Review: BodyGuardz Armor Carbon Fiber for iPad 2 + iPhone 4
Part of the appeal of Apple sequel devices such as the iPad 2 and iPhone 4 is their reduced size: each generation tends to be thinner and lighter than the last. Naturally then, the thickness and weight of each new year's protective cases may matter to consumers who want to enjoy the benefits of Apple's annual slenderizing exercises while still protecting their investments. Protective stickers, including BodyGuardz (formally NLU Products) Armor Carbon Fiber for iPad 2 ($30) and iPhone 4 ($20), are designed to do just that. A faux carbon fiber film made from adhesive-backed plastic, Armor Carbon Fiber sticks to the back and sides of each device while adding almost no bulk. Both versions cover most of the backs and edges of the iPad 2 and iPhone 4, leaving all ports and buttons exposed, with adequate space for the control differences in the GSM and CDMA versions of the iPhone 4.
We first installed the iPad 2 film. Despite the sticker rolling in on itself at first after being pulled off of its backing, installation was impressively easy and precise, taking less than a minute in total—surprisingly fast by comparison with many films we have previously applied. While the adhesive was sticky, it had enough give to allow us to reposition the film and remove air bubbles during the process. The vast majority of the back of the iPad 2 is covered, up to about a millimeter or two from the edges.
Around all of the openings and buttons there is plenty of clearance; none of them are blocked or hindered in any way. At the top right side of the film is an opening for the SIM card tray on the GSM iPad 2; an extra sticker fits right in place for those with Wi-Fi or CDMA models, and GSM users who don’t need access to the slot. One area where BodyGuardz did cut corners was in, well, cutting the corners; we have seen other companies achieve better coverage on the rounded edges. Notably, Apple’s Smart Cover works just fine with Armor Carbon Fiber, creating a much more protective option than the standalone front cover for those who are willing to drop a bunch of cash for both products.
Installation on the iPhone 4 was very similar, if not a bit easier. Because of the smaller coverage area and lack of curves, application took only a few seconds. In addition to complete coverage of the back, there are five stickers to cover the antenna, stopping short of the buttons and openings. We would have preferred stickers that provided more coverage around these areas; they look somewhat stilted as tiny blocks of black interrupting the silver antenna band. Included with the Armor Carbon Fiber for the iPhone 4 is a soft dry application anti-glare screen protector and a squeegee with which to apply it—something that’s not found in the iPad 2 package. Once again, there are no accessory compatibility issues because no bulk is added.
The overall utility of protective stickers is debatable. While they do not protect an iPad or iPhone from serious drops or falls, both of which are real concerns, particularly with the glass iPhone 4, they do help prevent dings and scratches without adding noticeable bulk or weight. To this end, BodyGuardz has produced a very nice product with its Armor Carbon Fiber, showing solid attention to detail on everything but the corners of the film on the iPad 2 model and the steel frame on the iPhone 4. While we would advise most people consider true cases instead, we would recommend the iPhone 4 version to any user interested in an inexpensive carbon fiber-ish protector; especially with the screen film, it is a very good value for $20. The biggest issue holding us back from giving the iPad 2 model a stronger recommendation is the $30 price. We have already seen more protective full cases with included screen protectors at the same cost, even replicating the faux carbon fiber texture, for that matter. If BodyGuardz were to include a screen protector as it does with the Armor Carbon Fiber for iPhone 4, this would be a much better option overall for iPad 2 users interested in using a film-based body protector.
Updated May 4, 2011: BodyGuardz now includes a ScreenGuardz HD Anti-Glare Film with the iPad 2 model.