How to Apply a Screen Protector on Your Smartphone or Tablet

Tips and tricks for preventing scratches on your screen

What to Know

  • Follow the screen protector's instructions, but in general, first, clean your mobile device using a microfiber cloth.
  • Next, align the protector at either the top or the bottom of the device, making sure both corners are level.
  • Then, lower the screen protector to the screen. Use a credit card to push out any bubbles.

This article explains how to apply a screen protector on your mobile device. It includes information on what to look for in a screen protector and why a device case alone might not be sufficient.

How to Apply a Screen Protector on Your Mobile Device

After you spend hundreds of dollars on a new smartphone or tablet, shelling out even more for a protective plastic cover may be a hard sell. Screen protectors or screen guards are great in theory, but many people find they attract dust, trap air bubbles, and are difficult to apply.

Here are the basic for applying a screen protector on your mobile device.

  1. First and foremost, follow the instructions.

  2. Find a clean surface and give yourself some time for the application—at least 10 minutes. You don't want to be smoking or cleaning your chalkboard right above your tablet while doing this, obviously. We've previously seen advice about applying the screen protector in the bathroom after taking a bath because the steam in the air would prevent dust from settling between your tablet and the screen protector. In our experience, this is not true.

  3. Clean your tablet or smartphone screen. Most protectors come with a solution or spray and a cleaning cloth. If yours does not, use a microfiber cloth to get your smartphone or tablet as clean as you can get it.

  4. Align the protector at the top or bottom of your device (it doesn't really matter, but your instructions may have a preference), using the features on your device—such as the camera or home button—as a guide. Make sure both corners are level before pressing down.

  5. Use a credit card or the card that came with your package to push bubbles out.

  6. If there are giant bubbles, use a piece of tape to pull up one corner of the film and reapply it. Just make sure you don't touch the bottom of the sticky side of the film, otherwise you will be trapping little dust or particles permanently to the screen protector.

Hands holding a smartphone

Anna Blazhuk / Getty Images

What to Look for in a Screen Protector

Full Body Front and Back Protection: If you plan on reselling your smartphone or tablet, get a screen protector for both the front and back of your device. It's just as easy to scratch up and ruin the back of a smartphone as it is the front. ​

Model-Specific Screen Protectors: Look for screen protectors made specifically for your device, since these screen protectors come with customized films that universal protectors do not. Wrapsol is one of the few screen protector manufacturers we found with custom protectors for certain types of phones. Besides being strong enough to withstand daily abuse, Wrapsol screens fit well and add texture to make the phone more comfortable to use. ​

Multiple Packs: Applying a screen protector isn't the hardest thing you'll do in your life, but it can be frustrating. Everyone thinks the alignment, dust, and bubbles problems won't be an issue because he or she has steady hands or played Operation a bunch of times as a child, but these things are not designed to go on smoothly. That's why many of them come in 3-packs, so you can reapply. ​

Anti-Glare: If you use your device in sunlight a lot, you may want to look for an anti-glare screen protector. While we personally have not tried these kinds of screen guards, it makes sense to use a matte screen protector on a glossy (or matte) screen, if glare is a concern for you.

Screen Protectors Versus Device Cases

Some smartphone cases and ​tablet cases offer protective plastic shells or screens you can view or interact through but don't offer any protection for the screen once the case is opened.

Although device cases with built-in screen protectors seem like the ideal all-in-one solution, the plastic covers are often so thick that they're not very usable, and the gap between the plastic and your device's display is a further hindrance to touch controls. A screen protector, because it lays right on top of the screen, does not shift or add any noticeable bulk. But they can be a pain to apply.

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