Applying a screen protector to your phone or tablet correctly is not for the faint of heart, as the procedure seems to require more patience and steady hands than your average Japanese calligrapher or rice writer. The end result is also often unwieldy, with tilted corners, and bubbles, dust or debris trapped underneath your shiny new screen protector.
To ease the procedure's pains somewhat, alternative methods for putting on your protector exist, that simply involve some masking tape, and a lot less patience than usual, while the end result is much more bubble- and dust-free.
Granted, not everyone cares about screen protection in the days of Gorilla Glass 3
, Asahi Dragontrail, or sapphire
coatings, but even those are inevitably going to develop scratches - from the miniature to the more significant - which would diminish the resale value of a tablet or a phone. These devices are basically all-screen nowadays, and that's where you look at most of the time spent interacting with your mobile gear, so taking a bit of time to protect your expensive toy's display is utterly warranted.
The instructions below apply for self-adhesive protectors, where the best brands like Vikuiti by 3M, or Spigen's Steinheil, cost quite a bit more than the pack of five you got on eBay for a dollar each. However, it's the more expensive ones that fit perfectly, and keep themselves smudge- and scratch-free, too, not only the handset's screen below. Thus, if applied right, they can stay on the job for the duration of your ownership, so check out Billy The Cat's excellent updated guide in the slideshow below, if you are interested.
How to put on a screen protector without applying bubbles or dust
How to put on a screen protector without applying bubbles or dust
1. Workspace and materials needed
Clean, well-lit area is a must, and if the environment is humid, it will prevent static dust, too. You'll need your screen protector brand of choice, felt cloth, scotch tape, some low on adhesive painter's tape, and lens cleaning solution, or simply Windex.
2. Protector size and form test
Lay the screen protector on the phone's display to gauge the correct position it should be placed at. Some devices have different top and bottom corner radius, so if you flip the protector in the other direction there will be too much or too little to apply.
3. Make extra flaps for easy layer removal and thoroughly clean your phone's screen
Most good screen protectors already have tabs to grab and remove the layer protecting the adhesive and/or the backing, but if yours doesn't, or you feel the factory ones won't do, make one or two of your own. Simply cut an inch or two of the scotch tape, stick half of it on the layer(s) that require removal, then fold the other end in two and glue the tape onto itself, so that you can have a non-sticky "handle" to pull the tab at.
4. Clean the display and apply two strips of masking tape at the back of the phone
Thoroughly clean your phone's front with lens solution, Windex, or whatever cleaning liquid that doesn't leave residue you prefer, then wipe with a dry lint-free cloth. Turn the phone face-down on a clean sheet, and adhere two strips of masking tape to its back, on the side where you will be gluing your protector first.
5. Stick the masking tape to the sides
Put your index finger under the painter's tape flaps and roll them over until they stick to the side, perched atop of the phone's front.
6. Position the screen protector
Place the screen protector onto the display, in the correct way you determined in step 2, so that it lines up with all of the display's sides and corners.
7. Use the masking tape flaps as hinges
Now we've come to the beauty of this method. Keeping the well-positioned protector in place with your thumbs, simply roll the masking tape flaps at the opposite end over the screen protector. They will serve as two improvised "hinges" of sorts, that will keep the screen protector in the exact position you need it to adhere perfectly over the screen without displacements.
8. Clean the phone's screen again
Carefully lift the screen protector by the factory tabs or the scotch tape flaps you created in step 3, and support it upright while you wipe the display clean with the microfiber or felt cloth one last time, just to make sure there's nothing on.
9. Applying the protector
This here's the part you have to be most careful. Holding the protector for the improvised scotch tape handle from step 2, grab the factory tab, and peel the layer that protects the adhesive away from the screen protector. This will invariably create some static and attract tiny dust particles to the protector, but, unless the air around is very humid, that's as good as it gets.
Now, beginning from the hinged side, slowly start laying down the bare protector, ironing the air out with a "squegee" or any plastic credit or membership card you have available, whose edge better be wrapped in cloth for extra protection. The improvised masking tape hinges should have held the screen protector into place when applied, so after carefully squeezing the air out in your direction, the protector should be firmly applied, without much bubbles or dust trapped underneath.
Carefully peel the masking tape helpers from your phone and protector, starting from the display side, and working them as parallel as possible to the surface of the protector, so they don't accidentally lift it up. Peel the tape strips over the edges now and remove from the back of the phone or tablet. If there are any air bubbles left, they will be towards the edge where the masking tape was, and will be easy to push out with the squeegee or a card, whose edge is wrapped in cloth so as not to scratch or dirt up the protector. That's it.
10. Removing leftover dust or debris
If, despite all the efforts, you still spot some dust trapped underneath, use an extra scotch tape piece, folded at the end where you hold it, and with the adhesive side up at the other. Carefully lift the protector corner where the dust is trapped, holding it by the scotch tape handles from part 2, or making a new one at the needed place. The dust or debris piece will stick to the adhesive of the protector when you lift it up from the screen, rather than remain on the display.
Grab the extra scotch tape, folded at one end, and with the adhesive at the other pointing upwards. Swipe it under the lifted protector, and make the protector fall back onto it, so that the dust particle place can stick there. Apply some gentle pressure if needed, and then peel it off, holding the other scotch tape handle you stuck on the opposite side of the protector.
The dust particle should stick to the first piece of tape, so now you can apply the lifted part of the screen protector back on, pushing the air out with the squeegee piece or a card. Repeat the procedure if the tape didn't get the dust from the first time, or if there are particles trapped elsewhere. Now gently peel off the masking tape hinges like in step 9, starting from the screen part, and working towards the phone's edges making sure you don't pull up fast, risking to lift the protector off. Gently remove any other leftover tape from the protector and phone, too. That's all, folks.