocking, so there’s plenty of room to discuss which one the “sofa” is better with. If you really believe in purely naked use of your devices, congratulations, but tens of millions of people don’t, and even luxury car companies place clear shields on sensitive parts of their vehicles. There’s no shame in protection.

The Installation Problem/Returns Theory, from Anon: “I’m an Apple Retail employee who has applied roughly a million of these films. A couple months ago, it became our policy not to help apply them, because they’re so difficult to get perfect and it became a liability issue (“There’s a speck of dust, give me a new one free.”).... Obviously, this is not the ONLY reason for them to be banned, but I thought I’d add my experience.”

While we appreciate the added insight that this comment appears to offer—we say “appears to” only because there is no way to verify whether the commenter is in fact involved with Apple’s retail stores, and Apple has not provided official comment on the subject—the difference between selling film and applying film is an obvious one. A subsequent commenter, Barefootman, added that “What customers need to realise when they buy a screen protector is that they’re buying a product, not a service!”—though frankly, there’s no suggestion anywhere in the Apple Store that employees are supposed to be performing unpaid services such as this for customers. Additionally, it should be noted that Apple is apparently not shy about returning products to vendors, and the vendor—not Apple—bears the primary financial responsibility for the returns. Vendors who aren’t comfortable with that burden could pull their products from Apple’s stores, rather than the other way around.

The Stupid Apple Theory, from Lexplex: “I have a screen protector for my iPhone which I bought from an Apple Store. It’s far, far better than the screen itself - it reduces glare when using the iPhone in bright light and it makes the surface a lot silkier and easier for me to run my sticky fingers over… When will people start realising that Apple are a ridiculously stupid company when it comes to business and design decisions, but have a very very smart PR team?”

There are 25 to 30 billion reasons to think that Apple is impressively smart when it comes to business decisions, PR decisions, and design decisions. The company has grown and profited at an amazing clip during an awful economic crisis, developed more award-winning designs over the past 10 years than perhaps any other consumer electronics manufacturer, and had some of the most effective marketing of any business in the entire world. Most companies—almost any company—would give anything to have the sort of business, design, and PR success Apple has enjoyed. But on occasion, it does make a glaring mistake that really hurts customers; when that happens, it is far better off fixing these mistakes than pretending they weren’t made.

The Future Products Theory, from Mike Curtis: “Perhaps products scheduled to be released will no longer be compatible (as in function correctly or up to Apple spec/snuff) with a film on top, and Apple doesn’t want to set incorrect customer expectations?”

All things considered, this seems like the most probable explanation for what has happened—front-facing cameras, different types of touchscreens, or new and better glass is coming on future devices, any of which might have problems with certain screen protectors. So rather than communicating its future product plans to the world, Apple blocks the sale of similar items temporarily as a weird, quasi-warning to developers. The only problem with this theory is that the ban affects a huge number of products that currently exist and are undeniably both compatible with and capable of benefitting from the film; given that May is only months away from the rollout of numerous new products, Apple might well view such a move as an acceptable and short-term consequence. It’s hard to know for sure.

The Greedy Apple Store Theory: One other possibility, floated by a developer yesterday, is that there’s a purely financial and greedy reason for all of this, the details of which we’re currently exploring in the absence of an official response from Apple. At the moment, we don’t think that it’s accurate, but we should know more in the next day or so. Stay tuned.

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Comments

1

My friend had a invisishield cover on the screen of his iphone and it overheated. inivsisheild sent him a new one but maybe apple has had an overheating problem with these on.

Posted by Kyle on March 18, 2010 at 8:59 AM (PDT)

2

It’s very simple.

Apple will be replacing whole iPad units when the battery needs replacing.

To get the quickest turnaround, in order to refurb units and get the back out to sell, it would help if every ipad didnt have frustratingly difficult to remove film on it.

The quicker apple can clean up, fix and replace the units the better for them.

Posted by Chris N on March 18, 2010 at 10:05 AM (PDT)

3

Anti glare film is critical for me. My desk is right under a light, and there are windows nearby. As long as I can still buy the PowerSupport AntiGlare film SOMEWHERE (like Amazon), Apple’s policy change doesn’t impact me. Of course, Apple could make its screens less reflective in the first place….

Posted by Aceon6 in New England, USA on March 18, 2010 at 11:22 AM (PDT)

4

@#2 - All very well, except that films are actually pretty easy to remove, and many of them are marketed specifically with this feature.

Another theory to add to the mix… In line with the development of multi-touch trackpads, and the entire touch/swipe based interface of the iPhone, the way we interact with devices is changing daily.  Maybe big A has something up their sleeve for a future device, which depends highly upon very very sensitive touch screens, and adding another layer just destroys this.

Posted by Virgil on March 18, 2010 at 5:50 PM (PDT)

5

When I first bought my iPhone I also bought a nice new cover that included a protective cover.  But I soon discovered that my iPhone must be defective because sometimes it worked perfectly, sometimes it didn’t detect when I was holding it to my face so it would “face-dial”, and sometimes it just refused to respond to touch of any kind.

I was just about ready to call Apple Care when I thought I’d try an experiment, and I left the phone in the case ... I just took the protective cover off the face.

It has worked perfectly ever since and I now avoid protective covers on the face of the phone.

I think Apple has been having to deal with too many trouble calls that are directly attributable to protective covers interfering with the operation of the phone.  I suspect that the plastic cover has a tendency to acquire a static charge that fools the touch sensor into giving false positive, and false negative, results.  And since it would be bad manners to put out a black-list of offending protectors, and then have the legal hassle of proving why a particular vendor is on the list while another vendor is not on the list ... it’s just easier all around to simply ban them on basic principle, and let the owner that wants to use one take the responsibility when their phone misbehaves due to the protector causing problems.

Posted by Marc on March 18, 2010 at 8:13 PM (PDT)

6

Good point, Marc. I just hope PowerSupport continues to make theirs and that they are easy to find.

Posted by Aceon6 in New England, USA on March 19, 2010 at 6:54 AM (PDT)

7

I was excited about the ban! I do not use a screen protector on my iPhone and after many drops of my phone and leaving it in my purse, it is still in perfect condition.

I’m personally leaning towards, “The Installation Problem/Returns Theory.” I work at an ipod accessories company in tech support. I am amazed by the amount of people that contact us that messed up the one screen protector and expect us to send them more.

“I didn’t realize there was dust between the screen and the protector. Why do you make it so hard to apply.”

“It wasn’t perfect when I put the protector on and I took it off, now it won’t stick. I need another one.”

“I took the screen protector to BestBuy and they applied it and there is a bubble.”

The stories go on and on.

Posted by Cat's Meow on March 19, 2010 at 7:56 AM (PDT)

8

I think this is clearly to prevent confusion once the front-facing camera rolls out. I think the picture quality will be greatly impeded by the presence of a film, and so Apple pulled it.

Posted by Samuel on March 19, 2010 at 8:20 AM (PDT)

9

Why is there not ONE discussion of this on Apple’s Community forums?  I find this shocking.  I can only assume the ones posted are removed.  I will add one right now.  If it gets removed I will be quite angry.  Will let you all know….

Posted by Mike DeQuardo on March 20, 2010 at 5:06 AM (PDT)

10

Well good for you catsmeow! You obviously have a 3G and NOT a 3Gs. The new coating on the 3Gs’ is NOT as durable.

You were happy to see it? Rude!

Posted by john b on March 20, 2010 at 5:10 AM (PDT)

11

you forgot a very important theory. the This is Total Bull Theory.

It is possible that someone has been fed a total line by a party that either doesn’t understand the situation or wants to make Apple look bad for whatever reason. And in fact there is and will be no removal (ban is really too strong a word as it implies use of a film now voids your warranty)

Variations of the story say the ban has already started and yet even after those stories you could still walk into any store or order online from Apple.com. So those versions were false. Perhaps this one is also.

Posted by Charli on March 20, 2010 at 7:16 AM (PDT)

12

@#11:  Huh?  Didn’t Jeremy’s original story pretty clearly state that he verified the yanking of film protectors with several vendors?  Good point on the use of “ban”, though.

Posted by Will on March 20, 2010 at 12:24 PM (PDT)

13

#11, 12: The original story said that Apple has banned the sale of the protectors in its Stores, effective the first week of May. This was verified with several separate parties. For obvious reasons, leaving out the date specified in the original story, and leaving out words about what was banned and how, changes the meaning of what was said, rendering it inaccurate.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 20, 2010 at 2:13 PM (PDT)

14

The screens are not indestructible nor are they water tight. The screens help to prevent accidental scratches and can potentially protect the glass during some drops or bangs into hard surfaces. I can understand not having the Apple stores install the screens because as one comment suggested it is very difficult to get it perfect but selling them is another story. I’m a little shocked that Apple is choosing not to support this. They should just add a disclaimer or notice to customers to warn them about installation and assume no responsibility when a customer installs them.

Posted by Dan on March 22, 2010 at 8:08 AM (PDT)

15

@6-I agree. PowerSupport is what I buy whenever I get a new ipod.
They are reasonably priced and easy to apply and remove. Glass will always scratch. The antiglare is great. Whenever I sell or give away my old ipod, the person receiving it is always appreciative that I took the care to protect it with a case and/or film.

Posted by Vernie on April 14, 2010 at 1:31 PM (PDT)

16

My iPhone’s LCD was taken out by moisture following the application of a Zagg screen protector (applies with a moist sponge provided by the vendor).  Now my warranty is voided and had to pay $200 repair fee from Apple even though ATT gave me a new phone (or, was it too a refurb????).  The Apple Support Tech would not answer this question! And, you could hear the disdain in his voice, hence the above, after I mentioned the screen protector when he asked about it.  All I discussed was a black spot on my LCD before it went dead.

Posted by Jim on May 5, 2010 at 12:45 PM (PDT)

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