Company: iJacket/Aquarius Industrial
Model: iJacket nano/5G
Compatible: iPod 5G, nano
Aquarius iJacket for iPod 5G and nano
Pros: Artistically impressive iPod 5G and nano cases with the user’s choice of 48 or 120 different front graphics, ranging from abstract art to sports themes and religious iconography. Colorful and inexpensive, each case includes a belt clip.
Cons: Protectiveness is limited on top and bottom, respectively, of the 5G and nano cases. Graphics are actually tightly integrated stickers with slightly visible seams at edges. Distribution of cases is limited, and prices widely variable.
In the past, Aquarius’s case designs were commonly known in the United States as iSkin’s Vibes or Griffin’s Chameleons for earlier iPods. Now the company is taking its cases to market under its own name, with greater vigor: it has released a new series of plastic iPod cases called iJackets for fifth-generation iPods and iPod nanos ($16 each), featuring glossy full-color graphics on their front faces, and white textured plastic on their backs. At the time of this review, there are 48 different iPod 5G and 120 different iPod nano designs, including everything from pets to sports, food, and religious icons.
Each iJacket package includes pack-ins. Rather than including integrated plastic screen protection, both case sizes come with clear iPod face stickers, and the nano also gets a rear protector. They also both include iPod belt clips - the 5G one detachable with a nub - and the nano version includes a lanyard necklace. The only hitch: you’ll need to hunt a little for the one you want. While iJackets are commonly available on eBay, and the nano version is found at an authorized online retailer, the 5G case does not appear to yet be available in the United States from larger merchants.
As they’re made entirely from precision-cut and -molded plastics, and coated with visually unique stickers that are so well-attached to their bodies as to look like part of the plastic, both of the iJacket designs score an almost perfect 9 in Build Quality. Tiny seams are evident at the top of the nano case and the edges of the 5G case, but otherwise the cases look, feel, and fit great - the 5G’s and nano’s screens are properly framed by the plastic, and their Click Wheels are covered precisely by indented, labeled circles. Holes in the cases line up just as they’re supposed to, and the cases do not show scratches, even when they’re tossed into bags and carried around. Given how simple they are, they do a good job.
The iJackets also score very highly on Ease of Use: they provide complete screen and Click Wheel access, plus access to each iPod’s Hold switch, headphone port, and Dock Connector port. Aquarius’s 5G case has one minor issue, though, dropping its score to a 9: the Dock Connector port hole is small, precluding the use of larger plugs. This isn’t an issue with the nano case, which is conservative on exposure of its Hold switch, but still manages to leave it entirely usable.
The single greatest strength of the iJacket cases is one that we reward only modestly in our new case ratings: appearance. Regardless of any other strengths or weaknesses these cases may have, Aquarius’s decision to create highly colorful, detailed, user-selectable face designs is a major selling point of the iJackets - the primary reason you’ll want one, if at all. Our Special Features category allows us to award up to 5 points for novel case innovations, with one point for 5 color options, two points for 10 color options, and more in our discretion. The buyer’s ability to choose from nearly 50 different 5G or 120 nano iJackets merits extra consideration. Combined with the inclusion of a detachable belt clip on the 5G, and a detachable lanyard for the nano, each of these cases rates an overall 5 in this category.
iJacket’s only real weakness is in protectiveness - it falls a little short of providing comprehensive coverage for each iPod. On the nano case, the bottom is fully open and the Hold switch is exposed, for a score of 8; on the 5G case, the top is fully open, the Dock Connector port is exposed, and there’s an unnecessary circular hole on the lower back, for a score of 7. Though Aquarius does provide film for the iPod’s face, we do think a clear integrated screen cover, a la XtremeMac’s Iconz cases, would have been much better here.
On the value scale, there’s no doubt that these cases are strong options: they’re sold for a maximum of $16 a piece before shipping is taken into account, which is an entirely reasonable price for a case that looks visually interesting and does a pretty good job of covering your iPod. It’s worth noting that many online vendors, including eBay sellers, are actually selling them for much less, making the iJackets some of the most affordable quality iPod case options we’ve seen. In awarding both versions of the iJacket our highly recommended rating, we’re only concerned about iPod top and/or bottom coverage, and the challenge of finding a place to buy the iJacket in the United States; other countries see them available through multiple retailers. If you can find one, you’ll almost certainly be pleased with the graphics and value for the dollar.
A Note From the Editors of iLounge: Though all products and services reviewed by iLounge are "final," many companies now make changes to their offerings after publication of our reviews, which may or may not be reflected above. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.