Review: CleverWraps, protecting your mobile phone

If you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars on a mobile phone, you’re going to want to make sure it’s protected from the elements. This is particularly true for cyclists who spend large amounts of time outdoors; the mobile phone is one of the best, and sometimes only, bike tools they carry with them. 

It may seem counter intuitive then that many people (ourselves included) choose to put their phones inside ziplock bags and trust them to a few cents worth of plastic. The simple truth of the matter is that the baggies are cheap and they keep the water out. Sure, there are phone cases designed for sports and extreme conditions, but they’re expensive and often bulky, especially compared to the humble plastic baggie. And sure, the ziplock bags don’t really allow you to use your phone while they’re in them but, as mentioned before, they’re cheap, and they keep the water out.

Obviously there’s a gap in the market and CleverWraps have stepped in to try and fill that gap. They have produced what they call "clear disposable protective sleeves for your digital devices", which is a very accurate description. CleverWraps are "technical" ziplock bags available in a range of sizes to suit mobile phones, e-book readers and tablet devices. You choose the size of the bag you need (they have an extensive list of popular devices and the appropriate bags for them) and buy a pack of them (shipping is free to Australia). You pop you phone in the bag, do up the ziplock, adjust the size using the sticky strip and you’re set.

Because cyclists are diverse creatures, we divided the test products between two BNA testers: John Hawkins, who tested it under mountain biking conditions, and David Halfpenny, who commutes by bike and races on the road. Here is the discussion we had on the CleverWraps.

David: OK John, you can kick this off. What are you’re first impressions of the CleverWraps?

John: My initial thoughts are that the bags are handy for those likely to be:
- riding in adverse conditions,
- adventure racing,
- mountain bike racing where water immersion is a possibility (for example, the infamous canoe pontoon bridge at the Dirtworks 100km mountain bike race, where half of those attemping the traverse get the wobbles and fall off into the river!),
- riding in snow, etc.
but I’m left wondering what advantage they offer over a small supermarket ziplock bag which have a much cheaper per-unit price and seem to last a bit longer.

David:
I’m not as extreme as you, but my initial impression is that the CleverWraps good for "everyday" moisture and dirt protection. I usually don’t carry my phone in my jersey pocket when I commute because I get too sweaty. When I do carry it in my jersey, I put it in a plastic bag like most cyclists seem to do. Having used the CleverWraps covers for a few weeks I have noticed some advantages over the plastic bags I normall use:
- I don’t need to take the phone out of the bag to make a call, the plastic of the CleverWraps didn’t seem to make any difference to the sound quality, either sending or receiving.
- The CeleverWraps pouch isn’t slippery when it’s wet or when you get grease or oil on it either; the plastic is finely textured. You can make a phone call with one of these in the middle of a thunder storm. I like that idea.
 
John: The overlock flap is a good idea that protects the zip lock part, but I found that the tack strip rapidly loses its effectiveness due to dirt/dust sticking to it and from fingerprint oils.

CleverWraps

David: I thought the sticky strip was all about getting a tight fit to your phone, but you’re probably right as well because it does add an extra bend that moisture has to navigate around before it gets to the phone – which is sort of like the way my Ortlieb roll top panniers work. I found that the strip does become less sticky, but it took a few openings and closings for that to happen. The problem is that you have to open and close the package to charge your phone, so you’ll eventually wear the strip out. You’ll also have problems with strip wear depending on how much movement the phone experiences – when I put my phone in my panniers it’s pretty stable, but in the back pocket of my jersey or in my jeans pocket it would be moving more. I suspect my rides are less dirty than your ones, and that may play a role in how long the stickiness lasts as well. To put numbers on it, the stickiness lasted about four weeks for me, charging the phone once a week.

John: That fits with my experience. My phone is pretty power hungry if I leave data on or use the GPS functionality, so I tend to charge it every night. I found the ends of the tack strip started to get a bit grey and lost their tackiness in 3 or 4 days of use. Floating around and rubbing on the inside of my trouser pocket at work and jersey pocket when riding probably didn’t help its longevity. If I was of a mind to try to get the most life out of each bag I’d probably snip the tack strip off the end once it started to get like this.

CleverWraps

David: Keep in mind that the CleverWraps are meant to be disposable, so maybe this can be thought of as an indicator strip.

I used CleverWraps with two different phones. One of them was a Samsung (vertical) sliding phone, the other a standard Nokia bar phone. The CleverWraps with the sliding phone was a horrible combination. I found it almost impossible to slide the phone up and I managed to put finger nail tears all over the front of it while doing so. I made sure I left enough extra room in the bag to slide it, but it was still hard to do; having the extra plastic flapping about when the phone was compressed was also annoying. I wouldn’t use this product with a sliding phone, I suspect flip phones would be OK though.

Ed. The CleverWraps come in three formats – bar phones such as an iPhone, Vertical Flip/Slide phones and Horizontal Flip/Slide phones – though were not tested with Slide Phones in this review.

The CleverWraps fit the Nokia bar phone perfectly with very little extra plastic. The cover also lasted much longer because I wasn’t always ripping at it to extend the phone. What type of phone did you use it on, John? Did you try it with a touch screen phone? I borrowed an iPhone and it seemed to operate the touch screen without a problem. I’ve been told that you can’t do that with a plastic bag, but I don’t know.

CleverWraps

John: My Garmin-Asus Nuviphone is an Android touch phone, and the CeleverWraps pouch did work very well with the touch screen and with making and receiving calls. Crackle from the plastic bag while on a call was minimal thanks to the snug fit, so that is one up on the standard ziplock bag.

There’s a crosshatch printing on the rear of the pouch that may well block the camera lense on a few phones, but it was fine for my Garmin Nuviphone.

David: Blocked it completely on one of my phones, but not the other. I suspect there’s two different plastics used in the cover, the front plastic being better for sound quality and touch screen use, hence the need to differentiate front from rear, but given that most phones do have a camera in them I thought the cross hatching was a bit silly.

John: While I was testing it I got lots of questions at work along the lines of “Why is your phone in a plastic bag?”

David: They’re not attractive, are they?
 
John: No, not something you’d use in a work environment. At the moment my view is “got some good points, but it doesn’t grab me”.

David: Same here. I will use the ones I have, but I don’t know if I’ll be buying more. If they were on sale at an event, I might buy one if I didn’t have any other phone protection, but only if there was a good chance the phone would get wet. They’re not an every day accessory for me, but havng one in my saddle bag would probably be a good idea.

John: I usually carry my phone in a jersey pocket when bike commuting for ease of access in emergencies, so I normally carry it in a side jersey pocket in a sleeve made from thin wetsuit-like material for impact and scratch protection. Water ingress from rain has not yet been an issue fortunately. The fluoro visibility vest I use for commuting tends to deflect the worst of the splatter and the wetsuit pouch does most of the rest, so while the outer casing has sometimes been damp, nothing has gotten inside.

However, sometimes you just can’t avoid it and getting dumped on by torrential rain and being soaked through to the skin is just going to happen. In these circumstances, the CleverWraps comes into its own. Phones don’t like getting wet very much, and if you add salt from perspiration or off the road surface into the mix the phone can die very suddenly if that gets inside. These water resistant sealable sleeves deal with that risk quite well and maintain full usability for most bar phones.

I’ll be keeping a packet in my “away box” that goes with me to mountain bike races. I think they’ll come in quite handy when the weather inevitably turns foul – I’ve had a bit of a charmed run and have managed to avoid bad weather at events I’ve entered so far. That won’t continue. Mobile phones are an essential safety item these days and I never ride off-road without one fully charged. So these phone wraps, while not pretty, will find a place with me purely on function.

David: So, I think we can agree that they do the job they’re meant to do and they do it better than normal ziplock bags in many ways. The elephant in the corner, however, is the price.

CleverWraps

John: Well, the price compared to what you can get a box of food grade ziplock bags for from the super market. CleverWraps are $10 for a pack of 5!?  Hmmmm….that doesn’t sit right with me.

David: Me either, especially when they die after a few weeks, or a few days in your case.

To wrap up (pun intended) CleverWraps do exactly what they advertise they will do and they provide a good technical alternative to the cheap ziplock bags that many cyclists use. They are perfect if you need to use you phone or other device in adverse cycling conditions, but they’re not everyday items – especially given the price.

If you were going on a bike tour or endurance event where you might need to use your phone in the wet or muck, having a pack of these would give you the protection you needed for your device. For everyday use, however, we suspect most cyclists would be looking for cheaper options

CleverWraps are available online from www.cleverwraps.com.au and retail for $9.95 for a pack of 5 mobile phone covers. E-book reader and tablet device covers are also available.

BNA SPECIAL
CleverWraps Australia will give away a pack of CleverWraps to the first 10 readers who send an email with the subject CleverWraps to [email protected]. Please include your name and postal address. One entry per family. Please specify if you require a Bar, Vertical Flip/Slide or Horizontal Flip/Slide format.



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David Halfpenny
About The Author

rides whenever and wherever he can; in good weather and bad, in sickness and in health...and mostly off the back of the peloton.

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