Review: Otter Products OtterBox for iPod nano
Pros: A solid, clear hard plastic case that offers waterproof, impact-proof, dirt- and dust-proof iPod nano protection, plus an included detachable belt clip and separate fabric necklace. An optional armband is available for jogging and workouts. Reasonable price considering the aggregate quality and features.
Cons: Case is only certified as waterproof to a depth of three feet (one meter), and scrolling/volume access can become difficult once submerged. Waterproof headphones sold separately, not by OtterBox. Inside soft rubber edges around the Click Wheel on our review unit were rough and uneven, unlike the rest of the otherwise well-built case.
Updated: On December 30, 2005, we posted our review of Otter Products’ waterproof case OtterBox for iPod nano ($40, iLounge rating: A-), which is found below. At the beginning of December, 2006, Otter released the OtterBox for iPod nano 2nd Generation, an identically priced and equipped version of the case designed to fit Apple’s second-generation aluminum iPod nanos. Pictures of the new version are immediately below; our rating and high recommendation of the case remain the same.
Our Original Review of OtterBox for iPod nano
There are few “predictable” iPod accessory releases we look forward to as much as Otter Products’ release of an OtterBox case for a new iPod, as the event typically marks the first point at which a solidly built and truly waterproof enclosure for that iPod becomes available. The company’s new OtterBox for iPod nano ($40) follows in that tradition, combining features from the company’s earlier OtterBoxes for iPod mini (iLounge rating: A) and iPod shuffle (iLounge rating: A-) into one strong nano-ready case.
Like all prior OtterBoxes, the nano version is a hinged two-piece clear hard plastic case with a rubber sealant ring around its inner edges and a gray locking mechanism to hold the sides together. The hinge allows the case to open only partially, exposing a pass-through headphone plug inside and a watertight space for your nano. Otter’s only major change from prior OtterBoxes is due to the nano’s bottom-mounted headphone port: the case now opens and closes from the nano’s top and hinges at its bottom, rather than the other way around.
The company’s plastic continues to be almost enviably designed: it’s very strong at all parts around the nano’s body, and specifically designed for impact and element resistance. As Otter puts it, the case is “waterproof, dustproof, dirtproof, sandproof, and drop-proof,” and it feels that way, stronger and more thoughtfully designed to provide complete iPod protection than all of its current hard plastic competitors. There’s even an integrated Click Wheel cover, made from a thinner and touch-accommodating frosted clear plastic, which is permanently connected to the rest of the case with a ring of rubber cement-like adhesive. In our review case, this ring was the one and only aesthetic deficiency, looking a bit ragged internally, but serving its purpose without any problem.
Thankfully, the internal unevenness of our sample case’s ring in no way detracted from the security of the inner environment. As with earlier OtterBox cases we’ve tested, the nano version passed our water submersion tests without any issues, enabling an iPod nano to safely go to the company’s promised depth of three feet. We’ve tested the prior cases successfully at greater depths - up to 10 feet - but since Otter doesn’t provide any guarantees for its iPod products below three feet, we’ve stopped testing them further. Combined with the fact that Otter doesn’t include or point to any directly compatible pair of underwater headphones, this is arguably the case’s biggest limitation by comparison with more expensive waterproof cases offered by companies such as H2O Audio; you can use the Otter case while swimming, but you’ll need to find and separately buy the extra accessories to do so.
(It’s also worth a brief note that while the case is waterproof, Click Wheel access is somewhat limited when it’s submerged. The iPod’s touch-sensitive volume and scrolling controls become almost unresponsive underwater several seconds after submersion, but the unit’s five face buttons all continue to work without issues. For this reason, it helps to start any underwater adventure with the OtterBox by picking a set volume, then a playlist or genre, and primarily use the forward, backward, and play/pause buttons underwater rather than trying to fully navigate the iPod’s menu system. Touch-sensitive access is restored when the case emerges from water.)
When developing this case for the iPod nano, Otter had to choose between using its earlier mini or shuffle case designs as a starting point - the mini case featured a detachable rear belt clip, while the shuffle case passed on the belt clip in favor of a detachable black fabric necklace. In a wise decision, Otter chose to include both with the nano version of OtterBox, allowing you to wear the case on your neck or belt without making any additional purchases. While the belt clip is only a single piece of gray plastic, it’s sturdy and entirely acceptable, easy to attach or detach at will, and matches the case’s other gray plastic accents.
As with the iPod shuffle case, you attach the fabric necklace cord inside the nano OtterBox’s top corners before closing the lock - a largely smart way to ensure that the generally good, simple necklace is secured to the case. The only arguably not smart part of this is the decision to use the nano’s top corners rather than its bottom ones: unlike Apple’s iPod nano Lanyard Headphones and most of the other wearable nano cases we’ve seen, OtterBox hangs rightside up on your chest rather than upside down, which looks good to the outside world but requires you to read your nano’s screen upside down. This is a minor issue, but some people may mind. On a more positive note, we liked the length of the necklace, and how it looked.
Otter Products’ $40 asking price is on the higher end of current nano cases, but lower by a significant margin than the $150 asking prices of 10-foot waterproof iPod cases from H2O Audio, which incidentally hasn’t yet released a nano-compatible enclosure. What Otter offers is a step or two beyond any of its current competitors: a completely protective, shock- and water-resistant iPod nano case with full-time screen and Click Wheel access, plus both lanyard and belt clip options in the same package, and the ability to work with an optional armband. As of the date of this review, you can’t do better than this case on protectiveness or features, hence its receipt of our high recommendation, but since we’ve seen prior iPod cases with better waterproof depth guarantees and headphone options, as well as cleaner interior edges around their Click Wheels, OtterBox for iPod nano is a little shy of perfection. For most people, however, it will be close enough, and a top option for any sort of active sporting or bad-weather iPodding.