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Selecting the right screen protector for your mobile device

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Photo credit: dschulian (Flickr)

So you’ve just shelled out £500+ for your new iPad / iPhone  (or any mobile device for that matter with a high value attached to it) … what’s the first thing you should do? Install some apps on it,  watch BBC iPlayer, or maybe take it round to your mates to show off? ALL WRONG – You need to prioritise the protection of your investment as soon as possible after purchase.  The easiest way you can do this is (after purchasing an appropriate case) is getting a suitable screen protector – I’m positive that I don’t need to explain the thought process behind this!!

This isn’t going to be an in-depth scientific essay, however more of a quick reference which I hope you can refer to in selecting the right screen protector for any of your mobile devices and the pros and cons you can expect with any such selection. You’ll be surprised that while all screen protectors in essence will protect your device’s screen from scrapes & scratches, all will actually have potentially undesirable side-effects.

Right, there’s 2 main flavours in the screen protector universe, Anti-Glare & Crystal Clear (yes they are completely different!) – I’m going to evaluate both of these protector types below:


Anti-Glare

Description: Designed to diffuse direct glare from the sun or artificial light to avoid reflecting off a shiny screen and into your eyes. Surfaces are usually done to a matt finish and look ‘frosty’ when material is held up to light

Positives (+)

– Your device will be a heck of a lot easier to read in direct sunlight / highly illuminated artificial light areas
– A nice smooth but not slippery under finger feeling for touch screen devices
– Reduces visible signs of fingerprints on your device
– Can be thicker than ‘Crystal Clear’ screen protectors

Negatives (-)

– Can severely reduce the visual clarity/quality of your device. Due to the nature of the diffusion used to refract the incoming light I’ve noted that this can cause a rather fuzzy result on the display this is especially notable with bright colours such as white. This is extremely annoying once you’ve noticed this and has previously led me to purchase an alternative protector
– Finger prints do show up at some viewing angles, albeit are far less noticeable than on a screen with no protector at all

 

Crystal Clear

Description: Designed to reduce interference with screen clarity/quality to a minimum, while (obviously) protecting your screen at the same time

Positives (+)

– Premium ‘Crystal Clear’ screen protectors will hardly, if at all interfere with your visual experience. They should do exactly what they say on the tin – see recommended brands below
– Tend to be quite a bit thinner than their Anti-Glare counterparts

Negatives (-)

– In direct sunlight these protectors do little to help with glare so may not suit someone who does a lot of fieldwork in a sunny climate
– Finger prints can be an issue and you may find yourself reaching for your microfibre cloth more often than you’d like
– Some brands can exhibit a slippery surface feeling, which might be fine for some apps like highly interactive games but might reduce overall grip of the device causing you to inadvertently drop it!

 

With the explanations, pros and cons out of the way I’m briefly going to discuss 2 manufacturers for which I’ve had a personal experience with or know of someone who’s had extensive use of their products:

Zagg InvisibleShield – These guys you’ve probably heard of already, they aggressively market their products as being the most durable. An example of their marketing is approaching people via social networks such as Twitter, an example of such communication which was sent to Rob earlier this month is below – Rob had recently commented that he scratched his screen, ironically this happened after he had removed his Zagg protector reasons for which I’ll cover below.

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I’ve been using Zagg products on both my iPhone &  iPad for a little over 8 months now on the whole I’m pleased with it. The patented material they use to protect your screen is near in-penetrable, does not affect screen quality and has a nice grippy feel to it - In addition they offer a life-time warranty as long as you pay for the postage of the replacement InvisibleSheild and send the knackered/compromised one back (I’ve had to do this twice).

Now there is unfortunately a darker side to Zagg, firstly their customer service is extremely robotic with very cold and canned responses. They also take an absolute age to reply (usually around a week which is far from acceptable). Zagg products are also more difficult to install as you have to use a special fluid to stop fingerprints sticking to the adhesive side of the protector during installation, you also cannot remove and reapply an InvisibleShield, if you screw up the install you’ll either have to chance it through the lifetime guarantee or buy a new one.

A final warning on Zagg’s Invisible Shield, if you intend to use a case which partially covers the front/back of your device i.e. Apple’s Bumper for the iPhone 4, then I’d recommend staying well clear of Zagg’s products as it will cause the protector to eventually peel up and away at the edges allow diry & grime to build up. This is the reason that both Rob & I have removed the Zagg from our front screens of our iPhone 4.

CygnettA company hailing from Victoria in Australia, never heard of them until I went into an Apple Premium Reseller (Stormfront – Salisbury) earlier in the month to get a screen protector for my iPad. I was ill advised by the instore staff to purchase this as I clarified that I didn’t want a protector which compromised on screen quality and was subsequently recommended the Anti-Glare by Cygnett for my iPad … I was far from impressed as the £20 purchase left me a screen which was fully protected but with an extremely fuzzy screen. I checked online another Cygnett customers were complaining of the same issue.

I must stress that Cygnett do supply ‘Crystal Clear’ protectors for devices other than the iPad, however as of Jan 2011 they only supply the Anti-Glare variant for iPad’s therefore purchase cautiously.

I hope you can take away some useful information from this article and that at the very least it pushes you in the right direction in finding the screen protector that not only fits your device but your own personal requirements.

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