There are plenty of ways that mobile users are divided into groups, whether by their own choice or by others. We are mainly grouped by the platforms that we choose, but then also by the models of the devices, and the apps and services that we use, as well. Another dividing line that finds staunch proponents on either side has to do with device protection. Naked, skins, soft case, hard case, waterproof, bulletproof, battery-powered, solar-powered, various combinations of any of these. There are tons of choices out there, especially for iOS users, so if you prefer to protect your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, you won’t find yourself short of options. In fact, those of us here at iSource had a recent discussion on what we prefer and use everyday with our iPhones. Take a look and you’ll see that, even among small group of writers, you will find a diverse set of opinions.
For the sake of brevity (which is definitely not my strong suit) my entry in this article about iPhone protection focused on my choice of case, the Mophie Juice Pack Plus. However, I have used screen protectors with every mobile device I have owned since 1998. I had a Philips Nino Palm/Sized PC that year, and got a very noticeable scratch on the screen. It drove me absolutely nuts until I got rid of the device a few months later. I’m just too “Type-A” to handle that kind of thing very well. As such, I have used screen protectors of one kind or another ever since.
The first full body skin I ever used was on my 1st gen iPod Touch. I probably wouldn’t have chosen it myself, as the whole wet-apply concept seemed strange to me in early 2008. However, the skin came already applied to the Touch, and surprisingly I absolutely loved the feel of it. Also, since I was moving into a class of devices where the screen was the dominant focus of everything you do with it, screen protection that didn’t get in the way of seeing or using it became critical.
The Touch was my introduction to iOS, but it wasn’t long before I broke down and traded up to my first iPhone. I picked one up in February of 2008, a few months after the initial release, and thanks to my experience with the full body skin on my iPod Touch, I immediately got one for my new toy. However, despite how much I loved the skins I started with, I found the price tag a bit prohibitive. After a lot of digging and research for a less expensive alternative that still had a high quality product, I came upon some recommendations for a company called Best Skins Ever. They used the same types of durable skin materials, and had the same wet-apply design as their better-known competitors, but at less than half the price. I put my first one on my original iPhone, and I have been using Best Skins Ever exclusively ever since.
So what’s the catch? There has to be one, right? Well, there is really only one minor one that I have found. One of the ways that Best Skins Ever streamlines their business to keep costs low is in their packaging. It isn’t anything like the competition. Depending on the size of the skin you are getting, it will be delivered in either a plain, white envelope or a larger, cardboard envelope.
This contains your skin or skins, instructions, and an invoice. That’s it. No fancy box, spray bottle, or applicator. Just the basics, and nothing else. The thing is, though, all of those extras can be replaced or found on your own. An instructional video is available on YouTube, and you can easily get your hands on a spray bottle. Just fill it with water and add a drop or two of mild detergent, and you’re good to go. The only difficulty you might have is finding a rubber straight edge small enough for an iPhone or iPod Touch.
So how does Best Skins Ever do it? Besides the sparse packaging, what else do they do to keep their costs so low? They are actually pretty open about that. In fact, if you read a little on their site, they have based their entire business model on keeping things streamlined so that costs remain low. Here is the quote from company president Michael Herring that comes from the About Us page on their website:
A few years ago before my company was around, I bought a skin for my iPod from another manufacturer. As soon as it came in the mail, I knew I’d paid too much. Sure, the packaging was nice, but all I really wanted was the skin inside. And that packaging, along with all the marketing around it, was costing me more money – and it ended up right in the trash.
After some research, I discovered a way to offer great-quality clear protective covers that didn’t cost much to manufacture. I also discovered other companies often add marketing spin to try and convince you the protective material they use is worth more than it really is. I wasn’t buying it, and I was convinced I could do a better design – charging good people a lot less money for it. So that’s what I did.
To keep our prices down at Best Skins Ever, we avoid getting bloated with too many employees and too much marketing. In fact, I still have a hand in the design of every skin. Thanks for your interest in our company. We’re unhealthily obsessed with keeping your stuff shiny. Because we know you are too.
– President, Best Skins Ever, Inc.
So as you can see, keeping costs low is a primary focus for Best Skins Ever. This isn’t just talk, either. The cost of a BSE skin has only gone up a modest amount over the last four years. Considering the increases in postage, materials, and gas over that same amount of time, as well as the company’s growing popularity, they have definitely walked the walk. The packaging and shipping options (USPS First Class Mail from Denver, CO is all that is available) are very limited, but you get a lot of bang for your buck in return.
If you read the FAQ page on the Best Skins Ever site, you see that another priority for the company is developing skins that don’t obscure the screens or the designs of the devices they cover. Again, these comments aren’t just talk. Where many competing products can make screens appear hazy, or have textured surfaces that may noticeably reduce screen clarity, Best Skins Ever are clear and when applied properly, they don’t obscure the beautiful design, or more importantly, the Retina Displays of my iPhone 4S and new iPad.
There is a brief “curing period,” right after application when some of the adhesive and gas bubbles are still visible, but this is usually gone in a day or two, leaving a clear view to your screen.
My personal favorite aspect of Best Skins Ever skins is the feel. Again, where many have gone for a textured look and feel, BSE’s skins are smooth when you glide your finger’s across them. Despite this smoothness, however, they are not slippery. This is really important to me, especially when it comes to my iPad. The rear skin has become an absolute requirement for me now, since I tend to carry my iPad around outside of a case a good bit at home, and my kids also play with it the same way. I find the aluminum a little too slippery for my tastes, so the extra grip that the skin gives you just feels more secure to me. Also, I just can’t stand what a scratch magnet the aluminum back is, so getting that skin on as soon as possible after I get the latest model is VERY important. OCD, anyone?
Another plus is that, while these skins have always done a great job of protecting my devices from scuffs and scratches through several drops, they aren’t overly thick. This is big plus if you also prefer to use a case in tandem with a skin. This is especially helpful if you use a hard, form-fitting case. For example, I have been able to use a Best Skins Ever rear skin on my iPhone 4S along with my Mophie Juice Pack without issue. This protects the glass back from being scratched by any dirt or grit while taking it out of or putting it into my case. It also offers protection if I decide to carry my iPhone around without a case for a while, which I often do around the house while my Mophie is charging for the coming day.
Lastly, I have to praise Best Skins Ever for both the breadth of devices that they make skins for, and also the attention to detail within each device category. For example, one of the skins that Best Skins Ever sent me to look at, and that I have used myself previously, is their Bumper-Optimized version for the iPhone 4 and 4S. It leaves a small gap around the edges to allow for the use of form fitting cases. So, you can outfit your iPhone 4 or 4S with skins, both front or back, and still use the majority of the cases available thanks to Best Skins Ever. Also, if you take a look at their new iPad and iPad 2 selection, they have separate versions available for the WiFi-only, AT&T, and Verizon models to insure that you always have a perfect fit. Attention to details like these is the hallmark of a company that really cares about what they are doing.
For anyone familiar with competing brands’ wet-apply skins, the application of a Best Skins Ever skin needs no explanation. Other than the fact that you have to bring your own utensils, there is absolutely no difference between this any any other wet-apply skin that I have seen. For those who haven’t used one of this type of skins before, here is a basic overview of how it goes.
First, you have to get prepared to do the application. This step is probably more important than any other in the process. Once you peel the skin off of its backing, you need to be ready to go, so having enough space to work, the right amount of light, and everything you need at hand is critical. So, be sure to set up in a suitable location with plenty of light, and where the dust and dirt are at a minimum. Also, be sure to prepare your water/liquid soap mix, and have your rubber squeegee and a soft, lint-free cloth close at hand.
If you have ever used a competing brand’s skin and still have the included spray bottle and squeegee, then they will serve you well here. Also, before moving on, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water so you don’t leave oily fingerprints on the skin when you touch it.
Next, you need to power your device off, pick a side, and clean it thoroughly. THOROUGHLY.
This is absolutely critical, because whatever is there when you put the skin on will be there until the moment you take it off. This includes screen smudges, dust, and dirt. I suggest taking a run at the device with the same liquid you will apply the skin with, followed by drying with your lint-free cloth. Get the surface as clean as possible, and be sure to sweep the screen free of debris one last time right before applying the skin.
Now it’s time to prepare the skin for application. Carefully peel the skin from the backing, making sure to account for any tabs or strips that cover corners or sides, and to make as little contact as possible with your fingertips.
Once the skin is removed, you can either dip it entirely in your water/liquid-soap mix, or you can spray the adhesive side of the skin with a spray bottle.
If you are spraying, be sure that you put enough on. The point is to get enough solution on the skin to allow it to smoothly glide across the surface until you get it perfectly lined up with guideposts such as the camera lens and dock connector on the back, and the home button and front-facing camera on the front.
Even though no skin manufacturer recommends this, I always put a single spray directly on my device to help with this. Just don’t go overboard.
Now it’s time to get down to business. Since this is a wet-apply skin, you don’t have to be perfectly accurate when you first put it on. However, the fewer bubbles left for later, the better. I always hold the top of the skin with one hand, line up the bottom around the home button with the other, and get about 1/4 of the skin applied to the lower part of the device.
I then try to squeege out the bubbles and water that I can.
Then, I apply the rest of the skin, squeegeeing as I go, until I reach the top.
Then, I move the skin around a bit to get it completely lined up, followed by the final squeegee run to get leftover water or bubbles.
The critical thing to remember with this method is to not take too long getting the skin onto the device, as it will pick up dust and lint floating around in the air.
If you have never done this before, my method may not work the best for you. Just remember that I’ve been at this for 4 years now, so I have a system down that works well for me. If you haven’t attempted installing a wet-apply skin before, don’t be intimidated. Use plenty of water, get the skin on quickly, and make sure you line the skin up properly. You will have to squeegee a little more water and smooth out more bubbles, but doing it this way will give you more time to work.
However you go about it, once the skin is in its final position, the adhesive will start to activate. While this is happening, again, you need to work on finishing up squeegeeing out bubbles and excess solution.
It is better to move as much of this liquid to the sides as possible, to avoid openings such as the headphone jack and dock port.
How long the glue ultimately takes to set up will depend on how much liquid you use. The more you use, the longer you will have to position the skin, but the more squeegeeing you will have to do. Thankfully, in my long experience with Best Skins Ever, even if you end up with a few bubbles in your final application, don’t worry. They usually work themselves out within a week or so. According to Best Skins Ever’s applications instruction sheet, their skins are gas permeable, so the trapped air and moisture has a way to escape over time. I have never had a bubble that never went away, but I’m also pretty careful about application.
Now comes the tedious part. Well, at least if you are doing applying the back of your iPad or older iPhone, or the side panls of an iPhone 4 or 4S. It will take up to 15 minutes for the glue to activate enough for the corner tabs and flaps, or the edges to all stick and hold.
You just have to make sure they all line up, and alternate holding the tabs down when they get tacky. Don’t rush this part. It will take a little time, but it is important that you get these tabs to stick all the way down. If they don’t, dirt and grime will accumulate under them, and erode the glue to the point where they detach from your iPad. This will just get worse until you either have to cut the tab off, or end up taking the skin in question off completely. How well you do this will determine how long your rear skins and side panels will last.
Also, as I mentioned before, remember that the skin will appear a little hazy at first, with lots tiny dots and bubbles appearing on top of the screen.
This is especially evident if you look at the screen with a bright light behind it. This is just the reaction of the adhesive, and it will go away. I promise. Just give it up to a week. If it doesn’t for some reason, remember that Best Skins Ever have a 30-Day Warranty, so just call them and they will take care of you.
Another very, VERY important thing to remember is that you will need to leave your device off for at least 30 minutes after applications, and that is a bare minimum. Best Skins Ever obviously recommends waiting much longer. We are using water here, so you have to be careful, especially if you use a lot. Even more so if you got it in the dock connector or headphone jack. This probably isn’t as much of a concern with an iPad, but if you are applying to your iPhone and have to have cell access, either take your SIM Card out and pop it in a backup phone, or forward your calls temporarily before you start.
This waiting period actually goes up if you are applying skins to both sides in one sitting, as you will need to let one side cure for at least an hour before flipping it over to do the other. Actually, I would recommend longer, especially for an iPad, since it has a curved surface. Remember that you will be applying pressure to the device while squeegeeing, which can affect the skin on the other side if you aren’t careful, so take your time. It isn’t a bad idea to wait a few hours, or even a whole day, before doing the other side. This way you can go ahead and use your device sooner and balance things out a bit.
Ok, now you’re done. Breathe. Sounds easy, right? Well, like anything, it gets easier with time and practice. The beauty of Best Skins Ever, though, is that you aren’t flushing $30+ down the toilet if you screw up. The much lower cost makes the learning process a LOT more palatable, even to wet-apply rookies.
In conclusion, what else can I say except that I love Best Skins Ever. They make a great product, and sell it at an incredibly reasonable price. Their skins are the best value I’ve ever seen in iOS accessories. If you need a skin right away, or prefer to pick them up at your local electronics store, then they probably won’t suffice for you. However, for those willing to wait a few days on USPS First Class Mail shipping, Best Skins Ever are worth the wait, and definitely worth the price.
Best Skins Ever for the iPhone 4 and 4S are available direct from the manufacturer for $6.99 per individual side, and $8.99 for full body.
Best Skins Ever for the iPad 2 and new iPad are available direct from the manufacturer for $13.99 for the screen, $16.99 for the back and $18.99 for full body.
The Best Skins Ever skins were provided by Best Skins Ever for review on iSource. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.