Just a few hours down the 401 from me, in the center of the Canadian universe (that would be Toronto), is the headquarters for GelaSkins, the “mobile art” company that wants to dress up your iPod, iPhone, laptop, DS, Kindle, BlackBerry, Rock Band guitar or virtually any mobile device or peripheral, while adding a thin layer of protection from scratches. I put them to the test and came away impressed.
The library of images offered by GelaSkins is almost overwhelming, including licensed products from the likes of Marvel, Dark Horse Comics and National Geographic, not to mention hundreds of pieces from artists including H.R. Giger. If nothing in the library catches your fancy, you can even upload your own image to create a completely custom Skin. Wallpapers to match the Skins are also available for download. Applying the GelaSkins ranges from dead easy (for a device like an iPod Touch that’s essentially a single rectangle to apply) to slightly nerve-racking for Skins meant for more complex devices that sport complex curves, holes punched out for buttons and sometimes multiple pieces to be matched up. The covering for a Rock Band guitar falls under the latter category; while it turned out very well, you wouldn’t want to attempt this one with a bad case of coffee jitters. However, every skin I tried was cut perfectly (so there were no MacGyver moves needed to force a fit), and the 3M adhesive is pretty forgiving- you can peel the sticker up and adjust the position if needed before finalizing the fit.
How do Gelaskins perform in the real world? I slapped one on my iPod Touch and proceeded to torture it to the best of my ability (the skin, not my iPod). I can’t attest to protection from UV damage. According to the company, the skins offer UV protection for devices, but I’m going to have to take their word for this. Obviously, a sticker is not claimed to do anything for dropping a device (except to maybe hold the shattered bits together a bit better), and I’m not about to drop my iPod anyway, even as an excuse to upgrade. I tried making a mess of application, pulling the sheet off and reapplying it. After several re-applications in the process of installing it there was no residue on the edges of my iPod and in the past week the Skin’s edges have shown no signs of peeling back. It’s been carted around in pockets, exposed to Canadian winter (admittedly a little milder than normal at the moment, but still far from tropical), left for two days in a house heated to 80 degrees to speed curing plaster and suffered the indignity of floating drywall dust and sawdust that no measures have been able to fully prevent during our home reno. No effect. No issue with fingerprints; in fact that iPod looks much more pristine after handling than it ever did with its natural coat. The Skin is thin enough and positioned such that it has had absolutely no impact on docking mechanisms, including multiple iPod speaker docks. The connection remained unobstructed and the Skin itself suffered no ill effects. The final test was ripping the GelaSkin off after the week of use to see if it had damaged the iPod’s finish. The verdict? It’s like it wasn’t even there. No residue, no marks, no stickiness, no discoloration. At this point, the Skin is toast, but this isn’t a cling-film application, so you don’t get unlimited uses. They’re inexpensive enough that if you want a change, you just buy another. The Mod GelaSkin I put on my old iPod Video makes it look like new, but cooler…
The bottom line is that GelaSkins are an easy way to customize the appearance of virtually any electronic device for a price that’s much more reasonable than a custom paint job. No Three Wolf Moon that I could find (sorry, Russ), but you can always upload your own. For a device that would benefit from protection from scratches without the bulk of a case -like an iPhone- GelaSkins do a bang up job.
Speaking of customized images, GelaSkins has provided a limited edition, instant collectible, destined for eBay GeekDad version. Leave a comment below with the name of your favorite GelaSkin artwork and let me know if you prefer an iPhone or iPod Touch 2nd generation skin. I’ll pick two of each at random at the end of the day to receive a free GeekDad GelaSkin. Contest closes at 5pm EST today (Monday), one entry per person, you must include a GelaSkin name and don’t forget to indicate iPone or iPod Touch 2nd gen. Good luck!
Contest has now closed, winners will be notified.
Gelaskins Mobile Art, available from www.gelaskins.com
Prices: range by device, including $14.95 for most iPods, iPhone and BlackBerry.
Wired: Vast selection of artwork with customize option (like the 2010 version of airbrushing your van), durable and easily removable, less expensive and cumbersome scratch protection than enclosed cases, does not affect docking, easily removable.
Tired: I blew through way too much time trying to pick the perfect Skin and briefly contemplated buying more gadgets to accommodate them all (or is that a Wired?), Apple MacBook logo lovers take note that GelaSkin laptop covers will cover your white beacon of Jobs allegiance (although faintly visible in a dark room), if you drop your electronics you may be better off with a protective case.