Much of the iPod’s aesthetic allure can be attributed to its shiny chrome back and smooth acrylic or polycarbonate front. Unfortunately, these materials—however attractive—are prone to scratches. But filing a lawsuit isn’t your only recourse if you’ve got a well-worn iPod. Products and services are out there that can give your full-size iPod or first-generation nano a makeover.
If you’ve been less than vigilant about protecting your iPod, it probably has at least a few—if not a slew of—scratches on its back, its front (including the screen), or both. But you don’t have to buy a new player just to get something resembling that out-of-the-box look—with a scratch-removal product and some elbow grease, you can banish many of those blemishes.
Regrettably, not all of these products work as well as their vendors promise, but there are some gems available. My current favorite is RadTech’s $21
Ice Creme kit, which includes two kinds of polishing solutions and two of RadTech’s Optex polishing cloths.
As with most products in this category, you use the Ice Creme kit to “remove” a scratch by buffing the surrounding surfaces until they’re level with the deepest part of the scratch. The most-effective scratch removers also tend to be the most abrasive, requiring subsequent treatment with more mild products that remove fine scratches left by harsher products. (For example, in the Ice Creme kit, Ice Creme A solution is the scratch remover, and B is the polisher.)
This process takes a lot of time and effort, so you shouldn’t expect instant results. I recommend setting aside at least an hour—perhaps longer if your iPod is particularly beat-up. If the task seems too monotonous, you can spread it out over the course of a week, spending 15 or 20 minutes per day. With enough applications and hard work, you can probably rid your iPod of all but the most stubborn flaws.
And remember that even the mildest scratch-removal productswillstillleave very faint scratches behind—if not from the solution itself, then from the polishing cloth. You can’tavoid these consequences completely, but you can do a couple of things to reduce their severity. First, use a soft, nonabrasive cloth—the washable Optex cloths included with RadTech’s Ice Creme are available separately, as LenSavrz, for $5 to $15, depending on their size. Second, vary your rubbing strokes—don’t use the same circular motion repeatedly or you’ll end up with fine scratches in that particular pattern.
If the chrome back of your iPod is severely damaged—to the point where the basic Ice Creme kit doesn’t have much of an effect—you can turn to RadTech’s $26 Ice Creme M, which includes the components of the basic Ice Creme kit plus an abrasive metal-refinishing pad. This pad removes the top layers of chrome, so RadTech warns that using it too often will actually thin the polished surface. And in the process of removing the worst gouges and scratches, it will leave faint swirling marks on the chrome that you’ll then need to treat.
If all that work sounds like, well, too much work, you may want to check out
ColorEnvy. For $20 (plus a $10 shipping fee), the company offers a mail-in polishing service for full-size iPods (going back to the third-generation model), iPod minis, and iPod nanos. ColorEnvy promises to “buff out the scratches and apply a high quality clear coating to your iPod front panel.” You can also check out
results of the company’s service on our test iPod.
You may have read online reports claiming that various home remedies—involving toothpaste or Brasso metal polish, for example—are effective at removing iPod scratches. In my testing, most dedicated scratch-removal products proved to be quite a bit more effective. Brasso shines an iPod’s chrome back impressively but doesn’t do much for scratches. Many brands of toothpaste, on the other hand, are actually too abrasive, causing more scratches than they remove. The one non-iPod-specific remedy that may work, depending on the product brand, is a CD scratch-repair kit, since it’s designed to do the same thing for CDs that you’re trying to do for your iPod’s exterior.
The best way to have an iPod that’s free of scratches is to never let them happen in the first place. So after getting rid of the blemishes—or if you’re the proud owner of a brand-new iPod—you might want to think about protection. You’ve got two choices: cases and films. A good case will prevent scratches while also protecting your iPod from bumps and blows—and with literally hundreds of iPod cases on the market, you’ve got plenty of choices. Some of my favorites for full-size iPods are Contour Design’s $33
Showcase video ( ) and iSkin’s $35
eVo3 for iPod ( ). Some good nano cases are Ava’s $20
Smooth E ( ) and XtremeMac’s $30
MicroWallet Leather ( ). Also check out our comprehensive list of
iPod case reviews.
The downside to cases is that they add bulk to your iPod’s svelte frame and obscure its shiny surfaces. Films, on the other hand, are thin and transparent. They offer varying degrees of protection and coverage, and they’re designed to shield your iPod from surface scratches—though not drops and knocks—while still letting it look like an iPod. There are many films out there; my favorites are Power Support’s
Crystal Film sets ($10 to $16) and ShieldZone’s
InvisibleShields ($20 to $25). The first are flexible films that are easy to apply and reuse but cover only the front and back of your iPod. The second are quite a bit more difficult to apply (skip the printed directions and watch the video on the company’s Web site instead) but are more durable, and they protect the sides and edges of your iPod as well as the front and back.
An Ounce of Prevention: One of the best ways to prevent iPod scratches is to apply a thin transparent film to its surface.
If the front of your iPod is too scratched up to fix—or if you’re just bored with the traditional white or black design—consider a custom paint job.
ColorWare can paint your iPod’s non-chrome surfaces with one of 23 glossy finishes and apply a special scratch- and fade-resistant coating ($64 to $74, depending on the iPod model). There are even a few options available: $30 to have the rear chrome surface painted, $20 for a different Click Wheel color, $20 to have your iPod dock painted to match, and $20 to have your earbuds painted to match. Once painted, your music player will definitely stand out in the sea of iPods.
[ Dan Frakes is a Macworld senior editor and the senior reviews editor at
Better battery life
When Apple rolled out its latest generation of video iPods, it also brought out a software update for older fifth-generation (5G) iPods that brought some—but not all—of the new iPods’ functionality to the original models. But it turns out that one of the update’s most unheralded features is actually the most impressive one: a huge improvement in iPod battery life.
Though the original 5G iPods don’t have the new models’ super-bright screens, the latest iPod Software version does let 5G iPod owners adjust their screens’ brightness. And the under-the-hood optimizations that let the new models achieve significantly longer battery life are, it turns out, mainly in software, not hardware. Combined, these two features make the software update a much cooler deal for owners of the original 5G iPods than many people have realized.
To investigate potential battery-life improvements, I tested a 60GB 5G iPod before and after updating its software by continuously playing some TV shows purchased from the iTunes Store until the iPod’s battery gave out.
The pre-updated iPod played back episodes of Desperate Housewives and Who Wants to Be a Superhero for nearly 4 hours and 15 minutes before giving up the ghost. Not bad, and in line with what we found during our original review of these models. (Plus, it’s longer than the 3 hours of playback that Apple initially claimed for the 60GB model).
But then I updated the iPod’s software to the latest version: All of a sudden it could play for 4 hours and 53 minutes—39 minutes (around 18 percent) longer than before. And that was at maximum brightness; once I cranked down the iPod’s brightness to the halfway mark, the iPod turned into a regular Energizer Bunny. After a few hours, the battery indicator seemed to suggest that the iPod was about to die—but it was crying wolf. I stayed late at the office, and it kept running. I carried it home on the bus, and it kept running. Finally, as I sat at home eating a late dinner, the iPod ran out of juice—after an astonishing 9 hours and 10 minutes of video playback.
So here’s the moral of this story: If you’re running an original 5G iPod, don’t be sad that your software update didn’t include that nifty Search feature. Instead, be happy that your iPod’s battery life just got a free—and big—boost. And if you’re watching videos in dark environments that don’t require full brightness, turn the backlighting down. Your iPod will reward you with plenty of playback time.— Jason Snell