Review: Speck Products FlipStand 3G
Pros: Strong plastic; comprehensive protection; gorgeous looks; rounded button holes; occasionally nifty flip stand feature; included dock is handy; good price/value.
Cons: Little confidence in seemingly weak & brittle belt clip; headphone and dock holes too small for third party products; one-size-fits all may irritate some elegance-crazed 10/15/20GB iPod users; USB 2.0 cable will not work with dock.
At Macworld San Francisco in January of 2003, Speck Products debuted their original “FlipStand” case for 1G and 2G iPods. This unique case offered the usual protection of a hard case without sacrificing in-case usability, and allowed the iPod to stand upright at a convenient angle with a simple pivot of the scroll wheel cover. Shortly after the release of the new third generation iPod in April, Speck Products announced their revised FlipStand for Docking iPods.
I have had the pleasure of evaluating the new FlipStand for several days now, and must say - with minor reservations - I like it a lot.
When I first held the FlipStand packaging in my hand, the first thing that came to mind was, “Wow… This looks great!” The case appeared much smaller than I had come to expect from online photographs. The plastic was strikingly clear, and reflected the lights brilliantly in its subtle, elegant curves. As would any iPod geek, I promptly and excitedly opened the package.
I am no materials engineer (aerospace, actually), but I feel confident in my unprofessional assessment of the quality of the FlipStand’s plastic. The material is both strong, and quite resistant to scratching. I have no worries when tossing my FlipStand-encased iPod in my backpack, as I do with my iSkin eXos and Booq PodPaq 014. Also, after several days of moderate to heavy use, I can find no scratches on the case.
The FlipStand is a one-size-fits-all case. As with all such iPod cases, this means that users with smaller iPods (10/15/20GB) have a less-than-optimal situation. While I wish Speck offered two versions of the FlipStand, their current solution is acceptable. Included is a small piece of foam with adhesive backing (see Photos). According to Speck’s instructions, this piece is to be permanently inserted into the bottom - not the center - of the FlipStand’s interior. While many elegance-crazy iPod owners may not fancy this solution, it works just fine. My 15GB iPod never moved in the slightest amount in any direction. The extra, unnecessary thickness in the case was minimal and tolerable.
With a cell phone in my left pocket and a Tungsten C in my right, the only place left for me to carry my iPod around every day is on my belt. As you can read, a good quality belt clip is a very important feature for me. In this regard, Speck’s FlipStand does NOT satisfy me. The belt clip is of the fixed, vertical, removable type, and is a thin piece of the same material as the rest of the case. While I mentioned this material is strong and hard, is also seems brittle. I get the uncomfortable feeling that one minor horizontal or vertical bump will send my iPod falling multiple feet to a not-so-soft landing. On a less scientific, more personal note - I have come to love the freely-swiveling belt clips (like the one on my Booq PodPaq). I feel that this style helps to promote comfort and prevent clip breakage.
In comparing photos of early FlipStands (iLounge Forums) to my review unit, I have noticed that Speck has made a wonderful change to the design of their button holes. My unit had rounded, smooth button edges to the button holes, as opposed to the early sharp edge design. This makes it much easier to use the pads of your fingers, instead of your finger tips. My girlfriend likes this feature a lot, with her long nails. A nice touch design-wise, and it is very pleasant to see that Speck is interested in constantly improving their product.
The hold button is not accessible while the FlipStand’s top is closed. While ‘popping the top’doesn’t seem like a major annoyance - it is, because doing so requires first removing any headphones that you may have plugged in. In my opinion, this really hinders usability for those of us that use the hold switch often.
Readers of iLounge are likelier, on average, to buy third-party accessories than the majority of iPod users. For this reason alone, the FlipStand presents a significant dilemma. The headphone port (much like the 1G/2G FlipStand) will not accommodate the larger size of most third party headphones, like my Shure E2Cs. Needless to say, one can easily use the remote, but I hardly ever used it prior to the FlipStand.
In addition, the dock port may not be accessible by all third-party accessories. In attempting to use the Belkin AutoKit, I was immediately disappointed to learn that - literally - you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. The AutoKit is barely too large, and not rounded enough to fit inside the FlipStand.
Both of these port access problems are likely simple projects for a Dremel tool adventurer, but I’d rather not scuff up my pretty new case.
The Flip Stand
I must say… while it is the case’s (nifty!) title feature, I did not find myself using it at all. I did, however, find it to be a good tool to “show off” my iPod to others.
This is not to say that I find the FlipStand functionality superfluous. The stand functions as a convenient cover for the scroll wheel, and does not get in the way when holding the case - open - in one’s hand (The scroll wheel cover slides right through my middle and ring fingers when holding my iPod).
This is something I really appreciate about the FlipStand. Apple’s included docking feature, however, unnecessary, is really convenient. Virtually any current third-party case requires that you remove the iPod in order to maintain this convenience (which negates the effect, no?).
Speck’s solution is nice. Remove the FireWire cable from your Apple dock, and wedge it into place in the Speck dock (Sorry USB 2.0 cable users… It won’t fit!). From then on, simply flip open your scroll wheel cover and pop the whole iPod/FlipStand case combo into the new dock. Simple, elegant, and convenient. My only complaint here is that the cable could be more tightly attached to the dock. The ‘wedged-in’cable moves vertically 2-3 mm or so when removing the iPod.
The Speck dock does not provide for Line Out, as does Apple’s dock. The Speck dock has no internal electronics, and only reorients the FireWire cable.
I am quite happy with this case. I will not be using it full time because of my lack of confidence in the belt clip and its lack of compatibility with my earphones and AutoKit. However, having the option of a stronger, more robust case - without sacrificing in-case usability - is something I will wholly enjoy.
With any luck, Speck Products will continue to listen to feedback, as they have repeatedly done in the past, correcting some of the minor issues I have enumerated here.