Review: Mobile Juice Skin Art 4G
Pros: An interesting-looking multi-colored silicone iPod case with packed in wrist and neck straps, belt clip, attractively low price.
Cons: By comparison with other options, fit and finish of individual parts is moderately lacking; 40GB case’s holes bulge a bit; so-so screen and Wheel protection sold separately.
Silicone rubber 4G iPod skins are precariously close to commoditization. When Apple simplified the 4G iPod’s front face to include only two shapes (a single Click Wheel and a single screen), case manufacturing became commensurately easier, and highly similar rubber cases began to appear.
The Skin Art cases from Mobile Juice exemplify this trend. From a design standpoint, they are similar to Power Support’s simple but clean 4G Silicone Jackets (iLounge rating: B+) we’ve reviewed and liked, only cheaper and somewhat less polished, with small manufacturing differences at the edges, different pack-ins, and different color schemes.
Skin Art cases are individually sized to fit specific 4G iPods (20/40GB); we received and tested the 40GB version. Each package includes six pieces - the case, a detachable white plastic belt clip, a screw-off white plastic belt nub, a fabric wristband, a fabric lanyard necklace, and a small black fabric and plastic tie-in mount that attaches to the case for wristband and lanyard use. Unlike Power Support’s Silicone Jacket, no screen or Click Wheel protector is included, but Mobile Juice offers them separately.
Two small holes in the case’s side let you tie in the fabric and plastic lanyard or wristband mount with relative ease. The fabric loop on the mount we received was already frayed, though not in a way that appeared to presently affect the safety of the attachment for neck or wrist purposes. Detaching and attaching the wristband and lanyard from the mount was easy, and both fabric pieces were comfortable enough to wear. Whether you’ll want to dangle your 40GB iPod from your wrist or neck is another issue altogether.
Skin Art’s belt clip and nub system isn’t great, but isn’t bad. A cheap white plastic screw-in nub attaches to a metal post in the case’s rear; a nicer-looking white belt clip slips onto the nub. Though attractive and detachable, the belt clip doesn’t include a great locking/unlocking mechanism; it attaches quickly and detaches with a swift pull. We’ve seen considerably better systems.
The single most distinctive characteristic of the Skin Art case we tested is its color scheme, which is the third variant we’ve seen on mixing multiple colors of silicone together to form “art.” Some of the cases of this sort are mixed to create swirls; Skin Art looks more like a camouflage pattern by comparison. Multiple colors are available; “Chic” is a black and white pattern, “Tango” the orange, black and yellow one we reviewed, “Luminance” a purple and green, and “Yellow”/“Orange” cases with black stripes are also available. As with the other mixed-color silicone skins, we’ll leave it to you to decide whether you like the Skin Art look; we thought that it was okay.
Our only major issues with the Skin Art’s design were in the little details: when compared against the Silicone Jacket, for example, it looks a bit less polished at the edges. One positive is that its Dock Connector hole is just the right width to accommodate the accessories we commonly use, but from there, the holes aren’t great. The screen hole was a bit less than perfectly aligned on its sides, as was the Click Wheel hole, which buckled a bit in the way that such holes on improperly sized cases often do. Similarly, the top hole buckled a bit, exposing more of the iPod’s top than we would have liked. And the case’s edges have a cheaper two-piece seamed look than most of their higher-end competitors.
Mobile Juice’s screen, Wheel, and back protection offerings (sold separately) are similarly only acceptable. On the bright side, each of them mostly covers the surface it’s intended to protect, and the adhesive is just about right to stay on the iPod without issues. But none is precision-matched to the exact size of the component it’s guarding, and absent that, none is oversized so as to be extra protective; rather, they’re all on the too small side. Proper alignment is at least a major challenge, and at most, futile.
The company’s Wheel Film protectors (two per pack) are a step or two behind the best wheel protectors we’ve seen, missing center (Action) button protection, not precisely covering the Wheel, and employing printer-quality images. On the bright side, they use waterproof material, which is better than just cheap paper. But the print quality isn’t great - our photo above cleans up the pixels a bit. We preferred the clear look of Power Support’s offerings, amongst others, and at least on the vendor web sites we’ve checked, we have seen no direct way to choose which of Mobile Juice’s patterns a person receives. Retailers of these items will hopefully fix this, as not everyone will want dolphins on the iPod’s Wheel.
Similarly, the company’s PowerGuard iPod back protectors (two per pack) are a bit on the odd side. Our sample featured a pixelated black Rorschach of cow spots on a white background, and didn’t cover the whole metallic rear of the iPod, or its corners. Mobile Juice’s Screen Shields (two per pack) are small and tough to properly align on your screen.
Skin Art offsets all of these issues with relatively low prices: the cases are priced at $12.00 and sell for as little as $9.99; the Wheel Film for $5 per pack, and the Screen Shields for $3 per pack, sometimes discounted to a mere $0.10 each. (PowerGuard back protectors, which aren’t necessary to the package, go for $7 per two-pack.) Consequently, to walk away with a fully equipped Skin Art case, including two straps, a clip, plus screen and Wheel protection could be accomplished for around $15, an total low enough that some people will be plenty happy to experiment regardless of the quality of any of the components.
Overall, though it would be a stretch to say that any of the Skin Art components was “bad,” we weren’t thrilled by the rough edges on each of the parts. By comparison with existing offerings, the cut and patterns of the Skin Art case and separate film parts were unimpressive, the belt clipping solution was on the cheap side, and the pre-frayed fabric mount for the straps didn’t exactly scream “high quality.” Those who like the look or the low price of the Skin Art cases may be willing to ignore these details, but from our perspective, there are many better-made cases already available.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.