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Apple bans protective screen film from Apple Store

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By Charles Starrett

Contributing Editor
Published: Wednesday, March 17, 2010
News Categories: iPod Accessories, Apple, iPad Accessories, iPhone Accessories

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Apple has banned protective screen film from its retail and online stores, iLounge has confirmed with several separate companies, a policy that will affect both cases and individual film packages beginning in May. In communications with vendors that have been ongoing for “some time now,” according to one company, Apple has said that it will remove both film-only solutions from its stores, as well as any case or other accessory that includes film protection as part of its package, such as cases that include film screen protectors. According to sources, the ban will impact all forms of screen film, including completely clear film, anti-glare film, and mirrored film, regardless of whether the purpose of the film is protective, decorative, or both. It will also prevent sales of film for iPods, iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers. One vendor speculated that the ban is an Apple marketing attempt to suggest screen durability, despite scratches that have damaged both plastic and glass displays of its products for years.

It is believed that Apple’s move will have ramifications for the accessory industry outside of its own stores, as the Apple Store constitutes a significant fraction of total sales for many developers, even though accessory manufacturers also sell their products through other channels. Despite consumer demand for film solutions, which are currently ranked the #1 most popular “cases” for both iPods and iPhones in the Apple Store, and the #6 and #7 most popular overall iPhone and iPod accessories, respectively, developers might not create separate versions of each case product, one without film for sale by Apple, and one with film for sale elsewhere. iLounge requested details on the change from leading film developer Power Support, which had no comment, as well as several case makers, who were aware of the new policy but had nothing to add. However, Mirage Mirror Screen Protector vendor XGear suggested that despite the Apple Store ban, its “marketing positioning will not change. This will open many new doors for us as we move forward in my opinion.”

iLounge has requested comment from Apple on this story and will update this article with additional details as they become known.

Update: We’ve posted responses to common reader comments on this story in a separate article.

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Comments

21

@Anon: I scratched my iPhone’s screen weeks after getting it back when they first came out. Fortunately, it was in the upper black area near the ear speaker. The scratch was made by a sandstone coaster I use next to my keyboard. The phone slipped out of my hand (not hard to do with the way the phones are made) and landed face down on that coaster.

Still, after that, I have never used an iPhone without some sort of protection. Be that screen protector or protective case.

Posted by Dave M. on March 17, 2010 at 9:57 AM (PDT)

22

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.

Posted by roadburn on March 17, 2010 at 9:58 AM (PDT)

23

I mountain bike, road bike, rock climb, snow shoe and the list goes on
“if you’re careful, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll pick up any serious damage.”
It it hard to be careful every time I take the phone in and out of my pocket, pack or convenient place to stash it. I will alway use a film to protect the glass and a case for those times it does take a little fall.

Posted by Scooter on March 17, 2010 at 10:06 AM (PDT)

24

Just my wild guess: Because all the liability issues aforementioned and the relative difficulty for applying the films perfectly, Apple decides to directly ship a new batch of iPhones/iPod touches with full-body films already on in the box, and of course, with a extra charge of 9.99 or so…so no need to showcase 3rd party films in Apple’s stores anymore, if you want to pay for a film, pay Apple

Posted by III on March 17, 2010 at 10:13 AM (PDT)

25

I never used any protection on my iPhone 3G.  I carry the phone in my pockets.  I had it for almost two years and the screen is still pristine.  The back is showing some use but you know what, I don’t care.  I see those devices as having only a 3 year use period so in a year I will replace it with a new one and won’t look at the old phone and say: Gosh, is it nice that it look like new cause I used a screen/body protector!  I will rather say: Gosh, this thing was well used, look at the wear on the back, and look at how the screen remained good looking. Good job Apple.

And maybe Apple is about to introduce a new type of screen that will allow one to feel as they touch… and those screen protectors would hide the feature…

Posted by Bernard Maltais on March 17, 2010 at 10:13 AM (PDT)

26

I wonder if the notorious patent troll Bill Warman and his bogus screen protector patent has anything to do with this.

Posted by Peter da Silva on March 17, 2010 at 10:21 AM (PDT)

27

I think this is a behind-the-scenes deal with the combined interests of the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS, who needs a boost of income from customer deliveries from the companies who make screen protectors. Shame on you, Apple!

Posted by fjpoblam on March 17, 2010 at 10:34 AM (PDT)

28

Apple might be freeing up shelf space for iPad accessories, so they’re cutting back on other items.

Also, the word “bans” seems a little strong. It’s routine for retailers to add or remove items from their stock.

Posted by mike99 on March 17, 2010 at 10:34 AM (PDT)

29

Surely Apple don’t want people to damage their screens so that they have to pay for a replacement?

That is the sort of cynical ploy I’m sure nobody would equate with such an open, customer-friendly company?

Posted by Sam Crow on March 17, 2010 at 10:42 AM (PDT)

30

I added a case and film to my 2nd gen iPod touch because it forever felt slippery in my hand and because the touch screen was inconsistent and really frustrating to use. The whole experience was so bad that I was thinking of returning the iPod.

I purchased a case from Griffin that came with a simple plastic film and the touch was instantly 200% better in every way. It’s now a joy to hold and use.

Posted by David on March 17, 2010 at 10:42 AM (PDT)

31

I find the use of the term “ban” here to be an interesting choice.  Retailers make choices on a daily basis of what products to carry.  This could have easily been reported as “Apple will no longer carry protective screen films in their stores”.  But alas, sites need to attract visitors to make money so the more inflammatory word “ban” is used.  I’ve been reading many Apple-related sites for years, and I get tired of stuff like this—which doesn’t make me an Apple apologist.  Can’t sites report the news without resorting to drama.  I guess objective journalism is dead.

Posted by cajaygle on March 17, 2010 at 11:00 AM (PDT)

32

No doubt they think protection films make the screen not so attractive/bright and they don’t want lose territory for competition because of that, so the easiest way to deal with it (in Apple’s dictatorial way) is to ban it.

Posted by Marcelo Vaz on March 17, 2010 at 11:05 AM (PDT)

33

#31: Vendors have characterized it to us in this way. If the story was merely “Apple will no longer carry protective screen films in their stores,” as you stated it, that might be one thing, but we have been told that Apple is refusing to sell cases that include the films for free, with the refusal being for that reason alone. So it is an Apple Store ban on these protectors, however they may be sold or given away.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 17, 2010 at 11:16 AM (PDT)

34

I have some large and deep scratches in the screen on my iPod touch. My iPhone has faired slightly better, but does have one tiny scratch that is noticeable when you look closely and run your fingernail over it. Not sure how I managed to scratch both devices, but the possibility is quite real.

With that said, I am not sure how a thin layer of plastic is going to protect against something that is capable of marking grooves in glass.

Posted by Johnny 5 on March 17, 2010 at 11:22 AM (PDT)

35

Man, if I were a vendor I’d be pretty mad. But personally, I think these screen protectors are quite ugly and ruin the design of the device.

Posted by Mitchell Scott on March 17, 2010 at 11:23 AM (PDT)

36

Has no-one wondered if there might be a technical, chemical reason for this? Maybe over time the screen protector adhesive interacts with the oleophobic coating of the screen. Maybe if you try to remove it after a couple of years the surface underneath is damaged. That would make more sense from a ‘liability’ point of view to me if the screen is damaged by another product that Apple sells there’s an implicit endorsement there. I don’t see how there’s liability if you ask an Apple employee to put the protector on and they trap a speck of dust. Suck it up and do it yourself! They could always make you sign a disclaimer if that’s the only problem.
In my experience, the protectors are worse than the naked screens anyway. Glare, fingerprints, peeling at the edges, etc, etc.

Posted by GadgetGav on March 17, 2010 at 11:24 AM (PDT)

37

#33: Keep in mind that vendors aren’t exactly impartial observers. They are angry and a hot-button word liked “banned” helps them make the issue more dramatic. 

And whether the films are “free” (which I doubt) or not, ALL retailers routine pick and choose which products they wish to carry.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s an interesting news story, and perhaps Apple does have ulterior motives, but I just think the story is being overhyped.

Posted by Mike99 on March 17, 2010 at 11:32 AM (PDT)

38

Good move. I know so many people that buy these things not knowing that they are absolutley useless on a glass screen and actually ruin the oleophobic coating.

Apple knows that lots of people are tempted to buy these things thinking that they are protecting their device and it’s easier to just ban them entirely than try to explain the pointlessness to every potential buyer.

Posted by Dan on March 17, 2010 at 11:41 AM (PDT)

39

Crazy. It’s a glass screen. For glass screens, film screen protectors are the snake oil of the mobile phone world. I mean, if people want to pay money for something silly and useless, it’s their prerogative. I guess if Apple doesn’t want it in their stores that’s also their prerogative.

Personally, I’ve never understood why people want to put the slimmest slender phone into a big fat case, either. I don’t put my phone in a case because I carry it in my pocket and I want it to be as slender as possible to avoid “saddle-bag syndrome”. My phone looks brand-spankin’ new (I do make a point to always carry my keys in the other pocket). What the heck do you people do to your phones?

Posted by Chris Grayson on March 17, 2010 at 11:48 AM (PDT)

40

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?

Just a thought.

Posted by Mike Curtis on March 17, 2010 at 11:50 AM (PDT)

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