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Eighteen bucks for an iPhone decal?

Gelaskins offers pretty stickers for your iPhone (and other devices), but don't be confused--they're more for decoration than real protection.

My wife has been trying to convince me to get a protector for my iPhone ever since she bought hers, a silicone sleeve made by Belkin, at the Apple Store a few months ago. But I didn't like any of the designs they had at the Apple Store. I was looking for something more original, edgier.

Pretty is as pretty does.

I can't remember exactly what terms I entered into Google, but the Gelaskins Web site came up prominently in the search results. The designs were cool. The price seemed right at less than $15. The copy on the site emphasized both protection and customizability. So, I picked my design, paid my $18 ($15 plus $3 for standard shipping), and waited.

What I didn't do was read CNET's 2006 review. If I had seen the very apt phrase "artistic stickers that do double-duty as scratch protectors," I wouldn't have been so surprised that this thing is basically a decal. It's got a rubberized texture and special glue that makes it easy to peel off and on--it took me a couple tries to ensure that I didn't have any bubbles--but otherwise it's not much different from the free stickers you get at shows. I'm sure my three-year-old daughter would have been happy to decorate my phone with some of those.

I also made a mistake by ordering the iPhone version instead of the iPhone 3G version. As a result, I've got a quarter-inch of exposed space--the 3G versions wrap around the side on part of the phone, although they still leave the top bare. Even so, 18 bucks for a decal seems awfully steep. Lesson learned--even for impulse buys, read the review.

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