Review: NLU Products BodyGuardz for iPhone
The clear "full iPhone body" film protector saga continues this week, as we've now had the opportunity to test not just NLU Products' BodyGuardz and ShieldZone's InvisibleShield Full Body Shield for iPhone, but also three additional products: second-generation versions of both BodyGuardz and InvisibleShield, and a seemingly far less expensive competing option from Best Skins Ever called the iPhone Total Body Skin ($8).
Confused? So were we. After publication of our initial BodyGuardz and InvisibleShield reviews, both companies decided to withdraw their original products from the market, and replace them with superior versions. Then Best Skins Ever sent its version, so we felt that a re-comparison was in order. Our updated BodyGuardz and InvisibleShield reviews preserve the original details we published for your reference.
As between the three options, our top pick overall remains NLU Products’ BodyGuardz, for two reasons: clarity and value for the dollar. Though we remain less than convinced that any of these films is worth an entry price of $25—the cost of a good, complete iPhone case—NLU’s package includes two sets of front films and two sets of back films, bringing the total price per set down to $12.50. You can keep both, or sell one to a friend. By comparison, you pay $25 for a single set of InvisibleShield Full Body Shields—too much, in our view—and a much more reasonable $8 per set for the iPhone Total Body Skin.
However, price isn’t the only distinguishing factor here. The three companies’ packages are substantially different from one another: NLU’s two sets of BodyGuardz come in a nice box with a big tube of application fluid and a simple, perfectly-sized squeegee that’s required to work air and water bubbles out from the film during application. ShieldZone’s InvisibleShields come in a simpler plastic container with two small tubes of similar fluid and a less impressive squeegee; ours was rough on its smoothing edge, and we didn’t get the sort of results we wanted when we used it on the film. Best Skins Ever mails you only a paper envelope, instructions, and the two skins: you supply the fluid (slightly soapy water) and the squeegee (a credit card) yourself. Each one takes roughly 15 minutes to apply, after which it looks rough even if you’ve worked out the bubbles, then improves after a 24 hour drying period. We found that our credit cards weren’t as good at working bubbles out as NLU’s squeegee; the Total Body Skin package will force you to improvise a little.
With one caveat, the best-looking of the three options was the BodyGuardz design. All three companies use highly similar film that covers most of the iPhone’s body with a largely clear, highly scratch-proof adhesive—the same general stuff you see as a paint chip protector on certain cars, and apparently as a helicopter blade protector on aircraft. But NLU’s version of the film is better looking than the ShieldZone version, which in turn is better looking than the Best Skins Ever version: each of the films has visible dimples when viewed on an angle, but NLU’s are the least noticeable, followed by the slightly more visible InvisibleShield, and the coarser Total Body Skin. None is hugely objectionable, but none matches the static-cling clarity of Power Support’s Crystal Film, and we prefer our film coverage as clear as possible; BodyGuardz is the closest to perfect.
It’s also worth a note that we found that we had to use two of the Total Body Skin front covers—one as a replacement for the other—before we got the results we wanted on the iPhone. Though we started with a cleaned surface and tried to work miniature air bubbles out of the first Skin’s surface as best we could, they wouldn’t go away quickly, or after the first 24-hour drying period. Pulling the Skin off and putting a new one on solved the problem entirely. Another way of viewing this: though Best Skins Ever sells these for $8 each, you might need to order two before you achieve the clarity you want.
The only caveat to BodyGuardz’ superiority is the scope of its coverage. ShieldZone’s second version of InvisibleShield is a marked improvement over its predecessor, offering more complete coverage of the iPhone than we’ve seen from any competitor, albeit with almost comical consequences for both application and pricing. You apply the front and back stickers. Then you apply a Home button sticker, and two more front stickers to cover the rest of the chrome facade. Then you apply four more stickers to cover the iPhone’s corners. The process feels like you’re assembling a model car or another toy, and at twice NLU’s price and effort of application, we’re not sure that it’s worth it. Best Skins Ever has a slightly less complex process that’s also less protective of iPhone’s corners; NLU’s has no Home button coverage, and a little less corner protection as well.
Focusing on these omissions isn’t totally fair, though. All three companies deserve a lot of credit for covering almost the entire iPhone front surface, save for the flat front edge of the chrome bezel, with the Total Body Skin doing an especially precise job of coating iPhone’s glass. Each does a superb job of covering iPhone’s back and sides, and though corner protection could stand to be improved a little on the NLU and Best Skins Ever designs, the “add more stickers” ShieldZone approach isn’t ideal, either. In each case, you cover so much of the iPhone that the missing parts don’t seem to matter much, though you may feel differently if the iPhone takes damage in one of the uncovered areas.
In sum, these three clear film options have a lot in common, but our pick of BodyGuardz as the best of the bunch reflects NLU’s more reasonable compromises on clarity, coverage, and pricing than either of the alternatives. While ShieldZone now protects your iPhone a little better for a higher price, and Best Skins ever is similar but a lot less expensive, neither one leaves your iPhone looking quite as nice as BodyGuardz does. Each version has its strengths, meaning that one or the other might be better for certain types of buyers, and all three could stand to be improved, but at this point, they’re all recommendably good options from our perspective.
Prior Review Text: NLU Products BodyGuardz for iPhone (Original)
NLU Products’ BodyGuardz for iPhone ($25) is a nearly comprehensive film that covers iPhone’s body to protect it against scratches. Rather than masking the iPhone’s beautiful industrial design, it shows it off.
Finally, there’s NLU Products’ BodyGuardz for iPhone. We’ve become very enamored with clear film solutions over the past year and a half, as they enable iPod and now iPhone users to preserve almost all of the appearance of their favorite devices without adding any perceptible thickness or weight. The only consequences are that matte surfaces tend to take on a plasticy shine, small dimples can be seen in the film on certain angles, and the film provides very little protection against drop damage; it’s only there to keep your iPod or iPhone safe from scratches and scuffs.
BodyGuardz for iPhone does a very good job at that. As with all full body films we’ve tested, it doesn’t make a great first impression, since you need to apply it using a wet applicator spray, and proper coverage of iPhone’s body requires especially precise alignment of all sorts of tiny edges. We found its corners especially hard to stick on to iPhone, despite getting most of the rest of the two-piece (front, then back and sides) film where it was supposed to be after 15 minutes or so of effort. Right after application, even with the included squeegee, it looked pretty ratty, with some bubbles under its surface that we couldn’t totally work out. A second set of film is included in case you seriously screw up the first one.
However, once it dries, BodyGuardz for iPhone—like its iPod predecessor—looks really quite good. Most of the bubbles disappear within 24 hours, and what you’re left with is an almost perfectly coated iPhone, roughly 95% covered against even serious scratching instruments; only the Home button and the parts that are supposed to be fully uncovered are left uncovered, along with a thin slice of the screen bezel, and the aforementioned corners, which dried better but still didn’t look great. NLU is apparently working on a revised version of BodyGuardz, free to early purchasers, that will fix that issue; we’re not sure whether it’s accomplished by providing less or better corner coverage. We did have a couple of small dust particle bubbles on iPhone’s back, detracting from the protector’s good looks, but perfectly cleaning iPhone before application, or removing BodyGuardz and washing it before it dries, can minimize these problems.
Other than the issues noted above, our only concern about BodyGuardz is, again, its price. The materials here aren’t expensive, so small vendors can sell full body clear protective films for $10 or less; for the $25 price of this film, you can get a full iPhone case that offers equal anti-scratch and superior anti-drop protection, besides. We very much like the way BodyGuardz looks on the iPhone, and protects it against our primary damage concerns, but at this price, it’s not for everyone.
Updated July 27, 2007
Following publication of our review, NLU Products updated BodyGuardz to improve the shape and application of its corner protection, shown in the photographs at the top of this article. Though we found the new BodyGuardz version a little more challenging to apply than its predecessor, and needed to wait 15-30 minutes to make the corners stick properly, they ultimately dried and looked better than the original design. The new design is a little less protective than before at the corners, but protection elsewhere on the iPhone remains the same.
For the time being, this is our full body protector of choice for the iPhone; despite the $25 asking price, we prefer it for the dollar and in looks to the version of ShieldZone’s iPhone InvisibleShield we’ve reviewed. You’ll need to decide whether you’re willing to spend so much for simple adhesive protection, but if you do, you’ll find BodyGuardz to be a very good option.