After seeing perhaps a thousand iPod cases over the past five years, we’ve recently focused our attention on products that can either be seen as case alternatives or supplements: protective films. Several companies produce full-body film covers for iPods and iPhones, while a larger number of others have released “face only” film protectors. Thanks to the iPhone’s use of an otherwise hard to protect large touchscreen, and the fact that a surprising number of cases don’t protect iPhone’s face at all, there’s been a resurgence of interest in screen protectors, with us included.
That’s where today’s screen protector film options come in. We’ve now tested options from five companies—BoxWave, JAVOedge, Power Support, RadTech, and ShieldZone—and only two of these companies, Power Support with its Crystal Film (iLounge rating: B+) and ShieldZone with its Front Shield for Apple iPhone (iLounge rating: B), have earned our recommended-level rating.
By contrast, however, the solutions we’ve seen from BoxWave, JAVOedge, and RadTech are less impressive. The protectors we received for testing are smaller sheets of film that just cover the 3.5” rectangular touchscreen portion of the front glass, and for that, you’ll pay at least as much per sheet, if not more, than the tailor-made Power Support alternatives. Even putting their lower protection aside, we found the rectangular covers less comfortable to use than the full-screen ones, as some flicking and other gestures sometimes scrape the edges of these films, an issue that we didn’t experience at all with Power Support’s full-face films.
BoxWave’s ClearTouch Anti-Glare Screen Protector for Apple iPhone ($13) and JAVOedge’s JavoScreen Anti-Glare Screen Protector for Apple iPhone ($9) both use the same sort of anti-glare diffusion as Power Support’s solution, while the ClearTouch Crystal and JavoScreen 2.0 Ultra Clear sell for the same prices and mirror Crystal Film’s clarity. All four of these options come with three items: a single rectangular protector, a plastic air bubble squeegee card, and a microfiber polishing cloth. Neither comes with a second film protector, which means that Power Support’s two-for-$15 deal puts you ahead in both cases if you’re buying at a store; the company’s $16 web price includes free shipping.
(Just prior to publication of our review, BoxWave updated its protector to cover more of the iPhone’s face, while JAVOedge continued to sell its prior versions at the prices above, while adding a “Full Front Coverage” version for a higher per-unit price of $11. We review the versions we received, however, the pricing differences versus Power Support’s Film remain the same.)
RadTech’s alternative is called ClearCal, and consists solely of a single clear (standard glare) screen protector in a Ziploc plastic bag. Unlike the BoxWave and JAVOedge options, RadTech does not include a squeegee or cloth for installation and cleaning. Though you can easily handle both tasks yourself with a credit card and the cloth that comes with the iPhone, you’re not saving anything by buying the RadTech solution instead of the better-equipped JAVOedge ones. The company also has not updated ClearCal to offer protection beyond the corners of iPhone’s screen.
The choice between Power Support’s Crystal Film and its competitors strikes us as a fairly obvious one. Though we’re not thrilled by the $15 entry point, you get two easy-to-apply, well-made protectors that cover virtually all of iPhone’s face save for the Home button, rather than paying $9 or more for a single protector that provides less coverage and comes with a couple of items you don’t really need. Even ShieldZone’s option, which we generally liked, doesn’t compare with Crystal Film’s clarity, and you only get one piece of film in the package. Of the other companies’ products, JAVOedge’s film solutions are the least offensively priced for what they are, followed by BoxWave—only now that it’s updated its films—and then RadTech, which currently gives you the least for its $10 asking price. Once you realize that you’ll have to add at least $2.50, if not $5, to get any of these other options shipped, Power Support’s pricing sounds better and better.
Company and Price