Lagging behind Power Support’s 2005 debut of the Illusion Cases for fifth-generation iPods and iPod nanos, mirror-surfaced iPod and iPhone cases and films have only just started to appear at a brisker pace over the past few months, as companies other than Power Support and Illusion cloner Griffin Technology have figured out how to incorporate reflective materials in cases. The latest entrant: Pacific Rim Technologies, which this week shipped iShield Mirror for iPhone ($30) and iShield Reflection for iPod touch ($30), two cases that are essentially identical save for tailoring specific to the differing devices.
Each case starts in the same way. There are two pieces of hard plastic, one that covers most of the iPod or iPhone’s back, while the other covers its front, half of its sides, and its whole bottom. They slide together, providing full port and control access through holes in the case’s top, bottom, face, and front, as well as an additional hole on the iPhone version’s side.
These holes are on the very small side, which is a positive in the sense that they protect more than larger holes would, but a negative for accessory compatibility. Both cases work in Universal Docks, but the iPod touch version of the case has an unacceptably small headphone port hole—barely big enough for Apple’s packed-in earphones—and a similarly tiny Dock Connector hole. These are the smallest we’ve seen on any iPod touch case to date, which is not a good thing. By comparison, the iPhone version’s holes are a little more generous.
Where the cases disappoint most is in the look of their mirrored front surfaces. Unlike Power Support’s Illusion cases and Griffin’s most recent Reflect cases, Pacific Rim’s iShields use a cheap-looking, flexible layer of front plastic that makes the mirroring look wavy and uneven—the reflection you get is more like a funhouse mirror than anything else. You actually do better looking at the clear-covered back of the iPod touch than you do at its newly “mirrored” front, which isn’t the sort of result you’d expect from such a purchase.
There is another major issue with both cases. In the absence of any obvious anti-fingerprint or smudge protection, they both begin to show marks within seconds after you peel off the plastic “remove me first” film that they ship with. Women will find that the iPhone version picks up makeup, as well, if it’s held next to the face. Both cases invariably wind up looking nicer from the back than they do from the front.
The positive, of course, is that you add a reflective surface to the front of the iPod touch or iPhone, and that the reflective surface lets you see and use the touchscreen while protecting it. As is typical of these cases, the mirror lets enough of the iPhone or iPod touch’s screen peek through that you can use all of its functions, though video viewing isn’t quite as exciting with the constant glare of the wavy mirroring in your face. While the playthrough mirrored control access is a differentiator from other mirrored hard cases that have been released for these two devices, the effect isn’t generally as impressive as what you can achieve with mirror-coated film from either Pacific Rim or competitors such as Artwizz. The flip side is that the iShield cases won’t trouble you with visible air bubbles in application—an issue the mirrored films tend to have.
Overall, neither the iShield Mirror for iPhone nor the iShield Reflection for iPod touch really wowed us; their namesake features don’t look so hot, and for the $30 asking prices, we tend to expect a more professional overall appearance and attention to details such as port access—a real issue in the iPod touch version. The cases rate above our C level only because of their novelty, which may interest some users; a smarter approach to front mirroring might have made them stronger overall offerings.
Company and Price
Company: Pacific Rim Technologies
Model: iShield Reflection
Compatible: iPod touch