| || |
Best Galaxy S3 Screen Protector - Customization the Key
I decided to review the best screen protectors just for the Samsung Galaxy S3 because it’s apparent developing screen protection films for the phone’s curved display has been problematic for many developers. I must admit that I wasn’t too keen on doing an entire round-up of screen protectors, but as somebody who’s really engulfed in the mobile accessories space, I’m glad I did it because it was very revealing to observe how different companies reacted to the challenges the contoured screen posed. I found new respect for companies who tackled the problem head on by engineering completely customized films for the Galaxy S3; other companies chose to take shortcuts to avoid the challenge altogether. But all in all, at the end of this review, I was able to find two screen protection films I can confidently recommend to the Android Central community. Let’s look at some of the hits and misses.
South Korean company, Zenus, is a relative newcomer to the U.S but with a substantial customer base in Asia. I view Zenus as a company that carries classy products with dashes of modern designs but altogether stylistically conservative – a concept that’s personally highly appealing. With that said, I was disappointed to discover their Luminous-A Screen Protector for the Galaxy S3 completely missed the mark.
Zenus Screen Protectors by delbertkim24, on Flickr
The Luminous-A Screen Protector, manufactured in Japan and finished in Korea, is a highly transparent film with anti-fingerprint and anti-scratch properties. For $12.99, Zenus packages two screen protectors and a microfiber cloth. Before I get into why Zenus fails with the Luminous-A for the Galaxy S3, I should point out that the film in itself is terrific. If this review was for any device other than the Galaxy S3, Zenus would’ve earned high marks for having one of the best quality films. The oleophobic coating allows users to slide, swipe, pinch, and flick through the protector almost as well as the naked glass. The precision in which Zenus designed the cut-outs for the light/proximity sensors along with the front camera lens is also very well done.
The reason the Luminous-A Screen Protector falls short is two-folds: One, Zenus is one of the few companies within this review who didn’t design a customized film for the Galaxy S3, instead opting to leave the film short 2-3 millimeters in order to avoid dealing with the curved screen. Two, in part due to the thickness, the film lifts at the edge where the screen begins to curve. Needless to say, this is a big no-no because not only did Zenus design the film to fall short of the edge thereby offering just partial protection, but even with that, the film lifts. They essentially took a tiny swing and missed. Since Zenus includes two screen protection films with every purchase, I ended up applying both of them (having optimistically concluded the first film must’ve been a defect), and each time, I saw the edge of the film unable to stay pat.
Zenus Luminous A Screen Protection Film by delbertkim24, on Flickr
For those looking at the picture and concluding I’m making a mountain out of a mole, perhaps you’re right - the Luminous-A screen protector for the Galaxy S3 is 100% usable, and in due time, users will simply just get used to it. However, our objective is to find the absolute best screen protectors for the Galaxy S3. I think Zenus’ design team should’ve considered the effects such a thick film would have on a curved screen, especially if they didn’t take the time to look into another film or design that could’ve covered the screen in its entirety.
This is the first time Android Central’s covering Zenus which made it difficult for me to introduce Zenus to our reader base in such a negative light. The fact of the matter is this company has great products and great screen protection films. However, the Luminous-A Screen Protector for the Galaxy S3 doesn’t pass the test, and there are definitely better options out there.
Search the forums, browse the web, and you’ll find many experts agree with me that Spigen’s Steinheil Series is one of the industry leaders in terms of top-notch quality screen protection films. Because Spigen pays so much attention to the precision of the cut-outs along with the other enhancing properties in the films, I believe their recognition is well-deserved.
Spigen Screen Protectors by delbertkim24, on Flickr
What you see in the image are pre-production samples (which is why there are no tabs on the protective layers). What Spigen will include in every package for $15.99 are two Steinheil Curved Crystal Screen Protectors, one microfiber cloth, one squeegee and four dust removal stickers. Spigen is currently taking pre-orders, but by the time this review is released, Spigen should begin shipping.
I came away highly impressed by Spigen’s Steinheil Curved Crystal. The film, which is very thin with a surface hardness of 2H, is anti-UV ray coated with excellent light transmittance.
Simply put, the Curved Crystal film fit like a dream. Spigen managed to cover the screen in its entirety without leaving the film susceptible for air bubbles. I didn’t think this was possible without leaving a millimeter or two before the edges. The only gap they left is the cut-out for the light/proximity sensor along with the camera lens.
However, because I hold Spigen to a very high standard, there were two features of the Curved Crystal which I thought came up short, especially in comparison with the other films in their Steinheil series. Number one, the Curved Crystal, unlike the rest of the Steinheil Series (excluding the Nano Series), is very thin. Not that this film is incapable of protecting the screen, but it’s uncertain how the film would perform for those who need more heavy duty protection. Additionally, I can see how the film itself could exhibit more permanent scratches over longer periods of use. But as Zenus demonstrated, the reason for the thinness of the film may be because Spigen hasn’t found a way to design their usual thicker films to adhere perfectly to the Galaxy S3 screen.
Spigen Steinheil Curved Screen Protector by delbertkim24, on Flickr
Number two, although nowhere near the level of Zagg’s InvisibleShield or BodyGuardz’ UltraTough, I noticed a marginal amount of orange peel effect on some spots of the film. This is the first time I’ve seen a Steinheil screen protector exhibit this. As you might be able to see in the picture, it’s very minor in just a couple areas. Regardless, I was disappointed to see it.
Spigen almost got it just right. Other than the issue with the thinness of the film along with the minor orange peel effect, the practically invisible screen protector covers the Galaxy S3 display from end-to-end. For users who don’t subject their phones to a lot of abuse, the Steinheil Curved Crystal Screen Protector may be the best choice.
Founded in 2003, Rearth seems to sell some products here and there, but their main focus is definitely on screen protectors. As of now, Rearth’s Ultimate Clear Plus ranks first on Amazon with the search query “Galaxy S3 Screen Protector” which is why I made sure to include them in this review.
Rearth Screen Protectors by delbertkim24, on Flickr
For the low price of $9.99, Rearth’s package includes two Ultimate Clear Plus Screen Protectors, one microfiber cloth and one squeegee. That’s a pretty solid value. The film, which is made of optical polyester and silicone, is fairly thick (0.15 millimeter thickness with a 3H-4H surface hardness). Additionally, their films feature an oleophobic coating which helps reduce fingerprints while making swiping, flicking, pinching, etc. all the much smoother.
My only knock against Rearth is that the Ultimate Clear Plus does not cover the entire screen of the Galaxy S3, with the film coming short 3 mm on all sides. Again, this is aesthetically and functionally unacceptable, which I’ll explain in greater detail with the review of the screen protection film immediately following this one.
Ultimate Clear Plus Screen Protection Film by delbertkim24, on Flickr
I’m glad I had the opportunity to test Rearth’s Ultimate Clear Plus because it’s obvious to me that it’s a quality film. I’ll definitely be looking forward to trying out their screen protectors for other devices in the future. However, the fact that the Ultimate Clear Plus only offers partial protection for the Galaxy S3 is very unsettling. Despite their 165 (as of this date) mostly positive reviews from happy customers on Amazon, I personally can’t recommend this film for the Galaxy S3.
I don’t know how MediaDevil (formerly known as PhoneDevil) never got on my radar until earlier this year. MediaDevil is a UK company who is the leading screen protector developer in their country with the fourth “most 5 Star Rated Product” on Amazon.co.uk.
Media Devil Screen Protectors by delbertkim24, on Flickr
With a relatively low price of $11.97, MediaDevil packages two Magicscreen screen protectors, one squeegee and one microfiber cloth. The Magicscreen, which includes both an anti-UV acrylic layer along with a scratch-resistant PET layer, is a highly transparent film with a very smooth touch. In fact, I would say MediaDevil’s film seemed to be the most transparent when placed compared side-by-side with the Rearth and Zenus.
MediaDevil Screen Protection Film by delbertkim24, on Flickr
However, just as with Rearth and Zenus, MediaDevil did not design a fully customized film for the Galaxy S3. Instead, MediaDevil designed the film to fall short 4 millimeters on both the top and bottom and 3 millimeters on each of the sides, making the Magicscreen the least protective out of all seven screen protectors that are being examined in this review. But despite this comes a note with every purchase of the Magicscreen for the Galaxy S3 from Callum, who is MediaDevil’s Founder, which explains why their screen protector cannot cover the entire screen before making the statement:
“We are quietly confident that these are the best-design Galaxy S3 screen protectors available.”
While companies like Spigen and XGear were putting in work to customize a film that would properly fit onto the curved glass of the Galaxy S3, MediaDevil had the audacity to merely do a quick cut-out of a film that offers just partial protection of the screen and say they believe
their films are the “best-designed Galaxy S3 protectors available.”
A screen protector has one job, which is to protect the screen in its entirety. Since MediaDevil joins Rearth and Zenus as companies who only cover parts of the screen, I don’t know how this company’s founder can claim to have the “best-designed” Galaxy S3 screen protector.
It’s a little easier to detect how lame screen protectors that come up small is unless it’s compared side-by-side like in the image below (left: MediaDevil, right: Spigen).
Screen Protection Film Comparison by delbertkim24, on Flickr
I know the image on the right is a little nicer, but you get the point, right?
I’ll certainly advise against never considering MediaDevil for any other device. The truth of the matter is that their films are quite exceptional, and possibly on par with Spigen’s Ultra Crystal series. However, that note from the company’s founder annoyed me because 1) I’m assuming the founder wrote that note before he had a chance to see what other developers designed and 2) Saying their tiny screen protector is the best-designed screen protector out there is like me trying to sell a car to Shaquille O’Neal and saying “Mr. Shaq, I’m quietly confident this Civic Hatchback is the best-designed car for your physique.”
Bottom line, great film but poorly designed for the Galaxy S3.
XGear’s Spectre is a tempered glass screen protector with a thickness of 0.4 millimeters and a surface hardness of 8H for the Galaxy S3. Buyers have a choice of either pebble blue or marble white. Because the Spectre I received is a pre-production sample, I’m not quite sure exactly what XGear will be including with every package, but priced at $29.99, I’m assuming it’ll be one Spectre Tempered Glass Screen Protector along with one microfiber cloth.
XGear Spectre Screen Protector by delbertkim24, on Flickr
Spigen’s GLAS for the Samsung Galaxy S2 and then the
is what really put the tempered screen protector on the map. I’m very surprised Spigen hasn’t released a glass screen protector for the S3 yet which is why I have to give credit to XGear for taking the initiative to develop one – something I know couldn’t have been easy because of the need to account for the curved glass. I suspect more and more smartphone users will switch over to glass screen protectors because it offers the absolute best protection bar-none while offering the best close-to-screen feel.
When I visited XGear’s website, I was disappointed to see they didn’t come out with a fully transparent screen protector because I assumed the coloring of the Spectre wouldn’t fully match that of the Galaxy S3, potentially making the phone look cheap. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover XGear did a great job with the colors because the quality of the colors match and really shine through. It’s also kind of cool because if you choose to go for the opposite color of your phone, with a case, you can make it seem as if you have the other color if you’ve ever regretted going with one color over the other.
XGear Screen Protector by delbertkim24, on Flickr
I would’ve preferred if XGear punched out an opening for the front camera lens instead of merely leaving an opening for it, but it’s not really that big of a deal for me. Additionally, I was very happy with how precisely they created the openings for all of the virtual buttons along with the light/proximity sensors. The Spectre also features a layer etched with dotted grids to apparently prevent discoloring in sunlight due to UV radiation. I didn’t find the grids at all distracting although I suspect there will be some users who may not be too pleased with it.
The feel of the Spectre feels just like the phone’s natural screen, which is a huge plus. It appears as if there’s an oleophobic coating to promote a smoother touch along with the ability to easily wipe away any smudges or fingerprints. And more importantly, I did not experience any reduction in the touchscreen sensitivity.
Another unique perk to the Spectre is that unlike every other screen protector in this review, the Spectre itself does not easily damage. Whereas every other film would exhibit battle marks over time, the Spectre showed just minor scratches as I did a scratch test using a box knife.
The only problem I had with the X-Gear is that since the glass is quite thick, it makes the home key that much more recessed. Even without a screen protector on the phone, I always griped at how difficult the physical home key was to push, wondering why Samsung decided to go with a physical home key instead of the virtual home key they designed with the Galaxy Nexus. But with the Spectre, users need to push in just a little harder. I reached out to XGear about this, and one of their representatives said they’re working on developing something (presumably a padded sticker) that will make it easier on users to use the home key. But at the moment, especially with the first batch of shipments, it’s not quite certain if a padded sticker will be included. If anything changes, I’ll be sure to update.
This company managed to design and manufacture a tempered glass solution for a curved screen. Other than the issue with the recessed home key, the Spectre is a very, very good option for Galaxy S3 users. And to be perfectly honest, I’ve simply gotten used to just pressing down just a tiny bit harder. It’s definitely not a deal-breaker.
For users who need unbeatable durability, there is no better option than the Spectre from XGear.
Before this review, I never heard of Tridea, which is another South Korean company. However, at the time of my research, this was the only company I found with a curved film designed to cover the Galaxy S3 screen in its entirety (since then, XGear sent me their new tempered glass screen protector and a rep from Spigen sent some pre-production samples of their Steinheil Curved Crystal).
Tridea Screen Protector by delbertkim24, on Flickr
For $11.99, Tridea packages one True Shield Screen Protector, one Microfiber cloth, one squeegee and two dust removal stickers. The first thing I noticed about the True Shield is that the film’s extremely thin, nearly identical to the top or bottom layer most screen protectors come with. Personally, the thickness of the film is not that important to me because the only action my phone sees might be in my pocket with my keys, but to those who need heavy-duty protection, this is something worth noting.
Although the film sticks using dry application with static cling adhesion, I immediately noticed the look and feel of the film feels frustratingly like the Zagg Invisible Shield (which I purposely did not include in this review because I believe their Invisible Shield is highly overrated), fully equipped with the same rubbery texture and the protruding orange-peel effect. Furthermore, the film very noticeably reduces the Super AMOLED of the screen. For most users, I suspect it would be exceedingly difficult to transition from the Gorilla Glass 2 to the True Shield because the look and feel becomes significantly altered.
True Shield Screen Protection Film by delbertkim24, on Flickr
Another aesthetic head-scratcher is how Tridea decided on the cut-out for the film. Since the heated curve of the True Shield allowed Tridea to cover the entire screen, why did they use a wide U-shaped cutout for the speaker and home button? It leaves the film looking cheap when it doesn’t have to. I can’t imagine it would’ve been all that difficult to add that extra protection for the top of the speaker and bottom of the home button.
I appreciate how Tridea aimed to develop a screen protection film that would cover the Galaxy S3 in its entirety, but I think the design and the material they chose to use was poorly executed. With an $11.99 price tag for a single screen protector, there are better options out there.
Bodyguardz gives users either a wet or dry option for application with the UltraTough Clear Screen Protector.
BodyGuardz Screen Protector by delbertkim24, on Flickr
For $15.95, Bodyguardz package includes two UltraTough Clear Screen Protectors, two application gels, one moist wipe, and one microfiber cloth. The company also throws in a pretty cool Bodyguardz sticker that I immediately slapped on to the back of my phone.
First, the Dry Install – I pretty much butchered the installation. Or so I think. There are quite a few marks I made from not leaving the protective layer as I pushed out all the air bubbles. Bodyguardz claims the bubbles along with the haziness will disappear within 72 hours.
However, judging by perfectly applied portions of the film, I have a pretty clear idea of how the film would look like in a matter of time, and it’s really not that bad.
One of the better features about this film is that it covers the screen in its entirety (screen protectors are SUPPOSED to do this, but somehow this aspect needs to be praised in this review). Apart from what I consider to be a slightly imperfect cut-out for the home key, I like how precise the rest of the cut-outs are. With the UltraTough, you’re getting the type of film Bodyguardz claims was “originally engineered to protect the front of automobiles from stones and other abrasive elements.” So if you need a good amount of protection and durability, BodyGuardz is a very good option.
Because the film is not the conventional plastic material, the wet install was considerably easier. Unlike the dry install, it’s easier to readjust and push out the air bubbles with the dry install. I more readily noticed upon installation that although the film is not matte, it didn’t pick up as many fingerprints as the other films. Furthermore, the film seemed to have some anti-glare properties.
UltraTough Screen Protection Film by delbertkim24, on Flickr
But with all that said, this film undoubtedly diminishes the clarity of the screen. Furthermore, just as with the Tridea True Shield, the orange peel effect is unbearable, especially after having just tested the crystal clear films of Zenus, Spigen, Rearth, Media Devil and X-Gear. Separately, apart from those who prefer to have some additional grip, I don’t see how users of this film would adjust to the rubbery, dragging feel of this film. I see myself tearing the film out in frustration after about a week.
Apart from X-Gear’s Spectre, the BodyGuardz helps fulfill the needs of Galaxy S3 users who want the ultimate amount of protection. However, since most Galaxy S3 users aren’t sending their phones out to war, I can’t recommend the UltraTough Clear over Spigen or X-Gear. Furthermore, apart from films that require wet installs to cover the back of the phone, I don’t see why it’s necessary to continue these wet installs when there are so many dry solutions that look and feel much better. Wet solutions are beginning to come across as a bit primitive.
Trust me, this was not a fun review. However, I’m glad I did it because I can now confidently recommend a film not just based on a company’s reputation but how they managed to design, engineer and customize their films specifically for the Samsung Galaxy S3.
Based on my testing, I can confidently recommend two screen protectors out of the seven that were reviewed. I can’t say which one of the two is better because this is one of those 1/1A things. But in a nutshell, for users who don’t need absolute heavy-duty protection, Spigen’s Steinheil Curved Crystal is the best option. It’s literally crystal clear, and I suspect most people won’t even know it’s applied until they see the cut-out for the light and proximity sensor. At $15.99, it’s a very affordable option as well.
For those who need the ultimate level of protection and want to preserve the feeling of glass, I highly recommend the Spectre by XGear. At $29.99, the price is a bit steep for a screen protector. However, this is a very good option because not only does it protect the actual phone screen, but the glass itself can take quite a bit of damage before exhibiting any marks. Separately, I think those who never used a glass screen protector before will become enamored with the novelty of it all.