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Product and Website Review: GelaSkins

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Technology is expensive.  A new iPhone will run you hundreds of dollars.  Laptops may be coming down in cost for base models, but they’re not exactly the price of a Kleenex.  Even a controller for your videogame system can easily run you $40 to $50.  All these items are things you want to protect, not because it’ll improve their resale value as much as because it hurts to see your new, $600 iPad get that first nick. 

Lots of different methods exist for protecting your precious technological bits and pieces, including the seemingly increasingly popular idea of “skinning” your device.  Rather than the more traditional use of the term which would involve removing the top layer of your device, here it means to add a protective layer.  It is nothing that will prevent damage from a fall, but it most definitely will stop those ever-vexing minor scratches.

Of course, being a society obsessed with choice and individualism, we can’t just have plain-looking skins.  No, if you’re going to add a protective layer to your phone, you’re going to want to do so in style and one site which allows that in spades is GelaSkins.

Based in Toronto, GelaSkins has the dimensions of more than 100 different devices and will allow you to put an infinite variety of pictures on your skin.  The site works with more than 100 different artists and has deals with Marvel, Busted Tees, Mr. Men & Little Miss, and several other (22 in total) groups for officially licensed skins.

All of this means that there is a whole lot of choice in your potential skin.  For the iPhone 4, GelaSkins has 297 (as of this writing) different already sized and arranged skins immediately available.  But, if you happen to not like any of those, you can select any skin on the site and simply resize it yourself using their tool.  If you still can’t find what you want, you’re also allowed to upload a pic of your own so that GelaSkins can create a truly customized piece for you.

The real question though is how well any of this works – how good is the skin, how good do the designs look on them, how easy is the customize tool, how easy is it to stick the skin on your phone (or computer or Nintendo DS or PS3 controller, etc.).   Overall, the answer to these questions is:  quite well.

Let us look our experience with it all though in order to truly examine the process.

The starting of this all, the design phase is, quite honestly, the biggest stumbling block to the entire process.  The GelaSkins design tool works is easy and works perfectly, but unless you’ve got an eye for exactly how the finished product will look, it’s rather nerve-wracking to sit there and, even with the templates (front, back, sides, and a wallpaper) provided, imagine the final product.  This is true whether you’re uploading a picture of your own or simply trying to fit to your device an image that the site hasn’t already customized for it.  If you look at their FAQ, GelaSkins is very up front about the fact that the image will be as you see it—that they’re not going to be adjusting it and making it pretty for you—but that doesn’t make the process easier. 

Having played around with the customizing tool for a while, we decided it was far more safe to just select a pre-fab skin.  Narrowing down ourPigs & Maths choice, we went with Pigs & Maths by Rollout.  A few clicks later and our skin was on its way to us.

Packed in a flat bit of cardboard, the skin arrived a few days later.  And, at the time of shipping, we not only got an email confirmation, but also a downloadable wallpaper for our phone… which we promptly deleted (more on that later).  The 3M material used in the skins was both incredibly easy to remove from its backing and to stick onto the device.  Some may complain that there is a definite crosshatching to it, but we actually like the feel of the texture which makes the phone more grip-able than it might otherwise be.  On the website, GelaSkins discusses 3M as having “patented micro-channels that prevent air bubbles” and while we can’t comment on the patenting, once on our phone there was nary an air bubble to be found (and thank god for that because air bubbles are one of those incredibly annoying, often unfixable things that destroy the look of a product).

Immediately, we were impressed with the look of the skin and ease of application, but we weren’t wholly in love with it.  Had we chosen the wrong design?  Are pigs and maths not the sort of ridiculously whimsical dichotomy we had hoped for?  Okay, our phone, while in our pocket, was protected from our car keys, but was that really enough?

For completion’s sake, we went back, downloaded the wallpaper.  We are, it should be noted, quite picky about wallpapers on our devices – they need to have a certain look, they need to be noticeable and distinctive without being overpowering; anything on a desktop ought to stand out but the background should never be lost; they need, in short, to have a certain je ne sais quoi.  Therefore, we figured that we’d check out the wallpaper, reject the wallpaper, and go back to our original (we didn’t think the wallpaper would be deficient in general, just that our own idiosyncrasies would win out).

Well, with the Pigs & Maths wallpaper placed on our desktop (and matching perfectly with the surrounding skin so that the lines of pigs flow from one to the next), we decided that the GelaSkin and the wallpaper would be staying for the foreseeable future.  While the skin alone may do a good job protecting the phone, the addition of the wallpaper—which seems like such a small, trivial piece—really tied it all together (like the Dude’s rug).

As a skin doesn’t protect from falls, it really doesn’t serve as a replacement for a case, but if you’re looking for an easy, thin, light, way of protecting your device and adding some of your own style to it, GelaSkins is a great option.  It should also be noted that in the case of our iPhone 4, it does seem a little odd that the skin comes with side pieces but not top and bottom ones to complete the look and to prevent scratches there.  That aside however, the skin adds no weight nor thickness to the device and is removable (but can’t necessarily successfully be reapplied after removal).   That, plus the fact that one can have any skin they can dream up really makes GelaSkins an attractive proposition.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.