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Apple Store, iPad Screen Protector Film Drama

June 2nd, 2010

Today, I took some time to do some computer shopping and maintenance downtown. The worst part of it was taking my MacBook Pro to the Apple store in Ginza, where it conveniently died. It had lost its optical drive a few days before–the issue I had come in for–and was having difficulty restarting. When I tried to restart it in the store, it just refused–wouldn’t work in target mode, after zapping the PRAM, after letting it rest for 20 minutes, nothing. And before turning it off, I had neglected to collect my most recent files on a USB flash. Argh. So it’ll be in for repairs for a week or so, and I’ll probably be lucky to get the files back.

While there, it was hard to miss the fact that the first floor was packed with people checking out the iPad. They have none in stock, and when I asked about reserving one (my brother may be interested), they pointed me to the online store, which has a long waiting period. Interestingly, this may help its popularity in Japan. People here think something is cooler if it is unobtainable or even hard to get. Krispy Kreme was a big hit when the lines were a mile long.

On the way to the store, I saw my first iPad used by someone else on a train–a westerner, as it turned out (he said he bought it in Japan). I also noticed that people pay attention to your iPad more in crowded trains; on the local trains on the Seibu line, the seats are half empty, and I never noticed anyone looking. Taking the subway during rush hour, to Ginza and then Akihabara, however, it was easy to note people sneaking looks. In fact, a couple of young ladies made quiet but greatly interested noises as I used the iPad to read an ebook, oohing and ahhing when I turned a page.

I went to Akihabara to complain about an iPad screen film I had bought the week before, when I was in Akihabara for something else. I had bought the screen film at the Labi (Yamada Denki) there as I had seen it on sale nowhere else. When I got home and opened it, the damned thing was blue. I called the shop chain, Labi, about getting a replacement, and they said they could not do that at any store but the original–meaning I’d have to go all the way back to Akihabara to exchange the thing, a proposition that would take an hour or two for me, and would cost maybe four bucks in train fares, to exchange a $15 product.

I tried to figure out where I was going wrong, but there seemed no solution–it was a blue sheet cut perfectly for the iPad, right down to the hole for the home button, stuck to a slightly larger clear sheet to protect the side to affix to the iPad. The instructions showed only those two sheets, the ones that I saw. No freakin’ way I would put something so blue on my iPad. I figured it had to be a packaging error.

I finally found time to go to Akihabara today, coming back from the Apple store, so I made the trek back to Labi. When I showed the film to the shop staff, the guy pointed out that the blue sheet was a secondary protective cover, with the actual film–exactly the same shape and size as the blue film–sandwiched invisibly between the clear plastic sheet and the blue film top. Very badly designed, incredibly badly written instructions. They were indistinguishable until you spent a while prying them apart.

What really ticked me off, though, was the shop staff’s attitude and demeanor. First, the guy who pointed out the blue protective sheet did so in a manner that all but shouted, “what, are you stupid, dumb ass?” I wanted to smack him, he was so condescending–I doubt one out of three people would have figured it out. Second, when he demonstrated that they were separate, he did so by separating the blue sheet from the film, which took him about 10 or 15 seconds, demonstrating how hard it was to separate them–and in the process touched the inside part of the film liberally with flaky-skinned hands. I grabbed it back from him before he could do more damage. Tis guy was the antithesis of the normal shop staff in these kinds of stores, who are usually very helpful and polite.

Not wanting to have to return to the store for a third time if I encountered more difficulty, I tried to apply the film right there. I spent a few minutes very carefully wiping down the iPad, and took extreme care in handing the film. But the product–made by “Elecom”–was very badly made, aside from the poor instructions. There was a crease near the bottom which had been covered by a tape, which all by itself would have ruined it–at first I thought maybe I could get it off later somehow. The film was slightly smaller than the actual screen, making it difficult to put on just right, and it attracted dust like a magnet–not unexpected for such films, but this one gave me headaches. One piece of dust had settled on the inside of the film near the center, making a big splotch when the film was affixed.

This was when I really did get stupid: I asked another clerk there for help. He told me to use my microfiber cloth to wipe it off. “Really?” I asked, and he said, yeah, that’ll do it. Like an idiot–partly because I could see no other way, partly because I figured he knew what he was talking about–I did what he said. And promptly saw an inch-wide splotch of dozens of dust particles now stuck where one had been before. The sheet was ruined. The ass then suggested I use a kleenex tissue, as if that wouldn’t leave any more dust and would solve my problems. As far as I could tell, the film was ruined there and then, doubly so from the crease that had been there from the start. When I said so, they guy just shrugged. No way I would even try to get a refund then–they would without any doubt have refused. I don’t know, maybe it could have been washed or something, but I didn’t see that or anything else working. Frustrated, I just tore the thing off and crumpled it up, telling the guy “thanks a lot” before leaving the place for good.

On the way back, I stopped by Bic and bought a cheaper film made by Buffalo, and took it home. It was clear, the right size, and easy to affix. Let me tell you, I am never going back to the Akihabara Labi, and am staying away from Elecom junk.

Alas, I may have to ditch the Buffalo product as well. While it covered the screen OK and seems to reduce the glare a bit, it is a horrible surface for fingerprints. People complain about how the iPad picks up fingerprints–let me tell you, the iPad’s oleophobic screen is getting a bad rap. The cover film picks up fingerprints like nobody’s business, smudges which are three times more visible than they were on the iPad screen, making me want to wipe it down every 30 seconds or so. Worse, the film is five times as hard to wipe down. Relative to this, the iPad’s own screen is far, far superior to this film, harder to smudge and a breeze to clear off. I don’t know if I just got a bad product again, but damn, this is disappointing. I had wanted to protect the screen, foreseeing either potential scratching or other damage, or possibly having the oleophobic coating wear off. The film I have on my iPhone is great. The stuff on the iPad sucks, big time.

So, not the best afternoon ever.

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  1. ok
    June 2nd, 2010 at 02:27 | #1

    Hey, you’re a decent writer. I realize you are a blogger, but I think your talents might be better served in writing fiction. Also, you don’t need a film protector for iPad. For iPhone, it makes sense… it’s in your packet with keys and change and can get scratched. You’ll never put your iPad in your pocket. Get a decent flip case, like the Apple Case, and go without he film. Protective film on iPad is superfluous.

  2. June 2nd, 2010 at 17:28 | #2

    I’ve tried a number of films on my iPhone over the time I’ve had it (well, it’s a 3G model now; I had the original one, too). By far the best I have used, and still use, is one that is a [b]matte[/b] version.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t make a note of the brand, but there are plenty of matte films out there, and for the iPhone they’re often only a buck or three. I would imagine that you can find one for the iPad; just keep trying until you find the right brand and then buy a couple of them and stash them in your desk.

  3. Ian
    June 10th, 2010 at 01:15 | #3

    I too got the Elecom film.

    And yes, I can attest to the fact that it collects WAY more fingerprints than the iPad glass did AND it is WAY harder to clean. Go figure. With so many fingerprints, I’m tempted to just take it off and use the iPad as is…

    I am beginning to think that @ok is right. May not be necessary.

    As for the blue film… I too was caught off guard like you initially, but after tugging on the paper tag that was stuck to it trying to tear it off, I realized it was a protective layer to keep my nasty oily fingers from touching it. There was an “addendum instruction” that shows what to do that I glossed over on the cellophane of the elecom package.

    Sorry to hear about your experience. Hope you’re fun with the iPad makes up for it.

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