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Hands-on with Crystal Film for the iPhone

Chris Ziegler

One of the inevitable first questions that gets asked when laying out hundreds of dollars for a device with a giant, glossy, gorgeous touchscreen is, "just how the heck am I going to protect this thing?" It turns out that the iPhone may not need any particular babying, but for the paranoid among us, Power Support is offering its "Crystal Film" through Apple stores. Ironically, Apple itself says that protective films aren't recommended since they can interfere with the iPhone's ability to register gestures, but sho' nuff, walk into any brick-and-mortar Apple Store and you're going to see these packs on the shelf. No matter how scratch-resistant it may seem, we figure there'll be plenty of people willing to lay out the $14.95 sticker price for the marginal additional peace of mind Crystal Film offers, so we wanted to take a look at just how user-friendly the stuff is.

Installation was a breeze. Anyone used to applying products like WriteRights to their Palms, Pocket PCs, and other touchscreen devices from days of yore know that it can be a harrowing process fraught with dust particles, alignment issues, and impossible-to-remove air bubbles no matter how careful you think you're being, so the Crystal Film is a breath of fresh air in comparison. Somehow, the film seemed to basically suck itself into place as soon as it started to touch the phone, so all we had to do was make sure it was appropriately aligned. Getting it lined up was easier than your typical screen protector thanks to the film's cutouts for the earpiece and home button.

On our first attempt, the alignment wasn't perfect. No biggie; Power Support recommends using cellophane tape to lift the film back off the phone, and that worked like a champ. Wash, rinse, repeat -- our second attempt was much more successful. The film can be removed and reapplied repeatedly for cleaning, though we imagine that won't be necessary in practice.

Once appiled, the film was barely noticeable to the eye (in fact, it would've been impossible if not for the seams around the button and earpiece). The feel of the film was almost indistinguishable from the naked screen for gesturing with our fingers, which we think is absolutely key to a product like this having any sort of commercial success.

Bottom line: probably not necessary, but if something like this helps you sleep a little easier at night, you won't regret the purchase. The installation process won't raise your blood pressure and once it's on, you won't even know it's shielding your precious cargo from sharp baddies.

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