Why Wrapsol's new gadget skin is a happy accident

A new gadget skin promises to keep your phone and other tech toys safe from 6-foot drops. The technology behind it turns out to be a happy accident.

Wrapsol/CNET

Gadget skin maker Wrapsol this week introduced a new version of its thin adhesive protectors called Wrapsol Ultra that promises to keep your gadgets safe from drops up to 6 feet. And like the Slinky, Silly Putty, and Post-It notes, the technology was created almost by accident.

In a call with CNET on Friday, Wrapsol President Lew Cohen explained that while experimenting with different manufacturing processes for the adhesive layer of the skin, they ended up creating a compound that could take a lot of abuse.

"With more flexibility, we get more impact resistance," Cohen said. "We then redesigned the [skin] kits so we had more coverage around the bezel of the device. We tried it on an iPhone, dropping it from 6 feet onto a concrete pad with no damage--internally or externally."

Cohen says his testers dropped it in excess of 50 times. They then took it a step further with a Nokia N97, which was wrapped in the compound, then dragged behind a truck at 35 miles per hour on rough concrete. It managed to come out with no visible scratches, dents, or cracks in the screen (note: there's a video of it here).

Beyond bumps and bruises, Cohen claims that Wrapsol's skins offer better visibility and capacitive sensitivity than most of its competitors because it's thicker--reasoning that seems to fly in the face of logic. Wrapsol's gadget liners are 12 mils thick with 2 mils of adhesive, whereas many other companies go with 6-mil films that have 2 mils of adhesive.

"We looked at [6 mil] and said there's too much 'orange peel'--which means the surface looks like the skin of an orange. We looked at improving that. We wanted to make it look just like the glass," Cohen said. The thinner size can also cause diffusion of finger heat, which is what Cohen says can cause capacitive touch screens to lose some of their sensitivity.

In the near future, the company also plans to introduce a fingerprint-phobic version of the Ultra skins that will work on both the front of the device and the back, which for phones like the iPhone 3GS has been something users lose when applying a third-party screen protector (or sometimes just by heavy usage ).

Still, the one thing that's missing from this promise of drop protection is any kind of warranty for a device that does break from a 6-foot or shorter drop. Unlike the world of surge protectors, and the electronics that connect to them, that's something users will still have to shell out to a third-party gadget insurance company to get covered.

Most of Wrapsol's Ultra line runs at $25 per kit, and work with a handful of phones and portable gaming devices. A full list can be found on the company's news release.

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Tech Culture
About the author

Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.

 

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