Company: Bird Electron
Model: Poco case
Compatible: iPod mini
Bird-Electron POCO case
Pros: A clean-cut fabric case for the iPod mini with a eyelet for possible lanyard protection.
Cons: Expensive and limited for a fabric case especially given competition, little-to-no protection for the mini’s most scratchable surfaces, lack of color options.
One of the true joys of reviewing products for iLounge is the opportunity we have to examine and critique the innovations of creative minds from around the world. And in recent months, an exciting group of Japanese designers have increasingly joined the iPod accessory development community, bringing an impressive variety of metal, rubber, and even leather iPod holders to market.
While their products have been almost uniformly exciting, each of these companies has faced a difficult choice in pricing, namely whether to compete directly on price with competing American, Canadian, Chinese and other makers, or to choose a premium pricing option. Accustomed to high local prices in the Japanese marketplace, most of the Japanese companies have chosen to try premium pricing overseas as well. In iLounge’s view, this is increasingly obvious as a new accessory maker’s mistake, limiting a potentially large customer base and dramatically raising expectations for what are often, in essence, very simple products.
The latest Japanese accessory developer to join the iPod fold is Bird-Electron, which retails its own and other companies’ accessories through a Japanese-language website. Like its other products, Bird’s iPod mini case accessory POCO (Japanese price 2940 yen, available in the United States for $32.99) is a somewhat familiar but also somewhat different take on iPod protection, combining a soft fabric called Torex Ecsaine (reminiscent of Radtech’s PodSleevz ($19.95) and miniSleevz ($17.95) cases) with its own distinctive set of design features.
There’s little question that POCO looks nice on first inspection. Rather than the simple, sheathe-like appearance of Radtech’s miniSleevz, POCO appears to have been cut quite deliberately to fit the unique holes and curves of the iPod mini. Clean holes are cut in POCO’s front for the mini’s screen and Click Wheel, plus three holes on the bottom for the Dock Connector port and the mysterious left and right holes that have to date only been used with one major iPod accessory (Altec’s iMmini speakers). There’s a hole on the top to slide your iPod mini inside, coupled with a simple fabric latch, padded metal snap, and oversized metal eyelet that holds the case closed. The eyelet can be used with a lanyard, which isn’t included for the price.
Overall, we liked the way POCO looked and thought it did an okay job protecting the iPod inside. As a visual product, it’s hard to fault the case in any way, and impressively, unlike many fabric and leather cases, no stitching lines are evident - POCO likely uses a strong adhesive instead. The fabric is soft, vaguely fashionable, and doesn’t scratch the iPod mini.
But there are two big problems and one small problem with POCO. First, unlike the miniSleeves (and for that matter so many other case options), it doesn’t protect the iPod mini’s screen, Click Wheel, or various ports in any way at all. The holes in the fabric are precision cut, but don’t include any sort of vinyl or thinner fabric covering, fixed or detachable. With POCO, you’re really getting a case that protects all of the iPod mini’s somewhat scratch-resistant anodized aluminum body while ignoring almost all of its highly scratchable plastic surfaces. Make of that what you will.
The other big problem, quite frankly, is price. For $32.95 - or even the $27 that the Japanese price converts down to, it’s very hard to ignore the multiplicity of other and better options that are on the market for iPod mini protection. Whether your material of choice is fabric, rubber, or hard plastic, we can guarantee that there’s something else available that does a much better job of protecting your mini.
While it’s true that protectiveness isn’t the only thing we consider in an iPod mini case, there aren’t many other factors to take into account besides style. And on that point, you’ll either like POCO’s style or feel unimpressed. We liked it, but also question whether the lack of color choices (it’s available only in a light green-gray shade) kill its potential as a fashion statement. Again by comparison, Radtech’s fabric miniSleevz are available in six colors, and though they may not be as beautifully cut, their colors alone are more likely to accessorize with someone’s handbag or clothes than POCO. And of course, you can almost afford two miniSleevz for the price of one POCO. And the miniSleevz protect both the Click Wheel and Screen. And so on.
In Japan, Bird-Electron has plenty of stylish and interesting product offerings, but unfortunately, POCO for the iPod mini may well be the least of them. While not a bad product, POCO isn’t a really great one either - the very definition of our old “it’s okay” rating, and our current flat C.
Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge and practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school - ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.