Matte Screen Protector; Spend the Money or Buy Cheap? (a review)
I've seen a decent amount of people who like their screen protectors, but they usually only have tried one kind. I have had the chance to compare a couple of screen protectors, so I thought I would jot down my thoughts. I recognize there are a TON of screen protectors out there, and I am just making some generalized statements about two I've tried, one cheap, and one expensive. I'll preface the rest of the "review" if you'll call it that, by stating that I am rather anal about my screen looking great. I am not a perfectionist in any other form of my life, so I'm not sure where it comes from.
When I got my first iPhone, (an iPhone 4 to be exact), I decided to play it safe and have the local mall cart guy put invisibleShield on the screen to protect it. Well soon enough I realized that over time, the gel like plastic tends to contract and wrinkle, and while I didn't have any air bubbles, I couldn't enjoy the beautiful Retna screen due to some distortion. I got the screen protector replaced, but it happened again, and my friend experienced the same thing. I eventually gave up and let the screen be naked for a couple of months. I attempted to be very careful with the screen, but alas, I got a couple of very minor scratches. They weren't noticeable unless you looked very closely, but they were there, and I wasn't happy. When I had a hardware problem, and I was given a refurb swap at the local Apple store, I immediately impulse purchased a POWER SUPPORT HD anti-glare film set. I had an employee peel the factory plastic off the screen and immediately put the protector on.
Power Support HD Anti-Glare Film Set for iPhone 4 - Apple Store (U.S.)
Immediately I loved it. I liked the matte look and feel which fended off finger prints and skin oil better, in my opinion, than the naked screen or the invisibleShield. The screen was also very vivid, and the image was hardly diminished at all. It was hands down the best I had seen a screen look under a protector. The edges were also set back a little from the edge of the glass, which I found made it work with cases that made invisibleShield edges bubble.
*As an aside, with friends' phones and my own, I've found that if you ask around, you can usually find an Apple store employee who is an expert at putting these screen protectors on despite the fact they tell me it is against their policy to apply them for customers. I can do it, but it takes me longer, and often I succeed only after several attempts or fixes.
So back on track, I love the anti-glare protector, and I got several friends addicted to them as well. They work extremely well, and even saved my girlfriend's phone from what I assume would have been a damaged screen. She managed to strike the screen quite hard on the sharp corner of a night stand at a hotel, and the screen became chipped under the protector. There was a small bubble over a small chip in the glass of the screen, at least that is what it looked like. Once the protector was removed, I realized the thick plastic of the screen protector was damaged, but the glass underneath was flawless. At some point I also managed to get a deep scratch that was only a couple of millimeters long in the upper left corner of my screen. I'm not sure how it happened, but it was completely absorbed by the protector alone saving the glass underneath.
The only downside to the POWER SUPPORT matt screen protector that I can see is the price. At $14.95 plus tax at the Apple store, you can walk away with a pair. One for now, and one for later when it is time for a replacement. On that note, my original lasted 6 months without damage until I got my iPhone 4s, so it was worth the money to me. Once I got my 4s, I immediately had a new one applied, and was happy again. Last week I decided to replace it because of the above mentioned scratch. I have an unused POWER SUPPORT protector still in the box, but I wanted to try one of the cheap ones people claim work just as well. I went on Amazon and purchased this:
Amazon.com: (3 Packs) iPhone 4 Anti-Glare, Anti-Scratch, Anti-Fingerprint - Matte Finishing Screen Protector: Cell Phones & Accessories
For $2.50 and free shipping I got three protectors that looked identical to the POWER SUPPORT ones, at least online. I received them today, and attempted to put one on. The first one I tried, I literally could not get it to line up with all the precut holes at the same time. I use the phrase "precut holes" loosely, because after the application, you have to pop out the plastic cut outs which are still in the protector for the home button, front facing camera, and the earpiece. There was no hole for the proximity sensor despite the image on Amazon. The ones that do pop out are two pieces for some reason, and the bottom one has the annoying habit of sliding underneath the protector and getting stuck.
Anyway, after many attempts of getting everything lined up, I gave up. Either the cuts are not precisely in the correct positions, or I was just screwing it up somehow. After pulling the protector off the screen, I took the opportunity to compare it to the POWER SUPPORT I just removed prior to tossing them. The POWER SUPPORT protector was significantly thicker, and of course had the proximity sensor cutout. Putting them back to back, I was unable to line up the edges due to a slight size difference, but the earpiece hole and the home button hole wouldn't line up at the same time either, confirming my suspicion that the cheapo protector was cut wrong.
I moved on to another cheapo protector as I had three to play with. Although this one also didn't line up perfectly, it is close enough to work, and isn't noticeable unless you look closely at the speaker hole which isn't centered exactly. I did however run into another problem which I also had with the first faulty protector. The front facing camera hole cut is made in such a way that prevents it from laying flat, and despite all manor off application and fixing methods, it is impossible to get the bubble surrounding it to squeeze out. There is no dust or anything there, it is just a problem with the cut. I also have problems with the edges bubbling too easy, and I believe the reason is related to the fact that the adhesive used on the cheapo one doesn't seem as strong as what is on the POWER SHIELD protector.
One last note about application: Due to the plastic liners on the protector, and the fact that the cut out holes are still intact, I can't clearly see through the layers to the home button border making the initial lining up of the protector extremely difficult.
Even with the camera area bubble (which is relatively small), I am still using the cheapo protector for a day to try it out. I instantly noticed reduced clarity once I turned the screen back on. With the POWER SUPPORT protector, if too much skin oil was on the surface, any white or light colored images or backgrounds were diffused. By that I mean the light was separated like it is in a prism, so that you can almost see all the different colors of each pixel separately. It is very difficult to describe without actually seeing it firsthand. The issue with the cheap protector is that the strange prism effect is present at all times, even though there is no oil to wipe away. I find this very distracting, and it is one of the main reasons I won't use this protector for more than just a day to try it out.
I have a couple more observations of the cheap protector, and I'll wrap it up. It comes with a cheap lint-free-paper-cloth-wipe-thing, and I appreciate that, it helps wipe the screen of dust prior to the application. The packaging also does not come with any sort of instructions, so things like the cutouts still being in place are a surprise, and I am left to figure out the best way of dealing with them through trial and error. The protector does have plastic stuck to both sides which are labeled so you know which side goes on the screen if you couldn't figure out the orientation of the cut out holes for some reason.
Well that's it. The POWER SHIELD protectors are overpriced in my opinion, but I will pay the price for the quality. The cheap ones, or to be specific, the cheap ones that I tried, just don't cut it for me.
--POWER SUPPORT HD anti-glare film set--
Thick (very protective)
Stays in good condition (doesn't bubble easily)
Application sticky paper (easier to use than scotch tape, which I used for the cheap one)
Awesome screen clarity
Assistance available if purchased at the apple store (probably)
I can't find them on Amazon without the added clear back which doubles the price for some reason
CHEAP (less than $1 a piece shipped)
Comes with a lint free cloth/paper
Thin (less protective)
Not precisely cut (or at least not consistent)
Holes not cut out completely
No proximity sensor cutout
Camera hole bubbles
Difficult to install
(long time Tipb/iMore podcast fan)