We’ve been hearing a lot about the fragility of our iPhones: The French say that they’re spontaneously exploding, and some very un-scientific BlackBerry comparisons tell us they can’t take the abuse a RIM phone can (see video below).
But having an Apple device doesn’t mean treating it like jewelry. Check out the Tech21 iBand. Using the fanciful magic that is materials science, Tech21 has created a gooey case for your iPhone or iPod Touch that is soft and flexible to the touch, but hardens up like rock as soon as it feels an abrupt impact. The material it’s made from is called d3o, and it works by diffusing the energy from an impact throughout the rest of the case. When you drop the iPhone, the molecules in d3o lock in place, and the energy radiates to neighboring molecules until it’s absorbed the entire impact. If you’re wondering why this space-age material is being used in a lowly iPhone case, you’re on to something; it’s also been recruited for motorcycle armor. Watch in the video below as a guy wraps his finger in the stuff and gets it whacked with a mallet.
The iBand will be available in September for $25, but if you can’t wait that long, you can try for other kinds of toughness in the meantime. Verisign released an app this spring that turns your iPhone into a top-secret key generator for all the sites you use most frequently. It’s called VIP Access and initial reviews of the app, which is free, are overwhelmingly positive. It works like this: you tell Verisign which sites you want it to protect (eBay, PayPal, your online banking, email, and so on) and it will co-opt the login process each time you navigate to that site with your browser.
Instead of putting in your normal username and password, Versign will as you for a special code that is generated at random by your iPhone. The idea is that while hackers may intercept your login info, they probably won’t get their hands on your iPhone as well. The code numbers reset every 30 seconds, and it’s not site-specific, so a thief that nabs your iPhone won’t know which sites work with your codes. Check out the demo below.
If it’s water that tends to destroy your devices, there are a couple of solutions. Golden Shellback made a splash when it demonstrated its vacuum-applied polymer coatings this spring, but iPhone owners everywhere were disappointed to learn that the product wasn’t yet for sale. Now it is. For $120, you can have your iPhone coated inside and out with a waterproof clear-coat that will allow it to be completely submerged in water, fully operational. The company also clear-coats other smart devices like BlackBerrys, and should be offering coating options for laptops soon as well (though the prices vary).
Scratches are entirely another problem. For those, you can try Zagg’s InvisibleShield, a 2mm-thick pre-cut coating originally developed for helicopter blades. Once applied and allowed to set, the coating acts as an indestructible skin that can protect your device from the daily wear and tear that will eventually destroy its beautiful glossy backside and pristine screen. InvisibleShield is only $25 for a front-and-back coating and can be peeled off once it gets too scuffy for your taste. Below, it withstands some abuse from a common house key:
If all this toughness is getting you hot and bothered, you might also want to pick up the Hitachi SimpleTough, arguably the toughest external hard drive on the market right now. It’s heavily rubberized and can withstand 10-foot drops while turned off, and it’s even water resistant (assuming you have the USB plug nestled into the body). Unlike the array of other tough-looking hard drives on the market, this one appears to have been built for actual abuse. Here it is, in action: