Review: Tunewear Icewear 4G
Pros: Highly professional attention to detail and unique design in a silicone rubber iPod case - one of the very best designs we’ve seen.
Cons: Protectiveness of screen, Click Wheel, top and back of iPod isn’t as strong as in some competing products at similar or lower price points.
With the release of the original Icewear silicone rubber case for the iPod mini, Japanese case designer Tunewear made a generally positive first impression with us, and as they say, first impressions count for a lot. Now Tunewear has released Icewear 4G ($24.95), a tweaked and larger-sized version of the Icewear mini case, and again the company has a solid product on its hands.
Both cases rely on the same basic concept: they’re slightly frosted clear rubber cases that cover almost all of the iPod’s surfaces. Their sides and faces are reinforced with additional rubber to protect against drop damage, but they’re not the most scratch protective or versatile cases on the market.
Like the earlier Icewear case, Icewear 4G’s most distinctive features are its rubberized protective ribs: seven ribs are on each of the case’s rounded sides, and a fifteenth rib surrounds the 4G iPod’s screen. These ribs provide Icewear’s side and front drop protection.
Holes are left for the screen, Click Wheel, Dock Connector port and most of the iPod’s top, and like the original Icewear, two large slits are left in the case’s back as an alternative to a belt clip system. An extruded Icewear logo appears between the slits, and a Tunewear logo at the rear bottom of the case. No screen protector or Click Wheel protector is included, but if you want them, you can use thin films offered by Power Support and other companies. We consider their omission the primary missing link in the Icewear 4G package.
Though its aggregate coverage doesn’t compare with cases such as iSkin’s eVo 2 or Power Support’s Silicone Jacket Set, once on, the case provides solid protection for all that it covers. However, combined with the interior silicone rubber’s propensity to stick modestly to whatever it is touching, Tunewear’s decision to cover the edges of the case’s top makes insertion and removal of the iPod a bit more challenging than in these other cases, and even the previous Icewear. It’s not a major issue, but those who need to pull their iPods in and out of cases may find other options easier to handle in this regard. (Notably, Tunewear makes two versions of the Icewear 4G appropriately sized to 20GB and 40GB iPods; expect both to hold your iPod tight.)
When an iPod’s inside of the case, it’s easy to be impressed by the look Tunewear pulls off – the sophistication of Icewear’s precision edges and smooth curves is a step beyond what any other silicone case maker is currently doing, and we wish more companies would take the time to polish the looks of their cases to this standard. Some users may be put off by the case’s tendency to create a “wet look�? against a full-sized iPod’s glossy surfaces (as indicated in one of the photographs here), but this is fairly easy to remedy by shifting the case, and also somewhat common (albeit to different degrees) with other clear silicone cases. We didn’t mind it, but we noticed it.
More controversial are the case’s rear belt holes, which were better suited to the scratch-resistant back of the iPod mini than the shiny chrome rear of full-sized iPods. We’d have preferred them not to be there at all and replaced by a proper detachable belt clip, or just a plain flat back. As we often note, we don’t belt clip our iPods and mostly mind this design choice because these holes needlessly expose part of the iPod to potential scratches.
Tunewear’s Icewear is probably the best-looking silicone case we’ve seen for the 4G iPod, but its protectiveness isn’t as strong. Based on Tunewear’s track record of case designs, we remain convinced that a more protective evolution of Icewear could be both an A-grade product and a market leader. Up for the challenge, Tunewear?
(Editor’s Note: Whereas Tunewear products in the past were somewhat of a challenge to actually locate, the company is now using MCE Technologies as a distributor, and has full U.S. pricing and availability through that company’s site.)
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.