Pros: Substantial, thin, and mostly clear coverage for roughly 95% of an iPod 5G or nano’s body, providing users with a way to preserve most of the good looks of those iPod models without requiring a full case. Resilient material resists all sorts of common pocket and other scratch hazards wherever it covers, leaving iPod largely safe underneath. Reasonably priced, now includes squeegee tool and fluid necessary for installation.
Cons: Though name suggests invisibility and “full body” protection, texture renders stickers less than perfectly clear under light, and several holes in sticker designs leave small portions of each iPod exposed to potential scratches.
Updated! In November of 2005, we briefly reviewed ShieldZone’s InvisibleSHIELD for iPod nano (iLounge rating: B+) in our Holiday Buyers’ Guide 2005-2006, noting that the company’s largely transparent sticker-style protectors offered solid protection, but had two caveats: they required an odd do-it-yourself installation process, complete with instructions to prepare a bowl full of soapy water, and fell a little short of their promised “invisibility,” looking a bit like baked Saran Wrap after application. You can see our old single paragraph of review text in that Buyers’ Guide; today, we’ve updated the review substantially because of some noteworthy improvements to the product.
Since our prior review, ShieldZone has upgraded the InvisibleShield lines for both iPod nano ($20) and 5G ($25), making small but important tweaks to improve users’ experiences with both products. The results are all positive: sold for the same price as last year’s versions, today’s InvisibleShield Full Body Shields (also known as iPod Video SHIELD and iPod nano SHIELD) are the best clear, sticker-style iPod 5G and nano protectors we’ve seen, though they’re not without a couple of remaining issues we hope that ShieldZone will address in future versions.
Packaging and installation of the InvisibleShields have both been upgraded to more professional standards. Each Full Body Shield package now includes a total of four stickers – three pieces for the iPod’s face, and one for its back, top, bottom, and sides. More impressively, ShieldZone now packs in a tiny spray bottle and a hard plastic squeegee to help you achieve a near-perfect installation of the stickers on your iPod’s body; a bowl of soapy water is no longer required, nor is there a need to send away for the bottle separately. There’s enough fluid in the bottle for three complete applications – or mis-applications, as the case may be.
Thanks to obvious trim edges on each sticker, the installation process is relatively straightforward: use the spray bottle to moisten both sides of each sticker, then align it on the iPod. The rear sticker clearly has a hole that matches the Dock Connector port on the 5G iPod, and similar holes for the Hold switches of both 5G and nano, so you’re unlikely to install this part incorrectly. Similarly, there’s now a big hole on the face sticker where the iPod’s Click Wheel is located, making that piece equally easy to align. ShieldZone’s two remaining stickers together cover the Click Wheel and its central Action button, which are no-brainer additions once you’ve aligned the larger front sticker.
We experienced only two challenges during installation. First, perfect horizontal and vertical alignment of the rear sticker proved tough because ShieldZone’s “full-body” claim isn’t quite fulfilled by the product: after testing 30GB and 60GB versions on their respective iPods, neither rear sticker covered the entire side of its respective iPod. Proper alignment covers the majority of the iPod’s metal, but not the colored plastic part of its sides.
Second, small air bubbles and other particles are easy to trap under the sticker’s surface; the picture above shows what the iPod could look like after installation. Proper application requires clean hands, a clean iPod, and clean stickers – if the sticker traps dust, wash it off – even with a quick blast of faucet water – let all the excess water drip off, then try again. As the front sticker now comes in three pieces that eliminate air bubble problems around the Click Wheel, we found that using the included squeegee effectively removes virtually all of the air bubbles from a properly applied InvisibleShield; a 24-hour curing process then yields a very substantially protected iPod, as shown below.
This isn’t to say that the finished product looks perfect on an iPod – it doesn’t, but it’s close enough that most people won’t mind. Despite our best efforts and several re-applications on new, mirror-finished iPods, there were a few small dust particles under both the front and back stickers, more noticeable on the black iPod or mirrored back surface than on the white iPod’s front, though still not invisible there. The last two photographs in this review show what iPods look like after the curing process has finished. Additionally, even after the 24-hour period ended, each iPod’s surfaces went from looking polished to Saran Wrap-ish – a major contrast with the more nearly invisible Crystal Film stickers (iLounge rating: B+) offered by Power Support. The slight texturing doesn’t interfere with video or normal screen use, but it’s visible whenever light hits the iPod’s surfaces from certain directions.
The reason the latest InvisibleShields rate higher than Crystal Film, and highly recommended overall, is their superior level of protection. We spent a week testing our coated iPods to see how the InvisibleShields would do under various real-world conditions, and came away generally impressed. With the stickers on, the iPod could be carried sans case without fear of substantial scratch damage, and still retained literally all of its original functionality. While not perfectly clear, ShieldZone’s sticker technology is highly resilient, and effective against everything from coins to keys, at least where it covers, and won’t come off unless you want it off. To the extent that it covers much more of each iPod – around 95%, give or take – it’s a better solution than Power Support’s, though also a bit more expensive.
In addition to the absence of stickers on the iPod’s plastic side surfaces, there are small holes in each sticker’s four rear corners, and small gaps around the Hold switch, headphone port, and Dock Connector port. These gaps guarantee that you can use any conceivable cabled electronic accessory, including headphones, with a Shielded iPod, but the rear and side holes are unnecessary and, like the slight texturing of the stickers, could really be improved in a future iteration of this product.
Stickered iPods fit into many but not all iPod docks and cases. Custom-cradled speakers such as Altec Lansing’s iM7 and iM9 proved incompatible with the sides of the Full Body Shields, while Universal Dock Adapters worked, though with a considerably tighter fit. Similarly, Vaja’s premium iVod series cases – now shipped with a warning that they’re incompatible with stickers – are just large enough to let InvisibleShielded iPods fit, but you run a risk of damaging the cases when you pull the iPod out. The extra millimeters are just enough to prove a challenge for any case or dock designed to precision-fit an iPod. On the bright side, it’s easy to remove as much of each sticker as you find necessary for specific applications, and no adhesive residue is left on your iPod in the process.
Overall, the latest InvisibleShield Full Body Shields for 5G iPods and nanos are highly recommendable – easier to install than before, and impressively resilient once placed properly on your iPod. Though we would prefer additional iPod coverage, and truly clear, untextured stickers – both of which would better fit the product’s bold name – these do a very good job of keeping your iPod looking good, at a reasonable price.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPod nano, 5G