Back in the darkest depths of smartphone history — around mid-2013 — using a Sony flagship involved peering at its dazzling high-res display from the other side of a frustrating fixed screen protector. Sony's "anti-shatter film," used in most Xperias until the Xperia Z2 felt cheap and nasty, and scratched more easily than the glass that it covered. Worse still, forcibly removing it stripped the screen of its oleophobic coating — as this was applied to the film, not the glass — meaning the exposed screen would soon get gunked up with fingerprints.
It was a bad thing that deserved to go away.
So as the Xperia Z3+ starts to go on sale in Europe, buyers are unboxing the device to find yet another pre-fitted screen protector staring back at them. The old anti-shatter film hasn't returned from its grave, however, and this isn't the same type of screen protector you'd find stuck to an Xperia Z or Z1. In fact, it's more like the optional plastic screen protectors you'd find boxed with an Xperia Z2 or Z3, only pre-applied to the phone.
First things first — we should point out that the phone's manual advises against removing the screen protector:
At purchase, there are two sheets of plastic film on the front of your device. You can peel off the outer sheet of film when you start using the device. It is not recommended to peel off the second sheet of film as it protects your screen from damage and scratching.
That's all well and good. If you were planning on using a screen protector anyway, then Sony just saved you the trouble of applying one. For sure, it'll stop your shiny new screen from getting scratched up.
But here's the thing: The factory-fitted screen protector is just bad — really bad. In addition to feeling like the very chintziest of chintzy plastic, it has basically no oleophobic qualities whatsoever. The second you start touching or swiping, it's fingerprint city. It's also notably more reflective than the glass underneath, making it harder to see in daylight.
Protecting the screen shouldn't come at the cost of making it look and feel crappy.
Sony has confirmed to Android Central that the Z3+ has a "factory-fitted protective film," but isn't saying any more than that. In the meantime we just decided to peel the cursed thing off our unit. We found that the film peels away just like any aftermarket screen protector, with a fingernail in one of the corners and a very minimal amount of effort. It's not stuck down with heavy-duty adhesive like the anti-shatter film from the Xperia Z1 and earlier Sony phones. And the glass beneath it has its own oleophobic coating, so you don't need to worry about smudges either.
When you buy a new smartphone, you want to keep it in top condition for as long as possible — especially the screen, which is its primary input and output device. But for us, it's just not worth it when protecting the screen comes at the cost of making it look and feel crappy. (And frankly, it's a concern that many users won't even realize that removing it is possible.) That's why we'll be using the Z3+ as nature intended, with no tacky plastic between our fingers and the display.
We'll have more to say on the Xperia Z3+ in our full review. Stay tuned.