iDesign: The Art of Designing Great iPod and iPhone Cases | iLounge Article


iDesign: The Art of Designing Great iPod and iPhone Cases

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The Art of Protecting Screenless iPods (iPod shuffles)

Once Apple announced the original all-plastic $99 iPod shuffle and $149 higher-capacity version, a debate broke out: does the iPod shuffle even need to be protected? Some companies and customers immediately said “yes!”—but others were equally emphatic in disagreeing. Today, as second-generation aluminum-bodied iPod shuffles start at $49 and tap out at $69, the general consensus is that no one cares about cases for these models.

Therefore, rather than spending the time to exhaustively discuss the best practices regarding iPod shuffle case design, we will merely note four different approaches that have been successfully taken by several companies in designing past case and film solutions.

Comprehensive, High-Quality Coverage: The Power Support Silicone Jacket. This no-compromise approach to coverage provided a thick, surgical-grade rubber shield for the entire iPod shuffle body, leaving an opening to let the rear switch remain flexible, though the case was designed for pocket or bag use and protection. Without a screen to be concerned with, Power Support could use a single piece of entirely clear frosted film to cover the device, providing full access to the front controls, and similarly protective access to the bottom controls. The small size and straightforward manufacturing enabled the price to be low enough for budget-conscious shuffle buyers.


Less Comprehensive, Mid-Grade Coverage: The Capdase Silicone Case. Capdase’s solution used a lower-grade rubber than Power Support’s and a detachable clip cover that may have been more practical for some users—those who intended to wear the shuffle and did not care about covering its back. This compromised the device’s protection but allowed for greater versatility. A number of different color options were also offered, and the cheaper quality enabled Capdase to include lanyard and supplemental leatherette case items in the package while still keeping the price low.


Fashion: The Miyavix/Power Support Kimono Case. Released only for the original shuffle, this simple sleeve put fashion over function, using beautiful fabric to cover almost the entire device, leaving a hole for headphone port connection and adding a cool tassle as a visual accent. While the design lacked for practicality relative to others we have cited above, and would not work in this form for different iPod and iPhone models, the lack of an iPod screen effectively enabled these and other designers to create complete body covers that users could push-through to access the controls. Ultimately, small changes would have made this a much better case to use, but it was beautiful to look at.


Fashion, Cheap: Shufflesome Sticker Outfits for iPod shuffle. A number of companies released film-like stickers that covered the iPod shuffle’s body, almost invariably only the front and back rather than the top and bottom. Had the stickers completely protected the shuffle, we would have been more enthusiastic, but as-was, they were inexpensive and semi-protective options that delivered enough coverage and good looks for the dollar to appeal to some users.

Ultimately, the utter lack of reader and customer interest in iPod shuffle cases led us to stop reviewing them, and most companies to stop producing them. While we continue to believe that even Apple’s lowest-end iPods are worth keeping in good condition, the best solutions for such models may ultimately be in something simpler—clear body film—rather than the elaborate options shown above.


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That was quite an in depth look at case design.  I tend to agree that it is a very important topic. 

I have yet to find the “perfect” case for any of my three iPod devices but have at least found ones that meet most of my needs.  I do realize though that each person has their own needs which might make my “perfect case” not the same as the next person’s.  Since I use my iPods on speaker docks at work and home more than with headphones I have needed to slide them out of cases on a regular basis, this becomes a bigger issue for me as well.

I’ve never been a fan of the rubbery/silicon cases for me since they don’t “slide” in and out of a pants pocket as easily as a harder plastic case and they also seem to stretch out over time and don’t fit as snugly as time goes by either.

For my 5G and 1G Nano I installed one of the original Invisible Shields - full body except I left the click wheel exposed since I never liked the feel of the material on the wheel itself.  Other than a little bunching at the rear corners - not as bad with those models as more tapered newer models might have now-a-days - the Invisible Shields have held up and protected my devices flawlessly.  My only complaint is that it adds a little bulk when I try to apply a “full body” case like the Contour Showcase and you get distortions on the screen.  I have kept both in leather wallet cases designs for protection while transporting and then just slide out to put into my speaker dock.

The original iPhone has been a bigger issue because I use it so much for so many different reasons.  I went with a full screen protection by Power Support (Home button exposed!) and then an Agent 18 Eco Shield which has served very well.  I wish it had a little more styling, but it does the job.

Unfortunately since the 3G has come out it is much harder to find a new case for the original version since there is a more limited, non-expanding market.  I wonder if the “next” iPhone will have a new form factor therefore making all the current cases once again obsolete?  If past practices are any indication I am sure Apple will subtly change the specs necessitating totally new cases and then placing all the 3G owners in the same shoes as me!

Posted by TosaDeac on January 16, 2009 at 5:13 PM (CST)


Very comprehensive look at an underrated subject area. I always end up with at least one of each generation of iPod and now iPhone and finding a case that does the product justice - designed with the same care over form and function - is a real challenge. For me, I don’t like cases that focus on protection to such an extend that my superbly designed and made new iPod/iPhone looks like a £10 piece of tat covered in cheapo plastic, rubber or fabric. Not a good look. But it has to work; i have a very expensive Dunhill leather case with belt clip bought for a 3rd gen iPod with click wheel, still doing sterling service with a new Classic years later. Sadly, I have yet to find an iPhone case that meets my requirements for protection and minimal impact on the device’s handling and looks. One must exist somewhere ...

Posted by drevo_uk in UK on January 19, 2009 at 1:51 PM (CST)


does anybody know what xase that is for the iphone on the very first picture in the top right??thanks!

Posted by Jonathan on January 21, 2009 at 10:26 AM (CST)


I haven’t found the “perfect” case for any of my iPods, I usually settle with hard plastic cases for each of my click wheel based iPods. Before my iPod touch came in the post a couple months ago, I was looking around for a good hard case and a friend referred me to Best Skins Ever. I purchased a full body shield for my iPod touch, and it’s better than any sort of case in my opinion. :) Each new iPod I get is going to get it’s own Best Skins Ever.

Posted by Cody on January 22, 2009 at 4:28 PM (CST)


I’ve always relied on the MASSIVELY DETAILED reviews you guys do on protection for my beloved Apple products.

I hope you guys still provide the same type of coverage I’ve been able to count on in the past when it comes to researching my next case for whatever new shiny toy I have.

Thanks for doing such a great job!

Posted by SadIloungeReader on January 28, 2009 at 12:27 AM (CST)

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