Review: Belkin Leather Folio for iPod touch
One month after the release of Apple's new iPod touch, we've had the chance to test thirteen different cases that are in or on their way to stores in the United States. Many of the designs will be familiar to owners of other iPods, but for those who aren't familiar -- and for those who need additional information before making a purchasing decision -- we've created three comparative reviews to give you a big picture look at all of these options. One review focuses on four $20-30 armbands, the next on six $30-35 leather or neoprene cases, and the last on three $15-25 plastic cases.
Clockwise from Top Right: Belkin Leather Folio, Leather Sleeve; DLO HipCase; Griffin Elan Convertible, Incase Neoprene Sleeve, Leather Sleeve
Our second comparative review of the day looks at five cases that are made from leather, and a sixth that is almost identical to its leather cousin, except for its replacement of leather with soft plastic and neoprene. Belkin has the Leather Folio ($30) and Leather Sleeve ($30), DLO has the HipCase Leather Sleeve ($30), Griffin has the Elan Convertible ($30), and Incase has the Leather Sleeve ($35) and Neoprene Sleeve ($30). Since these cases have a lot in common with one another, we’ll quickly sum up their similarities, walk you through a table we’ve assembled to help you quickly understand their differences, and then discuss their individual features in separate reviews.
All six of the cases cover parts of the iPod touch’s sides, bottom, and face with leather or plastic: most of the cases cover all of touch’s sides and back, and only parts of its top, bottom, and face. Every case has a soft lining that varies from velvet to suede or soft neoprene, preventing touch from being scratched inside. And every case provides full-time access to the touch’s headphone port, Dock Connector port, and Sleep/Wake button.
From there, they differ. Two of the cases cover the iPod’s screen with a leather flap, while four of the cases do not; one includes clear film to protect touch’s screen. A different four cases come with a belt clip—none with the ability to serve as a video stand—and each case has at least one classy touch, though the amount of class, and color options, vary from case to case as noted below.
The first case, Belkin’s Leather Folio for iPod touch, is a flip-closed, wallet-style case made from honeycomb-embossed leather. Its exterior is either black, pink, or off-white, with a dark or persimmon, suede-styled interior. Folio’s side-mounted front flap closes with a Velcro tab that runs across the case’s right side from front to back, leaving headphone port, Dock Connector, and Sleep/Wake button access; touch’s top right and bottom left corners are also exposed. The positive way of describing Folio is as a wrap that covers all of touch’s body, except for its top and bottom.
Folio has a few design issues. First, the case doesn’t have a hole for touch’s brightness sensor, and uses a protective fabric strip that’s slightly too wide next to the headphone port. You may need to nudge it over to the side to connect your earphones, and turn off the automatic brightness sensor, each a minor annoyance. A more major issue is the front flap, which we really don’t like on video-screened iPods, and especially don’t like on the iPod touch and iPhone—there’s no way to change the touch’s volume or tracks with a front flap on, say nothing of watching video, and we consider this to be a real practical inconvenience. That said, the case’s strongest feature is its appearance: Belkin’s honeycomb embossing is subtle on the face but visible inside; we also liked that the touch doesn’t just fall out when the case is opened, as we’ve seen in certain pre-iPod touch Folio cases from other companies.
Overall, the first crop of leather iPod touch cases didn’t really blow us away: though we liked three of the open-faced cases enough to generally recommend them to our readers, none was as protective as we’d expect for a $30 or $35 asking price, and each had at least a little something that could really benefit from a superior redesign. The other three cases rated limited recommendations for different reasons; Belkin’s Leather Folio looks good but interferes with normal use of iPod touch’s screen, Griffin’s Elan Convertible has the most protection and best belt clip of the bunch but is still too big, bulky, and otherwise inconvenient because of its flap, and DLO’s HipCase compromises a little too much in looks and side protectiveness. We’re holding out for the next round of leather designs in hopes that they’re better and smarter.