By Andrew Liszewski
The real beauty of the iPhone and the iPad is that their simplicity allows them to be different devices for different users. The large touchscreen and endless assortment of applications means they can be far more than just tablets or phones. And an incredibly prolific third-party accessories market further enhances what each device can do. If you’re an artist, drawing and painting apps coupled with a stylus turns either device into a blank canvas. If you’re an automotive enthusiast, with dashboard mounts they can become navigation devices or even performance monitors. And if you’re a foodie, they can become a cookbook with an infinite number of recipes.
The only problem with that last application is that neither device goes too well with foodstuffs. In fact, we all know that Apple has hidden away moisture detectors in both the iPhone and iPad so that if they do get caught up in a spill, you’re completely out of luck when it comes to making a warranty claim. So keeping your iDevice in the kitchen while you work through a recipe is like playing a dangerous game of Russian Roulette with your investment. Unless you take precautions. But do you need to go as far as to buy custom plastic wraps for either device? We’ll do our best to determine if CleverWraps are worth the investment in our full review after the jump.
When the CleverWraps first started popping up on gadget and gizmo blogs a few months ago, a lot of us were skeptical about the need for what is essentially a Ziploc-like bag for your electronics. And what didn’t help the situation was the fact that the CleverWraps are more expensive than a box of plastic bags from the grocery store, or even cellophane. For tablets and ebook readers the CleverWraps run $14.99 for a pack of 3. While the wraps for smaller smartphones are understandably a bit cheaper at $9.99 for a pack of 5.
So we’ll be the first to admit that it’s hard to justify the cost when you can create a similar makeshift version using materials found in your kitchen, for a lot less money. But not surprisingly, after using them for just a few days we’ve found the CleverWraps to be a far more reliable, and easier, solution to simply wrapping your expensive device in cellophane or a sandwich bag. It’s not like the company behind the product has just slapped their logo on a clear plastic bag. Their wraps are specifically designed to fit the device their intended for, which actually makes a huge difference when it comes to usability. There’s no point in entombing your tablet or smartphone in plastic if afterwards it’s completely unusable.
We were sent versions of the CleverWraps designed for the iPad and the iPhone. (Which are actually called RingerWraps.) But since it’s the former that probably gets used most in kitchens across the country, we’ll take a look at those wraps first.
Like I just pointed out, the most compelling reason to use the CleverWraps, instead of your own homebrew solution, is the fact that they’re custom designed to fit your electronics. When you insert the iPad into the CleverWraps sleeve it fits nearly perfectly, which is nice because it means the device isn’t slipping and sliding around inside. You might think that’s a minor point, but we found it actually makes the device far easier to use while it’s protected.
Like the plastic storage bags you use in the kitchen, the CleverWraps feature a plastic zipping mechanism as their first and main line of defense against spills and foodstuffs. While it doesn’t provide an absolutely perfect airtight seal, protecting your iPad should it get completely submerged, we have no doubts that it will keep it adequately protected from even the most bottle-emptying spill you might experience in your kitchen.
The plastic zipping mechanism is further protected from spills and food finding their way in by an extra flap of plastic that you fold back and seal with an adhesive strip. Besides tucking away the plastic zipper, this flap also serves to tighten the excess plastic around the iPad, so that it doesn’t slide around while it’s inside. We also found that the adhesive strip can be pulled up and repositioned, so it’s not a one-time assembly deal where the wrap has to be torn or compromised in order to remove your device.
When all sealed up the CleverWraps actually look very neat and tidy since they’re sized to fit the iPad exactly. So if you’re making a purchase you’ll want to make sure you specifically order the wrap designed for your device. Or if it’s not specifically supported, make sure you find one for a device with matching dimensions. It will make your device far more usable while it’s being protected.
The back of the CleverWraps feature a stylish dotted design pattern. And aesthetics aside, I think the real reason the pattern is there is to make it extremely obvious which way the wraps are used. The plastic zipper and adhesive strip are designed to end up on the back of your device so as not to obscure the screen. So putting them in the sleeve the right way is important, and this patterned design makes it pretty obvious if you’ve done that correctly or not.
While in the sleeve we’re happy to report that our iPad was mostly usable. The touchscreen still works flawlessly, though that could change if your iPad gets covered in thick layers of food while you’re in the kitchen. There’s also enough give in the plastic so that you can still operate the volume rocker, lock button, home button and even the screen rotation/mute switch.
However, not only is the iPad’s dock connector not accessible, but the speakers on the bottom are also obscured. While the sound was slightly muted and muffled with our iPad in the sleeve, we could still hear audio without any problems. So you can still use it follow along with an Epic Meal Time recipe video. Unfortunately if you need to charge or sync your iPad you will have to remove it from the sleeve. But like we already mentioned, if you’re careful, and the sleeve isn’t too dirty, the repositionable adhesive strip and the plastic zipper means the wraps are reusable to a certain degree.
I have to admit, getting food anywhere near my iPad, or in this case actually on my device, wasn’t the easiest thing to do. But for the sake of testing I figured I could spare a healthy squirt of blindingly yellow mustard. And not surprisingly this is where the CleverWraps certainly work as advertised. No amount of smearing or rubbing caused the mustard to pass through the plastic wrapping. And I found that the generous folded plastic flap has the added bonus of keeping the area where the iPad slides in and out very clean. So when you do finally remove your device from the wrap, even after a torrential food storm, there’s less risk of it getting dirty. Of course you’ll probably want to thoroughly rinse the outside of the CleverWrap before removing your device, and we found that as long as you were smart about it, there was little risk of your electronics getting soaked in the process.
The same process of installing the CleverWraps on an iPad works for the iPhone too. You slide it in with the patterned, printed side covering the back of your phone…
…seal up the plastic zipper lock…
…remove the piece of paper protecting the adhesive strip, and then secure the generous plastic flap to the back of your phone.
Admittedly the fit wasn’t as tight and perfect when using the RingerWraps on our iPhone as it was with the CleverWraps on our iPad. But we suspect it’s because the sleeve is actually designed for a wide variety of ‘bar-type’ smartphones. So if it provided a perfect fit for the iPhone, there’s a chance it wouldn’t fit other devices. And in this case it’s clear the company has tried to make their RingerWraps as universal as possible. But like with the iPad, the iPhone’s touchscreen and buttons all remain completely usable, though again, the dock connector is inaccessible and the speaker will be slightly muffled and muted.
And like with the iPad version of the CleverWraps, the RingerWraps are impervious to spills. Even a copious amount of ketchup, which is probably as dirty as anyone will ever get their device, is no match for them.
So it’s not that surprising that the CleverWraps and RingerWraps work as advertised. In fact, I’m pretty sure no one has any real doubts that they’d work as claimed. The real question is whether or not they’re a better alternative to just sticking your device in a plastic freezer bag, or entombing it in cellophane. And I think the answer to that question is a pretty obvious yes. The fact that they’re custom designed for specific devices means that they do a fantastic job of protecting them without being too obtrusive, or making your device hard to use. From our testing we could still use our iPad and iPhone as easily as when they weren’t wrapped in a plastic sleeve, and we assume it’s the same experience with devices like eBook readers as well. Smartphones with a hardware keyboard might be a little more difficult to use while wrapped in plastic, but not impossible.
But are they worth $5 a pop when it comes to the wraps designed for tablets and eBook readers? In our opinion we’d have to say yes again, at least for certain situations. These are devices we’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on which can be rendered unusable, and even unserviceable, by even the smallest amount of food, liquid or even sand. So if you think your iPad will be spending an extended amount of time in the kitchen, amongst ingredients that will inevitably find their way onto it. Or, if you’re staring down a week’s vacation spent on the beach, where you just can’t completely disconnect from email and your smartphone, the CleverWraps and RingerWraps are definitely a good investment. For random and infrequent times when you need to protect your device though, cellophane or a regular old Ziploc bag will probably suffice.
+ A relatively cheap way to protect your electronics from the elements or spills, while still keeping them highly usable.
+ Looks more reliable when it comes to protecting your device than DIY solutions, so there’s some level of added peace of mind.
+ Are reusable so a single set should last through many vacations or recipes.
+ Available in a variety of custom sizes for the most popular electronic devices on the market.
– More expensive than wrapping your electronics in cling wrap or clear plastic kitchen bags.
– Lack of access ports means you have to remove your device to sync and/or recharge it.
– External speakers are covered, which results in sound that’s slightly muted and muffled.
– Does not provide a 100% watertight seal, so don’t expect to use them on your next snorkeling adventure.
If you have any questions about the CleverWraps you’d like answered, please feel free to leave them in the comments, and I’ll try to respond to them as best I can.