Review: Power Support Wheel Film
Pros: Crystal Film screen protectors are reasonably priced individually, offer great and thin protection for the iPod’s screen regardless of the case you purchase. Wheel Film protectors offer similarly great and thin protection for the 3G iPod and iPod mini’s Wheels.
Cons: Both items must be purchased in packs of two, Wheel Film only protects outside of Wheels and not the Action button, can be very difficult to remove because of design of the 3G iPod, and White (3G) version isn’t as cool as the Clear (iPod mini) version.
The editors of iLounge have been following the development efforts of Japanese iPod accessory maker Power Support for almost two years. With products that were previously available only to Japanese consumers, Power Support’s designs - attributed to Ryoichi Mase - have always seemed to transcend mere functionality, instead combining great features with unique design.
And some but not all of their products are commensurately expensive, a fact that is explained in this way by a representative of Power Support: “we are hoping that the high quality of the products will be appreciated by the discriminating Apple consumer. We realize our products may not be for the masses.”
Having tested seven of the company’s new products, which are available now for the first time to customers in the United States, we partially agree. There is no disputing that the products are high quality, and that they will be appreciated by discriminating buyers. But we also think that most of Power Support’s products - with one or two notable exceptions - are quite ready for the masses. The only issue in our minds is whether the masses will hear about them, or whether Power Support will remain the well-kept secret of serious iPod fanatics.
iPod Crystal Film
In the past, iLounge has not done full reviews for screen protectors, but the release of Power Support’s iPod Crystal Film products ($8.50 in packs of two) now brings the total number of official competitors in this space to three. We’ve tested and liked JAVOedge’s JAVOScreen ($5.95 each, or $15.17 for three), and also tested and liked ####’s multicolored iShades ($3.50 each), but each of these products is different from Power Support’s offering. For reference, all three screen protectors fit the screens of both third- and fourth-generation iPods.
Power Support’s Crystal Film is a hair-thin, glossy and clear screen protector that extends a bit beyond each side of the full-sized iPod’s screen - a few millimeters on the left and right sides, with a millimeter and a half at the top and bottom. Each piece of Crystal Film is shipped covered by back and front protective layers, which are peeled off respectively before and after the Film is applied to the iPod’s face. The adhesive side of the Film feels only ever so slightly sticky to the touch, but the protector stays put quite nicely on the iPod regardless. Power Support recommends that you work the small air bubbles out with a cloth, an easy enough process that is made easier if you’ve cleaned the iPod’s screen before application. If the screen was properly cleaned, the Crystal Film will prove to be moderately reusable.
While we really like the colors and pricing of ####’s equally glossy iShades, they’re neither strictly adhesive or designed to be used with every iPod case. Under some circumstances, including use with other companies’ cases or shaking of the iPod, the iShades may come loose. These aren’t issues with the Crystal Film, which sticks right on the iPod’s screen and provides a thin layer of anti-scratch protection without gumming the screen up at all.
JAVOScreen’s protectors are another story: they’re the most like the Crystal Film in that both can be used with any iPod case, and are both truly thin and just adhesive enough not to fall off. Neither leaves adhesive residue on the iPod’s screen. However, in addition to being more expensive when purchased individually, JAVOedge’s protectors aren’t as glossy as Power Support’s, which when covered by a case become virtually invisible as screen protectors. Together these factors lead us to recommend Crystal Film as the best option we’ve seen to date for typical iPod users, though do-it-yourself options remain less expensive if you can find larger screen protective stickers and are handy with a pair of scissors.
(Notably Power Support also includes iPod mini specific Crystal Film protectors with certain of its cases and metal stands. Other than their size - which is perfectly tailored to the size of the iPod mini’s screen - they’re identical to the full-sized iPod products.)
iPod Wheel Film
Dedicated iPod wheel protectors aren’t especially common, but there have been stickers (such as the iPoDonut) that decoratively cover third-generation iPod Click Wheels. In Japan, Power Support offers eight styles of wheel protectors called Wheel Film, some of which are girlie, some techie, and only one in solid white. The solid white one is the version that’s arrived in the United States for full-sized iPods, and it’s available in two-packs for $6.50 or included as a single item with certain Power Support accessories for free.
In all honesty, though we liked it, the Wheel Film’s value is somewhat of an open question. It is nothing more than an all white donut-shaped sticker that, once separated from its backing, is attached directly on top of the iPod’s Scroll Wheel, with a hole for the 3G iPod’s Action button. Wheel Film thus covers the least scratchable surface of the iPod’s face while leaving the scratchable Lucite center and four top buttons unguarded. Like a real donut, it left us wanting what was in the hole.
Once attached, it feels good, providing a matte surface that is at least as pleasant to the touch as Apple’s built-in surface. We didn’t find scrolling to be strongly inhibited or improved by its presence, unlike silicone rubber wheel coverage in ####’s cases. Detaching the sticker was another issue - we found it seriously difficult. Because Apple engineered the Scroll Wheel to sit a millimeter or so below the rest of the iPod’s face surface, the sticker also rests under that surface and becomes a serious challenge to remove. Like the Crystal Film screen protector, it uses a light adhesive that won’t gum up your iPod’s controls permanently or completely preclude removal, but its precision fit and coverage does inhibit its transferability. We’d recommend an Xacto knife if we weren’t concerned that it would do more damage than just leaving the sticker on.
Though it’s been made anachronistic by the release of the 4G iPod, and it wouldn’t be the first item we’d recommend to new iPod owners, the Wheel film certainly won’t hurt your iPod once attached, and adds a little extra Scroll Wheel protectiveness that most silicone cases (other than ####’s eXo2 and eXo3 designs) lack. We’re not sure whether people will be buying these so much as getting them as free pack-ins with Power Support’s other accessories, but if you’re looking for something to keep everything but the center of your 3G iPod’s Scroll Wheel covered, consider this an option.
(Mini owners should note that Power Support’s iPod mini Wheel Film is transparent and glossy rather than matte white, an improvement that we would expect Power Support will carry over into future 4G Wheel Film coverings. In addition to looking a bit cooler, the clear sticker is easier to remove because the Click Wheel isn’t recessed deeply under the face of the iPod mini, an Apple design choice that’s the same in the 4G iPod.)
Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge. A consumer electronics fanatic who practices intellectual property law in his spare time, Jeremy’s recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school -ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.