Review: ShieldZone Front Shield for Apple iPhone
Though we've tested literally thousands of iPod and iPhone cases at this point, you might be surprised to learn that clear film has become the protector of choice for several iLounge editors: for users who aren't drop-prone and are primarily concerned about scratch-proofing, full body covers such as ones made by NLU Products (BodyGuardz) and ShieldZone (InvisibleShield) are ultra low-profile alternatives. They cover most of an iPod or iPhone's body in a transparent adhesive that's resilient enough to resist keys, coins, and even some knives, and they don't prevent either type of device from fitting in Apple's official docks or working with other accessories.
Some time ago, ShieldZone released innovative InvisibleShield film covers for iPods, and since then has released two versions for the iPhone: the Front Shield ($15) and the Full Body Shield ($25, iLounge rating: B-). We’ve recently had the chance to compare both the Front Shield and Full Body Shield to NLU Products’ complete iPhone film set BodyGuardz, as well as simple rectangular screen protectors from a number of other companies. The results were generally positive, though also somewhat predictably disappointing.
For years, we’ve noted that ShieldZone’s naming conventions for iPod products aren’t totally accurate: its “InvisibleShields” aren’t completely invisible, and its “Full Body Shields” don’t really cover the entire body of an iPod. When NLU Products tried to one-up ShieldZone with its clearer, slightly more protective 5G iPod BodyGuardz, ShieldZone stood still, and so its new iPhone products continue past mistakes rather than improving on them.
Focusing for a moment on the positives of the front protector sold as Front Shield and included as one half of the Full Body Shield, ShieldZone has released something here that is substantially more protective than most of the free or $10 screen protectors that are available these days. You peel off a clear sticker that covers all of iPhone’s glass screen save for its ear speaker hole and a small area under the Home button—less coverage by a little than the similar part in BodyGuardz—then use an included application spray bottle to moisten the sticker, and a squeegee to work out air and water bubbles in the protector.
To keep iPhone’s speaker and button safe, you’ll need to be careful that the fluid—slightly soapy water—doesn’t get in those holes, and so shaking off the moistened sticker before applying it is a good idea. Squeegeeing eliminates virtually all of the water and most of the air bubbles; a 24-hour drying process, shown chronologically in the photos here, eventually makes all but a couple of tiny air bubbles disappear. What you’re left with is a front glass surface that’s now even more scratch-resistant than before, and will look as good as new when the sticker is peeled off.
The same is true when you apply the rear sticker, which is the second part of the Full Body Shield and not included in the Front Shield package. This sticker covers the entire iPhone back surface save for the camera, as well as parts of the top, bottom, and sides. The word “parts” is important here, because though NLU’s BodyGuardz for iPhone also covers similar parts of iPhone, it actually covers more, including much of the device’s chrome bezel, which ShieldZone leaves entirely exposed. Neither of the products provides complete iPhone coverage, but BodyGuardz comes closer.
Another difference between the films is their transparency. Both use clear film that does not inhibit the use of iPhone’s screen or proximity sensor in any way. But ShieldZone continues to use a film that has a more prominent texture than NLU’s. The texture, which as we’ve noted before looks a bit like melted Saran Wrap, is visible on certain angles and looks, and we also noticed thin lines of uneven light in the center of the screen when iPhone was held on certain angles with InvisibleShield’s Front Shield on. This was a small issue—one that again doesn’t impair enjoyment of iPhone’s screen—but detracts a little from its perfection. NLU’s texture is similarly not invisible, but it’s less noticeable, and we haven’t had any uneven lighting issues in our samples.
One final point on ShieldZone’s offerings is pricing. We’re still not convinced that it’s worth paying $25—the same cost as a full case—for a couple of stickers and a squeegee, especially when the stickers aren’t as completely protective or clear as their names might suggest. NLU has tried to at least partially remedy not only those product-specific concerns, but also the pricing, by offering two sets of front and rear stickers in its iPhone packages for the same cost. While you get a lifetime warranty with InvisibleShields, enabling you to call upon the company for a replacement if it’s needed, we’d rather have two sets of film on hand at any time than just one.
Taken together, the superior looks, protection, and value of BodyGuardz reduce the amount that we feel we can recommend the Full Body Shield, as it’s not better in any way than BodyGuardz and costs just as much. As we love full-body film, and really like ShieldZone’s past products, our hope is that the company will tweak its pricing and design to make future Full Body Shields clearer, more protective, and more reasonably priced. For those needing only front-of-iPhone protection to complement a deficient case, however, the Front Shield is a superior option to most other film we’ve seen, though it could stand to be even clearer. Our standard level recommendation for that version is partially attributable to the fact that you can still get an even more protective full case such as Marware’s Sport Grip (ILounge rating: A-) for the same price.