These awesome people circled me!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Removing factory screen protector on Sony Z Ultra?

Chances are, if you have taken the time to read this article, its because you own a Z Ultra and are considering removing the terrible pre-installed screen guard. Or perhaps you are already trying to get it off and need assistance. Either way, I've decided to share my experience removing this nightmare in the hopes that it makes your life easier.

For starters, I must admit that the procedure I decided upon is based on my own ideas in conjunction with suggestions from Ultra owners on XDA. So thanks to the XDA community for all they contribute!

"But wait, I saw the videos on YouTube. They all look so easy. Why do I need this tutorial?" I thought the same thing. Until I tried to do it like I saw. It yielded awful cracking sounds, shards of what appeared to be shattered glass, and only tiny pieces coming off at a time. I feared I had just ruined a 650 dollar phone. I was thinking to myself that none of the videos actually show an Ultra, just other Xperias. Maybe the Ultra's protector is not to be removable?

It is... Not easily. Turns out that the Ultra, specifically, has its protector glued on. With some heavy duty stuff, too. This I found from XDA. 15 pages of people struggling to scrape off the mess. Most of the users confirmed that scraping away at the screen for hours and hours finally got the screen bare. One suggested heat. A few suggested using chemicals. I weighed all of the options. The majority used a blade and scraped away at the screen, noting that no harm was done to the underlying glass. Seemed logical, but I wouldn't scratch a knife over 6.4" of screen repeatedly just because it can take it...
I considered the heat option. But logic told me that the amount of heat required to soften the adhesive could be potentially damaging to the internal components of the phone.
That left chemicals. Acetone, to be specific. I no longer work in the printing industry, so getting some high grade acetone was out of the question. So I settled for my wife's "Swan" brand nail polish remover. (The main ingredient is acetone, which was good enough for me...) Seemed like the most logical solution, given that liquid intrusion is not much of a worry on these phones.

Okay, so here we go...
You will need the following tools to remove the film:
-Exacto knife (the standard triangle shaped blade works good...)
-Nail polish remover
-a couple of Q-tips
-A cotton rag
-Rubber gloves if you're a chemophobe (is that a word?)
-patience (don't try without plenty of this!)

A note about using the nail polish remover: there's a "sweet spot" when it comes to how it works. Go too fast, the glue is too hard and brittle. Go too slow, the glue re-solidifies and the acetone evaporates. With a little trial and error, you'll find the right timing...

So for starters, turn off your phone. Now, using a q-tip, put a decent sized drop of acetone in the corner of the screen. Use the point of the exacto knife and slide it under the protector. Take your time. It may not come up on the first try, or even the fifth. Eventually, the glue will soften and the corner will peel up. Re-apply the nail polish remover as needed to keep it from drying back up. Once you (finally) get the corner started, things will get a little easier.
Got the corner up? Good. Now, depending on the knife you're using, there's two ways to continue. The knife I used was all metal and had a screw-tight holder for the blade. I was able to dip the knife into the bottle of acetone and enough liquid was retained in the blade holder to let it drip down and keep the knife wet as I worked. If this doesn't work for you, use a q-tip to add acetone to the area you're working on. Either way, use the knife to slide along the junction of attached film and removed film. Keep this junction moistened, and stay aware of that moment when the glue is at its liquefied state. Gently pulling on the film as you work helps, but too much pulling and the film snaps. Don't worry if it does, it will just take a little longer. I was able to work the blade into the film about 1/8" at a time. When enough film is removed and you can get a good grip, you almost don't need the blade at all. Keeping the junction moistened and slight pulling force slowly peels the film away, but I recommend continuing with the blade only because you'll get overconfident and tear the film. Then you'll be right back to starting with the blade again and have nothing to grab on to until you get going again. (Patience!)
As you proceed, you'll start to notice that the exposed glass underneath is pretty ugly looking. Weird lines where you slid the knife, ridges and valleys, maybe even chunks of hard glue that look like shattered glass. Do your best to ignore all of that. You'll start getting worried and I promise there's no reason to worry. Just keep going, the end result is worth it.
Still with me? Okay. As you continue, you'll be a pro at removing the film as soon as you're almost done (at which point you'll never need to be a pro again unless you own two Ultras...) And once the film is off, guess what? You're only half way done!
Now the task of removing the half-gallon of glue that's still on the glass. Here's where the cotton rag comes in. I should mention microfiber cloths will not work here. As a matter of fact, bigger fibers are better, such as a bath towel or something. It should also be large enough that you can use different areas of the cloth as you proceed, because the cloth will gunk up with adhesive quickly.
Soak an area of the cloth in acetone and start wiping. I used a top-down motion (not back and forth) and the glue started rolling off in little sticky balls. Keep going, using a clean area of cloth as needed (the more often the better). You will eventually get down to bare glass. I found that if I kept wiping downward on the same 2 inches at the top of the phone until bare glass was exposed, the rest was easier to work off...
Starting to look good? The phone, when "all" of the glue is removed, will still feel tacky and have a matte haze to it. You may even still have artifacts of the lines made from where the blade slid under the film. You can continue with the acetone and cloth, I chose to switch to microfiber and screen spray. It allowed me to get most of the screen crystal clear and see what areas needed extra attention. Some spots around the corners and edges and a few dots in the center still had a bit of glue. Here I decided to use the knife. I figured this: if all of these other people scraped the knife across the whole screen and it survived, a couple scrapes couldn't be bad. Take the knife and with light pressure, scrape back and forth over the glue until the spot is gone.
Now a couple of polishing sessions later, success! Bask in the beauty that is a bare slab of glass. Also worth mentioning, the Sony logo at the top of the phone will be gone, as it is a part of the film.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this helped you out!