Review: LifePod Urban Camouflage ModPod minis
Pros: Nice-looking iPod mini cases with your choice of vinyl or canvas exteriors, and one-size-fits-all (properly) vinyl iPod holders inside. Nice included accessory hand straps.
Cons: iPod’s corners are exposed to possible scratching while inside; PDA-style case design requires opening and closing to access iPod’s screen and controls.
Whimsical isn’t a word that often applies to iPod cases, but LifePod’s new series of Urban Camouflage ModPod mini fashion cases ($24.99) are exactly that: simple, cute iPod holders that look and feel fun. We’ve received and tested five different cases for full-sized iPods and five for iPod minis, each sharing the same basic design, only with a different color scheme and choice of materials. Other small differences are noted in the individual reviews for each version of the case.
Like numerous other cases we’ve tested, the ModPod mini cases use a flip-open, “PDA-style” design to cover your iPod mini: two fabric-covered pieces of cardboard provide front and back protection, and serve as the case’s major style focal points. LifePod pads the insides of these two parts, creating pleaantly soft, grippable surfaces, and generally uses canvas fabric, though one mini case we saw used a glossy vinyl instead. Most of the fronts and backs match each other, but occasionally (in the pink vinyl “Neopolitan” case, for example), the front’s one color while the back is mostly black. The front of each case has a stitched LifePod tag, while the back has a nicely sewn metal D-ring for a detachable metal and matching fabric strap.
A ModPod’s halves are joined together at their tops with a thin rubber joint that slips over your iPod mini’s top, between its headphone port and hold switch. This joint matches the case’s coloration, and works fine, if a little less firmly than in the full-sized iPod version of the ModPod. At the bottom of the front half is a rubber and metal latch that snaps closed on the case’s back. The latch features a nice logo, and LifePod’s snaps never had a problem holding a case closed.
Each case’s interior is very simple. A thin layer of one-colored fabric lines both the top and bottom interior sides, while a form-fitting piece of clear vinyl serves as the sheathe for your iPod mini on the inside back case surface. The vinyl was good in all of the cases we received except for one, which arrived a little wrinkled (as shown in the photos here) - though not permanently so.
The design of the vinyl is pretty good, though simple: it covers your iPod’s entire face from screen to controls, but even so, you can still see the screen without a problem and use even the touch-sensitive Scroll Wheel without an issue. There are holes in the bottom for the Dock Connector port and the iPod’s corners; similarly, the hole in the top leaves your iPod mini’s top corners and top surface largely exposed. As with the full-sized ModPod, a tiny plastic lip at the upper left corner of the case provides an extra grip on your iPod when inside, but unlike the larger case, the lip covers your mini’s Hold switch. This didn’t bother us, but if you often use the switch, you may want to leave the lip undone instead of using it.
It’s not difficult to quantify the differences between these cases and a series of CaseClosed Cases we reviewed last year (iLounge rating: C+): LifePod’s cases are actually hip, and with a few small exceptions, they get all the little details right. Despite the fact that we’re not huge fans of PDA-style case designs, the ModPods don’t have the cheese factor of the slightly goofy CaseClosed Sheldon and Clarence cases we tested; your iPod mini still looks like an iPod mini inside, while the padded fronts and backs look and feel good. LifePod’s choice of materials and stitching are both great, and the included hand straps (with lobster claw clasps) feel well-made and properly thought out.
Our small exceptions are these: since this is a fashion case review, we’re not rating on looks or pricing as much as construction, protectiveness, and practicality. When closed, the ModPods do leave all of your iPod’s corners exposed, and though the padded front and back pieces do extend enough from the iPod’s edges to limit drop damage under most circumstances, scratching is still possible. Marware’s TrailVue for iPod mini (iLounge rating: A-) is just one PDA-style case we can think of that pulled protection off a bit better. And on practicality, we still do prefer cases that you don’t have to open and close all the time in order to use and protect your iPod.
If these issues don’t bother you, and you like one of LifePod’s styles, you’ll love the ModPod mini case. It’s priced affordably, looks and feels great, and does a good but not stellar job of protecting your iPod mini. It’s worthy of our solid B+ recommendation overall, though LifePod’s target audience will definitely feel ModPods to be A-range products.