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 have earned our recommended-level rating. The others are charging too much for comparatively too little protection.
Designing an iPhone screen protector isn’t especially difficult. The device’s glass face consumes almost its entire height and width, features four external corner curves, and similarly curved cut outs for two parts of iPhone’s face: the ear speaker, and the Home button. Given the right template, stamping machines can make precision-cut protective films in seconds. And, as we saw with ShieldZone’s Front Shield for Apple iPhone (iLounge rating: B), if the film is properly made, it won’t interfere with the iPhone’s touch sensitivity or proximity sensors.
Power Support also started with the right template. It sells two packs of Crystal Film ($15), each cut with the same two holes, and only a millimeter or less of tolerance on their sides. This Film uses static cling rather than a sticky adhesive to hold to your iPhone’s face, and surprisingly, once it’s on, it’s not easy to accidentally remove. When properly applied, we actually found it to be harder to dislodge than any of the glue-based full screen protectors we’ve tested from Best Skins Ever, NLU Products, and ShieldZone—a good thing given how often iPhone will go in and out of your pocket.
Proper application was simple. We peeled the Film off of the backing plastic, aligned it on a completely clean iPhone face, and then squeegeed out air bubbles using a credit card. If dust got in, we removed the film from the iPhone, re-cleaned iPhone’s screen, ran the film under water until the dust came off, then quickly shook the water off and re-applied the film. A second try was enough to render the film looking flawless on iPhone’s face; the second piece of film is there in case you accidentally bend or otherwise screw up the first one.
Unlike ShieldZone’s Front Shield, which you can see in the comparison photos below with small surface ridges, Crystal Film is essentially transparent, leaving your iPhone’s face with the same shimmer it began with. We can say with certainty that no one will know you’ve applied it at all if you’ve done the application correctly; for better or worse, smudges from normal use are equally visible. Using the iPhone with it on feels just like using the iPhone without it.
In recent days, we’ve picked Crystal Film as our face protector of choice for the iPhone, thanks to its nearly complete coverage and superb clarity, it’s the film for those who want to improve iPhone’s protection without in any way inhibiting its looks. However, it doesn’t include a Home button protector, and the $15 asking price—even for two—isn’t ideal. We’ve pointed out before that Marware sells a full iPhone case, including a nearly identical clear film protector, for the same price; Power Support’s is nicer, but you’ll pay for it.
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. Ideally, it would be less expensive, and include Home button protection, but as-is, this is a very good iPhone face protector.
Company and Price
Company: Power Support
Model: Crystal Film Set