United SGP Corp. SGP Shield for iPhone 3G
There are a number of established players in the iPod and iPhone clear body film business, and then there's United SGP Corporation, maker of the SGP Shield for iPhone 3G ($26). We had never heard of United SGP before, but a quick search of the company's web site reveals that it also sells camera, laptop, and phone films; similarly, it was obvious pretty quickly after we started unpacking SGP Shield that United SGP is serious about iPhone 3G protection -- arguably even more so than the makers of InvisibleShield, BodyGuardz, and the Protection Pack for iPhone 3G we've previously reviewed.
SGP Shield’s package is similar to the NLU Products and Zagg clear body protectors, including a bottle of application spray, a squeegee, and stickers for both the front and back of the iPhone 3G, but there are a couple of differences. United SGP also includes a sheet of tiny stickers to apply to almost every nook and cranny of the iPhone 3G, and a cleaning cloth designed to help you remove dust and smears from the device before installation. With these added parts, it’s possible to easily get the iPhone 3G really cleaned off before anything gets applied, and then cover more of its body than with any other film we’ve yet seen for the device.
The rear protective film isn’t exactly the same as the material used by all three of United SGP’s major competitors; it is slightly thinner, yet similarly designed to resist yellowing, scratches, and tearing. We found that it was a little easier to apply than the thicker 3M material used for the other companies’ rear stickers, and was interestingly cut to provide more coverage of the iPhone 3G’s corners and chrome bezel. Four pieces on the second strip of film are made to completely protect the bezel, while two circles are included to serve as Home button covers, missing from the competing products. If you wanted to cover the iPhone 3G’s camera with included film, that’s an option as well, though it may suffer from blurring and/or grime build-up as a consequence. You can, of course, put as many or as few of the stickers on as you prefer.
Some good news about this application process was that we found it to be more straightforward than we had expected. United SGP’s rear film corners stuck a little easier and faster than the others, and we felt comfortable with the degree of protection provided. On the flip side, as with other multi-piece stickers we have tested, avoiding overlap on the bezels was difficult, and you have to be okay with the idea that you may not get the film exactly perfect in alignment—it’ll be close enough that most people will never know or care about the imperfections.
Less acceptable were numerous air bubbles, which we couldn’t remove from the back film despite our best, extended efforts, and a pre-installation cleaning period to remove any dust or dirt from the iPhone 3G’s rear. The squeegee didn’t seem to be able to really make them dissipate, and the bubbles remained rather than fading after drying. While not a huge issue, and frankly, one that’s common to all clear films, we had better luck with removing air bubbles from the NLU BodyGuardz and FullBodyFilms rear film covers; SGP Shield was instead comparable to InvisibleShield, and looked a bit more like soft Saran Wrap after installation. On a related note, the front Home button protector worked, but didn’t look quite as clear as the screen protector after application.
Where United SGP outdoes NLU and nearly matches FullBodyFilms is on the front film. According to the company, the static cling-based clear screen protector is called Steinheil, and based upon Japanese optical films with anti-UV, anti-rainbow, and anti-bubble properties. We found this film easy to apply, with only a couple of tiny residual bubbles despite our best efforts, and it’s as clear as the best transparent films we’ve tested—better than the adhesive, slightly textured film included in NLU’s BodyGuardz. We do prefer FullBodyFilms’ inclusion of two types of film, including Anti-Glare, but this is definitely a close second-best solution.
One difference between United SGP and its peer-priced options from NLU and Zagg is in warranty coverage. Both of these competitors offer replacements if their skins get damaged, and NLU bundles in a second set of film for its $25 asking price. United SGP charges a little more, and doesn’t publish any warranty replacement policy at all. While FullBodyFilms doesn’t have a warranty plan either, it charges less for its film.
Overall, SGP Shield was on the fine edge of our A- and B+ ratings, as it’s more protective and better in coverage than the similarly-priced, B+-rated InvisibleShield, but it’s also not as completely satisfying in terms of pricing or bundling as the NLU or FullBodyFilms products we’ve tested. Due to the rear air bubbles we couldn’t get out, the skin-to-price ratio, and the lack of warranty protection, we’d rate it in our B+ category, but if you’re looking for more coverage than any of its competitors and willing to accept these issues, SGP Shield should be at the top of your list.