Review: DLO Jam Jackets and Caps for iPod shuffle
Pros: Look good and come in several colors, protect much of an iPod shuffle’s body.
Cons: No Control Pad, Power Switch, or bottom protection, so they’re not the smartest solutions for shuffle scratch-proofing; attached USB cap cover is equal parts good and bad idea.
Digital Lifestyle Outfitters has been making iPod accessories for years, and has just released three new items specific to the iPod shuffle. First and second are a three-pack of Jam Jacket cases for the iPod shuffle ($29.99), and a separate set of five replacement standard USB caps called Jam Caps ($19.99), both made from silicone rubber. Third is a set of five replacement USB lanyard caps called Cool Caps ($29.99) made from hard plastic and fabric. We only rate the cases, as the other items require only photos and brief descriptions.
Earlier Jam Jacket cases have never been the most protective or coolest-looking iPod cases available, but they’ve always had at least one cool feature that differentiates them from other offerings. In the past, the distinctive feature was a rubber colored screen protector integrated into the case, but since the iPod shuffle has no screen, the DLO found another smart idea: a small piece of rubber that attaches the shuffle Jam Jacket’s USB cap cover to the shuffle’s body. Generally, we liked this idea: no more popping off and temporarily misplacing your USB cap.
The remainder of the shuffle Jam Jacket is okay. On the bright side, the thickness of DLO’s silicone rubber is appropriate to prevent ripping, and DLO nicely textured the shuffle’s sides with small dots to create grips. A small DLO logo is on the front of each case under the shuffle’s Control Pad, but isn’t especially noticeable from a distance - a good thing. And the purple, green, and clear colors, like earlier Jam Jackets, are good, if not particularly vivid or incredible.
Port access is alright. The USB plug is just fine, and the headphone port does perfectly well with Apple’s own headphones. But third party headphones won’t work because of the thickness of DLO’s rubber. Since this is an issue common to several (but not all) of the shuffle cases we’ve tested, it looks like iSkin’s thinner top rubber innovation, once designed to let larger iPods use top-mounting accessories, will prove even more useful in this generation of iPods.
Our other issues are really limited to the Jam Jackets’ protectiveness. There’s nothing to protect the shuffle’s Control Pad, and nothing to protect the rear power switch. For some reason, DLO includes a thin rubber membrane only to cover the battery indicator light, the smallest and least useful of the shuffle’s controls. Virtually every other case we’ve seen for the shuffle protects both sides’ controls without limiting their usefulness in any way, so unless you like the look and don’t mind the scratch potential of unexposed controls, these cases may not be right for you.
DLO also opted to leave a hole in the bottom of the Jackets’ attached USB cap guard, permitting the cases to be used with either the shuffle’s lanyard or standard caps. The result is a cover that’s less protective for the standard USB cap than other companies’ detachable covers, but doesn’t limit your use of the lanyard cap, and in fact awkwardly exposes its center and top. All things considered, we view this as a neutral design decision, neither entirely good nor bad, and something that you’ll either like or not.
The other shuffle accessories are very simple: each of the USB caps comes in five different colors, and replaces Apple’s standard and lanyard shuffle caps. They’re identically shaped, both with attractively rounded half-circles rather than aping the shape of Apple’s clips, and consequently both slightly larger than Apple’s original parts. Both feature the DLO logo on their front faces, and nothing on their rears; you can flip them for display in either direction that you prefer.
The standard USB Jam Caps are surprisingly made from silicone rubber rather than hard plastic, and come in Grape, Glow Green, Frosty Clear, Cobalt Blue and Orange colors, all of which are good - though we were surprised not to see pink in the mix. However, unlike most shuffle USB caps, the Jam Caps don’t have ball bearings inside. Consequently, they fit on the shuffle without a problem, but aren’t prevented from slipping off by anything other than friction.
Each of the lanyard Cool Caps is shaped the same as the Jam Caps, but made from gloss-polished hard plastic instead of rubber. They’re truly shuffle-ready in that they include metal ball bearings inside to guarantee that the caps won’t fall off when clipped on, and thus they snap off with a typical pop when intentionally removed.
We liked the colors of the Cool Caps, which range from traditional glossy white plastic to vibrant shades of blue, orange, green and purple. Each Cool Cap includes a slightly off-original-shade colored lanyard with the exception of the orange one, which uses a gray lanyard. If you look very closely at the Caps’ bottoms, you’ll notice that they’re actually slightly two-toned, with a very thin stripe in the same second-toned color as the lanyard.
Thankfully, unlike Apple’s originals, the lanyard caps’ fabric ropes can be adjusted in size with a push-button sizer, or even removed entirely, a nice change from the single-length dangle of the shuffle’s packed-in necklace. This also enables you to switch lanyards between the caps if you prefer more of a haphazard color scheme, or go lanyard-less and thereby wind up with a hard plastic replacement USB cover.
Overall, we thought the Jam Jacket was a bit better than average and generally liked (but don’t rate) the company’s various cap accessories. If you like how the Jam Jackets look and want the flip-off partial USB cap protector, they’re definitely worth a try. But we’ve seen other cases that offer better protection without compromising the usability or looks of the shuffle in any way.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.