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A screen protector is an additional sheet of material that can be attached to a screen of a electronic device and protect it against physical damage. Screen protectors first entered the market after the rise of personal digital assistant (PDA) since PDAs were often operated via a stylus. The tip of the stylus could scratch the sensitive LCD screen surface, screen protectors provided sacrificial protection from this damage. Since then the ubiquity of mobile smartphones has seen the screen protector become widespread.
The first screen protector was invented by Herbert Schlegel. The "first generation" of screen protectors were made from very thin films based on the concept that an extra layer between the two surfaces (screen and stylus) would provide the needed protection to prolong the life of the device. These screen protectors come in packs of 10 to 20 protectors and are hand-cut by the end consumer to fit the specific device enabling the end user to fit them to different devices. Such screen protectors, while offering extra protection, did not completely fill the need in the marketplace. They peeled off easily and they scratched almost as easily as the screens, causing the protector to be replaced often.
The newest generation of screen protectors are made from a much more durable film and are designed to be a more permanent part of the gadget which they protect. The material is a urethane-based film which is a little thicker than traditional screen protectors (.008 inches compared to .005 or .003), but the film is hardly noticeable once installed. Second-generation screen protectors on the other hand, although more expensive, offer better long-term protection and are generally made specifically for each individual device, providing the user with a better fitting protector.
For less permanent solutions there are screen protectors that are non-adhesive and work by sitting in the gap between the LCD screen and the case of the device. The film can be removed, cleaned and reinstalled without any problem. This new generation of film is available with anti-glare coating to help users see the screen in daylight. The non-adhesive screen protector can cover LCD screens from one inch to 50 inch diagonal and is used on digital cameras to large HDTVs.
The anti-reflective screen protector film has been introduced in 2008 in Japan and works by canceling out glare and blocking the reflection of UV rays. This allows users to see the display clearer, even outdoors and while wearing polarized sunglasses. The film has a tacky rubberized backing which adheres to the display, but can easily be removed and reinstalled when necessary. The film comes in sizes up to 50 inch diagonal and can be installed without need for water or soapy solutions. The film has been approved for use by the military, boaters, laptop manufacturers, law enforcement agencies and is recommended for everyone who likes to use their device outdoors. The film can stay in place for over 1 year and retains its glare canceling benefit.
Types and Materials 
Screen protectors come in many types, common types include
- Protectors that are clear and have a glossy finish
- Protectors that seem black when looked at from an angle
- Protectors that have a mirror coating
- Protectors that have an anti-glare coating
- Protectors that have an oleophobic coating to reduce fingerprints
- Protectors that filter UV
- Protectors with a matte finish
Screen protectors are commonly made from urethane or glass.
Some "screen wash" spray products claim to leave a protective layer after use.