How to choose and apply a screen protector, bubble-free

Find out how to choose the right screen protector, and the key to a bubble-free application.

Through rigorous torture testing, we've learned that not all phones are equipped to stand up against trials of everyday life. OK, so, the Nokia Lumia 900 can take a hammering (literally), but even Gorilla Glass-donning phones are prone to unsavory hairline scratches.

For many people, these scratches are a-OK, but if you plan to sell or trade in your phone in the future, keeping it in tip-top shape is key to getting a good deal.

But screen protectors serve purposes beyond scratch-control -- some act as privacy screens, while other attempt to reduce glare. From buying to applying, follow this guide to getting the most out of your screen protector.

Buying the right screen protector

There are essentially three types of screen protectors, each with their own benefits and quirks. Choosing the right protector is entirely dependent on your needs versus how much you're willing to sacrifice. Let's compare:

Clear. This is the most practical and traditional option. Here, the only purpose of the screen protector is to take the beating of day-to-day life. When shopping, you'll notice that some products include multiple protectors, while others include just one.

If you purchase a pack of two or three protectors, you'll get thin protectors that (when applied properly) are hardly noticeable. They protect your phone against scratches just like other protectors, but will wear over time -- you'll eventually replace your scuffed protector with another one in the pack.

Solo screen protectors are usually a little thicker, and their heavy-duty builds will stand up to scratches for an extended period of time. Some of these products can even be removed and re-applied, should bubbles form.


Matte. These screen protectors offer the promise of reducing glare while also protecting your device from scratches. Like the clear ones, these protectors also come in packs of one or three, depending on the build.

However, there is one drawback to using an anti-glare protector: distortion. The material used in these matte protectors often produce a rainbow effect and/or a look that can be compared to pixelation. That being said, those who value graphics will have to decide between glare and distortion.

Privacy. Often applied to computers, privacy screen protectors limit the viewing angle of your device, ensuring that only you can view the active screen. These protectors also shield your screen from scratches, but like the matte screens, distortion is apparent.

Privacy screens will make your display appear hazy and video sharing difficult. Forget about gathering friends around your phone for a funny YouTube video -- you'll be the only one laughing.

Applying the screen protector (bubble-free)

There are many methods for applying screen protectors, from the outlandish steam room method to the classic credit-card-and-patience method.

Though many swear by their water or steam-based methods, I recommend against it. Unless the product guide prescribes using such procedures, it's best to keep your new screen protector away from liquids, as minerals in tap water will leave residue between the screen protector and the phone, and the adhesive will deteriorate.

Now playing: Watch this: Apply a screen protector, bubble-free

The key to applying a screen protector sans bubbles is patience. It's also imperative that you apply the protector immediately after purchasing your device, as even hairline scratches will produce unavoidable bubbles.The video above shows the step-by-step process, but here's how it's done:

You'll need:
Credit card, club card, gift card, etc.
Microfiber cloth
Screen-cleaning solution (like this homemade one)
Clear tape

  1. Set up your workstation. If you have a clean, non-slip mat, lay it down on your surface to prevent your phone from moving around while you apply the protector. Finally, clean your hands with soap and water to remove any lotion or dirt.
  2. Using an LCD cleaner and microfiber cloth, clean your screen, removing every last speck of dust. Avoid touching the screen.
  3. Remove the backing from the screen protector, and hold it along the edges. You may start from the top or bottom of your device, but a good rule of thumb is to start with the end that will require the most precise alignment. (For example, on the iPhone, it would be the home button.) Once you've aligned the protector, adhere it to the screen, following with the credit card to push out any bubbles.
  4. If there are any bubbles apparent, there are two possibilities: your screen is already scratched, or there is a fleck of dust stuck to the protector. If that's the case, use one piece of clear tape to lift the screen protector, and another to remove the dust from the adhesive side. Then, reapply the protector using the method in step 3.