Review: Contour Design iSee nano
Pros: A simple, affordable transparent hard case that covers most of the iPod nano with clear plastic, showing off its body and absorbing scratches that nano might otherwise suffer. Nice detachable belt clip.
Cons: No protection for the nano’s Click Wheel, open holes at both top (for the Hold switch only) and bottom. Clear plastic housing is easy to scratch. Not compatible with larger headphone plugs.
Contour Design has made some of the best iPod cases we’ve seen, and they’ve just released iSee-nano ($20), a hard plastic clear shell for the iPod nano. Simple in design, you snap together front and back plates to form a strong enclosure around most of the nano, and attach an included belt clip if you desire. We look at iSee-nano with our new capsule review system, which spotlights six critical factors in a case’s design: appearance, build quality, ease of use, special features/innovation, protectiveness, and value for the dollar.
Appearance: What you see is what you get. iSee-nano is visually simple, which is exactly what its target customer is looking for: a way to show off the iPod nano without visual interruption. The shell consists of two pieces of clear hard plastic - one for the front, one for the back, each with edges that integrate with the other piece - and there’s a matching detachable clear plastic belt clip. Regardless of the color of your nano, it’s easy to see every one of its sides with iSee-nano on.
Build Quality: Contour’s experience with hard case design pays off here: though the case uses small interior side tabs as a locking mechanism, and exterior side tabs to hold the belt clip in place, they’re not fragile: each part of the case feels pretty solid, and all of the edges that touch your fingers are nicely beveled. The only thing that will concern some people is the scratch factor. Like the nano itself, Contour’s clear plastic shows scratches - ones it’s “taking for the team,” better in any case than letting the nano get damaged. It looks like superior anti-scratch coatings are going to be necessary to make truly ideal clear cases for this generation of iPods.
Ease of Use: iSee-nano’s clear body covers the nano’s screen, and leaves its Click Wheel, Hold switch, and both bottom ports entirely exposed. Generally, this would make the case easy to use, but limited in protection, and it mostly does. However, Contour hasn’t left enough space around the headphone port hole to properly connect larger headphones, so you’ll have a problem doing so if you’re using a plug larger than Apple’s stock earbuds.
Special Features/Innovation: The only major innovations in this design are its tight integration of the two or three parts, and its thin profile. Contour’s managed to make the case easy to assemble and disassemble, but also stable during normal daily use, without adding big latches or other securing mechanisms. It’s also added only modestly to nano’s base thickness, which many people will appreciate. We especially liked the fact that the belt clip can come off entirely, though the one-piece plastic clip included here is not as impressive as Contour’s clips for larger iPods. It’s strong and adequate, not more.
Protectiveness and Value: Protection is the other place where iSee-nano falls a bit short: there’s no coverage for the Click Wheel, bottom, or top Hold switch, which many people (including us) would like to see addressed in hard cases. Like prior iSees, this one could stand to include some protective Wheel film and top on/off covers for the top and bottom. But if you’re not looking for total protection, you’ll be turned on by the price - at $20, this case is not objectionably expensive, and will be especially appealing to those who love the nano’s au natural looks.