Model: Wheel Cap
Price: $14.99 (5 pack)
Compatible: iPod 4G, iPod mini, iPod photo
iSkin Wheel Cap
Pros: Full Click Wheel protection for a 4G iPod when integrated with the right case - particularly one of iSkin’s eVo2 cases, but also many others. Printed versions with logos and other graphics are especially impressive.
Cons: Must buy five at once, not compatible with every iPod case.
In 2004, the iPod’s Click Wheel was its least protected component: case after case just left a hole, some mis-cut the hole, and precious few took a stab at engineering some sort of protector. The detachable protectors that emerged had one major problem - they didn’t cover the entire Click Wheel, leaving the Action button unprotected.
Every other part of the iPod was relatively easy to cover - most cases included integrated or separate screen protectors, and finding some good or bad way to cover the rest of the iPod’s body was never that great of a challenge. But given that the iPod only has a few glossy plastic surfaces, and its Click Wheel is one of them, scratchproofing that one last part of the iPod was a bit of a holy grail for case manufacturers.
First thing in 2005, two companies released detachable protectors that finally close the loop on iPod face protection: iSkin debuted its Wheel Cap ($14.99/5 pack), a frosted plastic cover that is also being packaged and generally intended for use with iSkin’s 4G iPod case eVo2, and Power Support released 3D Wheel Film ($12.00/2 pack), a clear adhesive cover that’s available for both iPods and iPod minis.
Both covers have strong individual advantages. iSkin’s Wheel Cap is easily printed upon, and the company is producing versions with all sorts of graphics, ranging from swirls that match its new Wild Skins cases to the logos of famous bands and sports teams. It’s non-adhesive and thus sits on top of the iPod’s Click Wheel, holding in place by virtue of the eVo2’s hole - and will do the same with any rubber case that’s similarly sized. You can’t use it without a case on the iPod, but then, would you want to?
One Wheel Cap will be included for free with each of iSkin’s eVo2 cases ($29.99) - no change given the company’s prior eVo2 pricing, and a major improvement to the product’s protectivity and value. iSkin won’t sell single Wheel Caps, but has a five-pack of Caps with different themes priced at around $3 per cap. Additional Caps featuring band and sports logos will be packaged with the company’s upcoming eVo2 cases, and will sell together for $34.99 per skin.
Power Support’s 3D Wheel Film has the edge on compatibility: as an adhesive cover, it fits perfectly on any 4G, photo, or mini iPod’s Click Wheel, and stays in place once attached regardless of the case you want to use with it. The company picked just the right sort of adhesive - one that leaves no residue on the iPod’s surface once removed, but also won’t detach prematurely. We’ve been using Power Support’s earlier Wheel Film and Crystal Film screen protectors with our iPods for months, and found that they won’t come off unless you want them off.
The two companies’ covers also share a couple of advantages: they both feel good when installed, and do not reduce your ability to use the Click Wheel whatsoever. They both contrast in this regard with earlier cases that included integrated thin rubber protectors, which while a noble and very acceptable form of protection at the time can’t compare with these options. iSkin’s and Power Support’s covers just work better; Power Support’s feels slick to the touch, while iSkin’s has a slightly rougher, hard plastic texture.
In truth, there’s no need to choose between these two products, because at least for now, they have different advantages. iSkin’s partnerships with artists and sports teams are going to make customized Wheel Caps very popular, as will its decision to pack them in with eVo2s and future iSkin cases. Power Support’s clear-faced design may not be as colorful, but it works with everything, and begs to be included with the company’s Jackets and OEM’ed out to numerous competing cases.
Both products are winners; cost aside, we give the slight edge to the 3D Wheel Film only because of its guaranteed compatibility with whatever case you’re already using. At $12.00 for a pack of two, it’s a fair bit more expensive than we’d expected for a Click Wheel cover, but a good investment nonetheless. The cheaper-per-unit Wheel Caps will work just as well if you have a compatible case and don’t care about scratch protection you’re your iPod’s outside of it. Great work by both iSkin and Power Support on designing these better-than-2004 iPod protectors.
Note: the rating is for the iSkin Wheel Cap.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.