Review: NLU Products BodyGuardz for iPod nano 4G and iPod touch 2G
Last year, we picked clear, full body film protectors -- specifically, the ones from NLU Products -- as 2007's best overall iPod and iPhone accessories. Rather than forcing you to thicken your iPod or render it accessory-incompatible, these films add a layer of highly resilient clear coating to the iPod's or iPhone's body, offering everything save waterproof and anti-drop protection. In short, they're iPod cases for people who don't like iPod cases, letting you see the device while knowing that it's not going to get torn up in a pocket with keys or a purse filled with coins. The only problem is that the clarity of these films can be a serious issue, particularly on the screens of Apple's devices, but also elsewhere on their bodies.
As in the past, NLU’s new BodyGuardz for iPod nano 4G ($25) and iPod touch 2G ($25) come in boxes with two sets of full body clear film, a squeegee, and a bottle of application solution. Each box includes a warranty that lets you swap a used set of film for a new one in the event that something peels off; your first replacement is the second set in the box. Of the two versions of BodyGuardz, NLU has done an especially impressive job of covering virtually every micron of the new nano’s body: after wetting the film down and applying it, you’ll likely find one thin, sub-millimeter stripe on the back, and one similarly thin circle around the nano’s Click Wheel that aren’t protected. That extent of coverage is just great.
There’s only one shock: if you try using the iPod nano immediately after application, you’ll find that the covered screen looks terrible. Due to whatever interaction there is between NLU’s wet film and the newly curved, glass-covered screen of the fourth-generation model, you’ll see a profound prismatic effect on the display that looks like rainbow-colored specks are floating literally everywhere. We were extremely concerned when we first saw these specks—they rendered the nano’s video and game playing modes seriously unpleasant, and even menu navigation was distracting.
But then we let the iPod nano dry. The rainbow-colored specks began to disappear, and continued to do so until the screen looked pretty close to normal. While we’ve seen clearer static cling screen protectors for past iPod nanos, the new version’s curved screen may wind up presenting challenges to any sort of protector, so it’ll be interesting to see how other products stack up; when dried, this one’s pretty good. The only other complaint some users will have is a slight color-shifting of the nano’s body; for instance, NLU’s glossy film tends to bring out the “black” nano’s grayness rather than making it look like a darker charcoal. We’ve seen this happen with past films, as well.
By comparison, the iPod touch version of BodyGuardz ($25) is a little less impressive in body coverage. For this model, NLU has created a single rear sticker that is only a modest challenge to attach. Using the holes for the top Sleep/Wake button, side volume buttons, and bottom Dock Connector port to align the film is easy, but getting the thin strips of side- and bezel-covering film to stay put requires some additional time and effort. After some drying time had elapsed, these strips stayed where they were supposed to be, but didn’t feel totally perfect on the touch’s corners or edges. It’s worth noting that with all of NLU’s film applied, the chrome front bezel wasn’t totally covered, and none of the buttons were covered at all.
More notable was the fact that the back of the device was prone to showing little bubbles, even after we tried our best to squeegee them out. Unlike the nano’s prismatic screen, which dissipated over time, these bubbles remained after the drying process, and were pretty conspicuous.
These types of coverage and blemish issues are common to many film protectors for iPods, but not all of them. Consequently, though BodyGuardz provides 90-95% body protection for the iPod touch, it does so with unsightly cosmetic detractors; these were part of the touch version’s slightly lower overall rating.
NLU’s screen coverage was the other small issue. There are two primary types of film covers for iPods out there: adhesive protectors such as the ones offered by NLU and competitors such as Zagg’s InvisibleShields, and static cling protectors offered by companies such as Power Support. Though the BodyGuardz front film has less of a distracting texture than competing adhesive film products we’ve tested for past iPods and iPhones, it still has a mild prismatic effect after application, most but not all of which goes away when the film has dried. In our testing, however, static cling screen protectors have historically done a better job of eliminating glare and visual imperfections, so BodyGuardz falls a bit short of the highest front protection standards we’ve seen for past glass-faced iPod and iPhone devices. We’ll have to see how screen protectors play out on the second-generation iPod touch, but we expect them to be virtually identical to past touchscreen Apple devices.
Ultimately, the two versions of BodyGuardz are both strong offerings. The iPod nano 4G version is close to perfect in its extent of coverage, and could benefit only from tiny sizing and clarity tweaks; NLU’s iPod touch 2G version could use a little more work in these departments, particularly given what we saw on the device’s back. Given what we’ve seen in the new BodyGuardz, our advice to clear film makers is this: the iPods’ increasingly glass displays and changing curves will make screen clarity even more important going forward than it was in the past. Now is definitely the right time to make sure that your films are not only protective, but also as clear as possible; customers will expect both from film options for their new iPods.