Review - Cruzerlite Skins
Full disclosure: The guys over at Cruzerlite helped out Carbon when no one had heard of use by donating a few free cases so we could run some giveaways on our social networks. We went to them because we liked their product and the way that they interacted with the Android community. They were so excited about their new skin product that they arranged to ship a MotoX and one of their skins to me so that I might review it and give them, and you, my honest feedback. The device and skins have been since sent back to them. I was not paid or otherwise compensated for this review. Mostly I just wanted to check out a new product, have an excuse to play with a Moto X, and play with the lightbox I built last week.
I hate cases. To me, they've always been a necessary evil. I generally go with the thinnest TPU case I can find so I know my phone will be protected, and try and find one that actually looks cool. Which is why I've always liked the Cruzerlite cases. Very android friendly, and there were always lots of looks to choose from - android themes, art, etc. My favorite was the Tardis case. I was always very careful with my device. But scratches and things happen, and like many of you I never plan to stay with one device for more than a year or so. That means you gotta keep it looking like new so you can sell it later.
To me, that's the niche that the Cruzerlite skins occupy. If you drop your phone all the time this product isn't going to keep you from denting it or smashing the glass. It's vinyl, not TPU. If you're a purist who insist on rocking a totally naked phone, this product also isn't for you. If you're one of the many who hate cases but want to protect the phone in some way, or are confident in your ability to not drop your phone but want a custom look, then this product is where it's at. It'll protect your device from light damage, give you any look you want, and preserve the size and feel of your device.
The product comes in the form of thick vinyl stickers. As it's a brand new product they don't yet have a set of instructions on the site. They tell me they have that in the works and we should see them soon. With that in mind, I'll overshare my installation process and what I learned for you folks. Cruzerlite clearly wanted to make sure that you'd be happy with the installation of this product, so they've given you a single sticker for the back, two sets of stickers for the sides, and three sets for the front. You can screw this up and try again without ordering a new set. Note that I say stickers, but this is actually vinyl of a nice thickness, not some elmo sticker you'd get from the doctor after a checkup.
So having checked out both the vinyl and the Moto X I setup my lightbox and got down to business. I applied the back vinyl, taking great care to align the camera and microphone. It worked, after a fashion - it looked like a sticker slapped on a phone. A phone with a lot of curves. So far... meh. I stuck the sides on as well. It looked... like a bunch of stickers slapped on a phone. They didn't conform to the curves of the phone at all. So I called up Joel at Cruzerlite and told him that while I thought he had a nice idea, this was probable something that would only work on a phone with simple surfaces like an iphone. I showed him how it looked and he asked me when I was planning to finish the installation. Finish the installation? What? Heat. You apply heat after installation. Ohhhhhh. For a guy who was just told that his half-installed product wasn't very good, he was pretty cool about it. Thanks Joel.
Ok, so with that in mind, I dug out the hair dryer and got to heating. It looked a lot better. With a bit of heat and some pressure with my fingers, the vinyl conformed to the curves of the device and started to look like they belonged there. That said, because I installed them like they were stickers, there were gaps. Teal gaps. It didn't look great - but that was on me.
You might want to color match better than I did. Teal and
wood grain aren't known for being a classic combination.
So the first install didn't look so great. The vinyl was curved to match the phone, but I had ugly gaps that ruined the look. When I put the sides on, I aligned things like I would with regular stickers - not heat shrinking vinyl. But Cruzerlite clearly anticipated that, so I had more! Off came the vinyl on the sides and and back to square one. This time, I made sure there was some overlap so that when heat was applied, it would properly fit. Here's what it looked like:
You can already tell it's going to come out better this time. Out comes the hair dryer!
Now we're talking. No gaps, all the buttons are nicely cut out... it looks great. Again, the color combination shows why I'm not ever going to be a graphic designer, but it certainly highlights just how well the product fits the device. There's a slight edge where the vinyl on the sides and the back overlap. It's not unpleasant, but I'd like to play with this product some more to see if I could even avoid that. I've asked Cruzerlite to send me a few more and another phone, and hope to have a follow up on this in the future.
Yes, it has front stickers. The great thing about this product is it's up to you what you apply - if you don't want the front stickers, don't put them on. You could even mix and match them if you wanted. Get different colors and make the phone version of this:
Yes, that's a real thing. It's a Harlequin Golf and comes
that way from the factory. Please don't do this to your phone.
So after installing and playing with this, I like it. The vinyl is thick enough to feel like a high quality and durable product and on the whole I found it to be easier to apply than a screen protector. Sure, it's a bit tricky to align, but you don't have to worry about dust and the use of heat makes this a relatively forgiving product. I'm certain that I didn't do a perfect job with this, but I don't hate it the way you'd hate a screen protector with a bit of dust under it. I did manage to tweak the back a bit when applying it, and you can see the bulge from it. Again, this is something that I'd be able to differently now that I know how the product works so I'm not particularly concerned about it.
Cruzerlite has a whole range of vinyl to choose from too - 57 at the time of this review. There's wood grain, antibacterial colors, metallic, and leather skins. We're spoiled for choice and if you can't find something you like you might want to ask yourself why you're so picky.
I'd say this is a buy. They look great, feel great, and will do a fantastic job of protecting your phone from light damage. They're easy to apply, and at just under ten dollars you can't beat the price. For those of you who picked up a Moto X before Motomaker was a thing, this is a great way to change your phone's look without buying a new one, or get the look of wood without paying an extra hundred bucks for a single woodgrain option. (bamboo? seriously?) At the time of this review, the skins are available for the Moto X, Nexus 5, Note 3, Galaxy S4, and iPhone 5/5s.
I'll update this thread in the future if I can get my hands on another device and more vinyl. If possible I'll try something other than wood grain, too.
You can check out the rest of their skins at http://www.cruzerlite.com/skins
Derek - Team Carbon Co-Founder
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