Pros: Resilient, reusable iPod face covers with some attractive designs.
Cons: Some patterns are less professional looking and color accurate than others; price may deter some buyers given competing options.
Up until recently, ColorWare had the iPod case modification market all to itself: the company’s $65.00 iPod painting service permanently changes the iPod’s color with automotive-quality gloss paint. But two competitors have recently entered the market on the lower end of the price and permanence spectra, offering cheaper temporary solutions that may appeal to some people.
Only a week after testing Skin EFX’s inexpensive iPod face stickers, we’ve had the opportunity to try a collection of new iPod faceplates called PodSkinz from MacSkinz, producer of decorative plastic panels for numerous Apple computers. Easier to apply, remove, and reuse than the Skin EFX stickers, but more expensive, PodSkinz offer an interesting alternative to both more and less dramatic iPod modifications.
PodSkinz are conceptually simple: they are formed plastic panels slightly larger than the front of any full-sized iPod, and attach to the iPod’s face with four tiny double-backed adhesive dots. Each plastic panel incorporates a full-color photographic “texture,” ranging in the 21 samples we received from brushed metal to wood to wild animal skins, psychedelic flowers and patterns, camouflage, skulls, and even the American flag. Holes have been left in each panel for the iPod’s screen, buttons, and Scroll Wheel; there is no screen or button protection of any sort, and the PodSkinz prevent an iPod from fitting in a dock or other accessory.
There are good and bad points to PodSkinz. On the positive side, the panels are substantially more resilient than Skin EFX’s stickers – unlike the carbon fiber sticker we had to throw away, the carbon fiber PodSkinz could be attached and removed numerous times, and easily interchanged with other panels. Additionally, PodSkinz cover the four front corners of the iPod, which Skin EFX’s stickers did not, giving MacSkinz’s panels somewhat of an aesthetic edge from a distance.
But the materials in Skin EFX’s stickers sometimes looked slightly better than the PodSkinz; a head-to-head comparison of both companies’ carbon fiber products suggests that MacSkinz’ were made with a less expensive photo printing technique, which sometimes slightly warps straight lines, and doesn’t give off the luster of Skin EFX’s true metallic stickers. Other plastic panels (including the American flag) were a bit off in color fidelity – the old “red, white and blue” leaned slightly towards orange, white, and purple, for example, though the brushed metal and animal skin panels looked realistic and occasionally even vibrant.
Additionally, unlike Skin EFX’s stickers, which clung tightly to the iPod’s acrylic face and added barely any thickness, PodSkinz clearly extend beyond the iPod’s rear panel once attached. As a result, the single-piece design looks a wee bit awkward all alone on the iPod, frequently reducing what was otherwise the impressive effect of making the iPod facially look considerably different. MacSkinz apparently intends to release matching “Backplates” in the near future, but we’ll wait to render a verdict on them until we’ve tested them.
Resilience, Appeal and Conclusions
Besides their reusability, the major practical advantage of PodSkinz is their slight protective utility: unlike the Skin EFX stickers, the panels can absorb slight shocks, protect the iPod from scratches, and themselves resist scratch damage. We found the panels to be pretty resilient in our testing, and bent back into place rather than snapping when we tried to break one in half.
However, practicality is clearly not as much the intent of these panels as decoration, and the question we’re left with is whether they’re appealing for most users. The answer is yes, though it will vary somewhat on the needs and lifestyle of the individual purchaser. Until “Backplates” are available, and unless they are available at a reasonable price, PodSkinz will appeal most to users outside of the 18-30 demographic – both young and old – and those who keep their iPods stationary, such as on a display stand like the ModPods sold by MacSkinz.
As is, PodSkinz are a reasonable alternative to Skin EFX’s stickers, but not a real replacement for the more professional-looking transformation that a company such as ColorWare would offer. On the other hand, PodSkinz are currently the only option that is temporary and reusable, factors that almost justify the product’s recently increased price differential over Skin EFX’s alternative.
Originally designed to sell for $12.50, the PodSkinz’ new $20 price tag puts them squarely into competition with full-fledged cases that offer better protection but less frontal visual appeal. While we are a bit concerned about the prospect of paying $40 for both front and back plates (as currently proposed on the company’s web site), there’s no doubt that MacSkinz has a good idea here, and one that some users will be willing to pay for.
Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge and practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His 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.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPod 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, iPod mini