In the world of mobile tech, there are tons and tons of screen protectors to pick from. But they mostly fall in two categories — you’ve got thin plastic sheets and tempered glass protectors. Users usually prefer the latter, since glass feels better than plastic, and because the tempered screen protectors have oleophobic coating — they are easier to clean than plastic.But, there is this special type of screen protectors available for the iPad. Pioneered by the company Paperlike, but they also have a couple of copycats, the Paperlike screen protector has a fine, soft matte finish, which makes the iPad’s display feel like… well — paper.
I’ve been using one for a while now, and I feel like
Paperlike screen protectors are the best and worst thing to happen to the iPad
OK, first, let’s talk about the pros.
Touch and feel
The Paperlike (and similar products) protector is generally marketed towards Apple Pencil users. Since the Pencil has a plastic tip, it slides along the glass panel of an iPad’s screen in a manner, which feels… unnatural. Paperlike instantly fixes this.
Whether you are one for handwriting or drawing, it feels immediately awesome once you apply a Paperlike.
However, I find that it also improves the feel of the iPad for simple touch operation. I cycle through many musical apps with rotating knobs, sliders, and virtual piano keys. All of these are sometimes annoying, as the glass feels slippery and input gets inaccurate. Especially when the glass gets smudged up.
With Paperlike on the screen, fingerprint grease is reduced drastically and the display has a lot of grip, making it super-easy to accurately move sliders or tap the right virtual piano keys.
So, in general, a Paperlike protector makes an iPad feel better all around, hands down.
Since it’s a matte protector, you can say goodbye to sharp reflections and screen glare. Now, it’s not magical and it doesn’t let you use the iPad under direct sunlight. But it does mute reflections quite a lot, so you might find yourself able to enjoy your content in situations where you were previously annoyed by the reflections.
Despite its matte texture, the Paperlike doesn’t hinder viewing angles as well.
It’s not all sunshine… but there are some rainbows
There is one unfortunate truth to matte-finished protectors — they refract light. As soon as you put a Paperlike screen protector on your iPad, you will see that it’s covered in a gazillion little “rainbow dots”.
The effect is most visible when viewing white background. In fact, it is so distracting that I enabled Dark Mode permanently on the iPad.
It’s OK if you want to binge-watch Netflix or YouTube — the effect is not as annoying then.
But if you want to do some photo editing? Oh, no. ISO and color noise become virtually impossible to detect, and fine details are all garbled.
Additionally, it makes very little sense to buy the new iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) with its super-awesome Mini LED Liquid Retina screen just to hamper its sharp quality by putting millions of micro dots on it.
Wear and tear
Luckily, Paperlike actually sells its screen protectors in 2-packs, so you have the peace of mind of having a spare on hand when a changeup is needed.
Apple Pencil destroyer
OK, not really, but it kind of sounds cool, doesn’t it? Anyway, active artists have said in reviews that they find themselves replacing an Apple Pencil tip between 4 and 6 months when using a Paperlike protector. With daily drawing over glass, the life of a Pencil tip is between 8 and 12 months, usually. This is due to the matte texture of the protector providing more resistance and thus wearing the Apple Pencil tip faster.
Thankfully, the Pencil tips come in 4-packs and are one Apple accessory that’s actually not insanely expensive.
The bottom line
If you don’t do photo or video editing on your iPad, you should definitely consider a Paperlike (or similar) screen protector. It improves the overall feel of the iPad, whether you use an Apple Pencil or just your fingers.
But, if image quality is really important to you, prepare for a sacrifice or disappointment. More importantly, if you own one of the new Liquid Retina XDR iPad Pro 12.9 units, you should probably get a glass screen protector so you can enjoy the sharpness, contrast, and colors you paid for.