Not everyone cares for smartphone cases. We can sympathize; bulking up a slim and expensive device with cheap plastic isn’t ideal. But no one can argue with the practicality of it. Some folks may want a middle-ground option (light protection that maintains the device’s form), and that’s where skins come in.
You may have heard of dBrand and Slickwraps, which use 3M sticky vinyl to achieve different styles to covering up. Well, there’s another company in town worth knowing about, called Toast, which specializes in real wood handcrafted skins. We reached out to them and they hooked us up with an Ebony wood sample to put on our Galaxy S9. This Synopsis sums up the application process and end result.
Toast has expanded its offering from handhelds to laptops, gaming consoles, and even smart speakers. And although its forte is real wood, you can now find leather (genuine, of course) for some devices. You can choose from three different wood types: light Ash, dark Ebony, or neutral Walnut. Taking it a step further, the company will also laser etch your own custom text or design, or you can choose from of a few of their own.
- Real wood feel (i.e. grain texture)
- Thicker than vinyl skins (better protection)
- Covers entire smartphone (even the buttons)
- Can have it personalized with a custom etch
- More expensive than vinyl alternatives
- Not the easiest to install perfectly at the bottom
- Makes it harder to keep cameras clean
- Custom designs are pricey (almost the cost of the skin itself)
What it’s like to use
- Installing a skin can be intimidating endeavor if you haven’t done it before. Fortunately, despite Toast’s skin having a couple extra elements, installation remains straightforward. We’ll concisely walk through the simple steps.
- Before slapping the main panel on the back, Toast says to first place the separate cutout that goes around the camera and fingerprint scanner. This is a breeze, just line up the openings.
- Now it’s time for the back cover. Turning it over shows an interesting grid of circle cutouts. Toast says to just peel the main sheet around the circles, and to leave them be. This is to help the panel not completely adhere when you’re trying to align it on the installation (easier to pull off if you mess up). Don’t worry, there’s plentiful stickiness to impeccably keep the cover glued in place when you’re done.
- When you’re ready to lay the panel down, you’ll find that, thanks to the sensor cutout piece you did earlier, aligning the top part is easy. At the bottom, however, there’s less to guide you. This is where you’ll have to be extra careful (and the hardest alignment part of this skin installation). Be careful not to press the panel down until you’re satisfied with the alignment. The circular cutouts help in letting you pullout and adjust, but the stickypad will become fully adhere once set.
- The side flaps will be sticking out once you’re done with the panel. They’re really easy to set. Against a tabletop, press and roll each side down with a back to front rotation. The tabletop’s flatness will press down the entire edge evenly.
- After all the sides are done, you’ll have the corners still sticking out. Do the same kind of maneuver, but here you’re pressing and pivoting the phone’s corners against the table to get all the flaps rolled down.
- That’s it for the main panel. We’re impressed with how well the bends worked (for the sides and especially the corners). Despite being a rigid material, Toast made the appropriate scores to get the wood bent to the Galaxy S9’s curvy form. You do have a grid pattern at these spots, but we don’t think it takes away from the attraction.
- We must admit that we slightly blotched the bottom alignment, further emphasizing the care needed at this critical step. You can see that there’s a slight shift to the left, given away by the un-centered ports. It also resulted in a small overlap on the left bottom corner and a gap on the right. But it’s very minor error and doesn’t impede on usability.
- The last step is to slap on the slit covers for all the physical buttons and SIM tray door. It’s not just for getting a complete look but for usability too. The skin has some thickness, so the buttons become recessed. Placing the cutouts fixes that.
- Toast also provided us the piece to cover the bezel on the front of the phone. This is offered as an extra for a more complete look. It’s also easy to install. We lined up the top sensors with the holes on the panel, then did the bottom bezel, and then the sides. Again, be careful to not press everything down until you’re sure that’s how you want it. We had to adjust the sides a couple times and were glad we were mindful of this. Also be aware that the wood is rigid and can easily crack at thin spots. Go slow and be careful and you should have no problem.
- Toast’s wood skin improves the Galaxy S9‘s handle-ability tenfold. If you’ve used one of Samsung’s latest phones, you know how slippery and fragile they are (not helped by the reduced grip area on the sides). Like real wood (because it is), this skin has some friction to it. The added thickness also improves grip and reduces inadvertent touches on the curved sides.
- One of the biggest benefits of skins is that you can set the phone down on a table and not worry about scratches. There’s some extra protection here, like with the beefy camera cover and lip that the skin creates on the front (allowing you to set it face down without having the glass get contacted).
- Speaking of the rear sensor bit, you’ll notice that it’s not flush with the rest of the panel. This is probably because the component is slightly raised on the phone. It would’ve been nice for Toast to make it thinner so that it ends up flush with the rest, but it’s no big deal at all.
- However, what’s annoying is that the camera opening is substantially narrowed. That makes debris that sticks to the open edges more likely crossing in the len’s path. Then when you go to wipe it, you’ll find that the tiny hole is difficult to get into and clear. It’s doable, just something to note.
- Like with any skin, you’ll have lint and the like collected on the sticky free edges. There isn’t a way around this. However, on the Toast skin, there are extra creases (which allow the skin to wrap around the frame) that can also catch debris as well.
- The physical button covers work flawlessly. They have thickness to rise above the cover, just like on the phone itself. The presses also feel like the phone itself.
- Lastly, the skin’s adherence is exceptional strong. It won’t be vulnerable to peeling from the edges like with vinyl skins. That said, that makes removing it more difficult too. You’ll need heat (a hair dryer works well) and a bit of patience.
Toast’s skins are really cool. We were initially worried about the difficulty level in installation of their really tight-fitting wood panels, but it was straightforward and didn’t take a lot of time. Our only flub was the slight misalignment on the bottom edge (human error), but it’s minor.
If you like the wood look, you should definitely consider this skin over the vinyl alternatives. The only downside is that you’ll be paying extra for the privilege. But we feel it’s worth the cost. You’ll catch the eyes of on-lookers, and you’ll have protection almost like that of a case.
Also See: Slickwraps Honeycomb Skin for the LG V30