Review: Tunewear Poptune Stickers for iPod mini
Pros: Individual stickers that cover most of the metal on the iPod mini’s body; easy to attach and remove.
Cons: Doesn’t cover top or bottom of iPod mini; back layers overlap rather than integrate; patterns very eclectic; pricey on an individual basis.
Last year, Hewlett-Packard surprised the world by offering iPod-covering Printable Tattoos - stickers that covered most of a fourth-generation iPod’s body, and could be customized by their purchasers using inkjet printers. But the company never released stickers for the iPod mini. Now Tunewear, Japanese maker of numerous iPod rubber and leather cases, has released Poptunes ($8.95* each), eight different stickers that can cover the front, sides, and back of any iPod mini. [Editor’s Note *: Tunewear informed us that their web site incorrectly listed the price of Poptune stickers at $18.95 a piece; this review has been edited modestly to reflect the price difference.]
The patterns are eclectic: colored hearts, zebra stripes, pink and gray plaid, an American flag, leopard, camouflage, polka dots, and hound’s tooth. Because their whites tend to be modestly translucent, they look a bit better on paper backing than in use, letting a little of your mini’s color show through. The zebra pattern, for example, becomes light blue with a blue mini, and so on. If you like the pattern and don’t mind a bit of color shift, you won’t be bothered.
But they stick well: the adhesive offers just the right grip without leaving residue, and permits you to make the necessary alignment tweaks to get the sticker properly on the iPod mini’s body. You can pull the sticker off entirely several times and use it again, assuming your mini was clean in the first place - unlike others, they’re hard to tear. Better yet, Tunewear’s glossy front surfaces aren’t as scratch-susceptible as HP’s Printable Tattoos.
Also unlike HP, which sacrificed back coverage and used a butterfly shape to partially coat the iPod’s metal plate, Tunewear has made a different choice: A Poptune sticker provides full back coverage. But it’s not neatly done - each pattern substantially overlaps itself, and there’s no attempt to neatly align both sides of the rear sticker, a bit surprising given that the mini (unlike fourth-generation 20GB and 40GB iPods) is and was a single size from unit to unit when these stickers were developed.
Holes are left for the mini’s screen and Click Wheel, and no coverage whatsoever is attempted of the mini’s plastic top or bottom surfaces. When properly aligned, a Poptune sticker doesn’t perfectly cover every millimeter of the mini’s metal, either: thin strips of color shine through at the top and bottom, and around the mini’s screen as well. The Click Wheel has a thinner sliver of color, but it’s still slightly evident there, as well.
When Tunewear’s web site showed the Poptune stickers at $18.95, we characterized them as only okay for the price: you could buy a full case for that amount, and for obvious reasons these stickers are not the world’s most protective iPod mini option. No screen, Click Wheel, or top/bottom coverage is included, so at best we think of the Poptunes as something you might slap on before inserting your mini in certain transparent cases. They worked well with EZGear’s Crystal Case for the iPod mini, for example, but didn’t fit properly in Proporta’s almost identical offering - an ever-so-slight difference in case thickness is enough to preclude them from fitting inside.
But for $8.95 per sticker, while they’re not cheap by comparison with HP’s $15 packages of 10 Printable Tattoos for $15, the Poptunes are not ridiculously expensive. True, they’re not made with gold or other metal foils, like SkinEFX’s full-sized iPod stickers, and we think that the patterns will either be love-‘em-or-hate-‘em for different people. (We weren’t especially enamored by them, but didn’t mind the American flag version when coupled with a transparent case.) However, they’re more reusable than both of those options. If you like one of the patterns and don’t mind the per-sticker price, give a Poptune a try.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.