Company: Incase Designs
Model: DC Shoes Folio
Compatible: iPod 5G, nano
DC Shoes/Incase Folios for iPod 5G and nano
Pros: Sharp, substantially protective ballistic nylon case designs with cool black camouflage and a flip-open flap, branded on the front with the DC Shoes and Incase logos. Each opens to reveal a fully front and back-protected iPod, with a clear screen guard and play-through Click Wheel cover. Fifth-generation iPod version includes a belt clip.
Cons: Both cases unnecessarily expose small portions of their iPods’ tops and bottoms, and fully cover their iPods’ screens and controls unless opened up. Slightly pricey by similar case standards - you’re paying for the branding. iPod nano version lacks belt clip and other small touches of 5G version.
When DC Shoes collaborated with Incase for their first iPod case (the DC Shoes | Incase Sleeve, iLounge rating: B-) two years ago, we loved the camouflage ballistic nylon look they pioneered, but weren’t as enamored with the boring, sleeve-like design. This week, the companies introduced a radically redesigned update, sold in sizes for 5G iPods ($40) and nanos ($35) as the DC Shoes/Incase Folios. Surprisingly, the new Folios are not based upon Incase’s earlier, similarly-named Leather Folios for iPod nanos (iLounge rating: B) or Landmark 5G and nano Folios, but rather take after Incase’s earlier Folio for U2 Special Edition (iLounge rating: B), only with improvements. The resulting case is superior to each of these predecessors, and worthy of a higher overall rating.
As with most of Incase’s cases, the build quality of each DC Shoes/Incase Folio is pretty much beyond reproach - the only rough edges here are intentionally rough because of the company’s textured ballistic nylon material; stitching and attention to small details is, as always, excellent. The nano case fits all nanos without any issue, and the 5G case handles thick and thin 5G models equally well. Because of the resilience of their exterior material, neither one shows scratches or falls apart easily - they feel unusually solid for fabric cases.
Though both cases do pretty well on ease of use, they’re hampered by a standard limitation of flip-closed designs: the included front flap precludes full-time access to the iPod’s screen or controls, so you’ll need to open the Velcro front tab to reveal them. Both cases provide ample access to their iPods’ respective Hold switches and headphone ports, but only the 5G version provides Dock Connector access - here, more usefully open than in Incase’s earlier U2 Folio - while the nano one mostly covers it with nylon. For that reason, the nano version of this case rates a 6, while the 5G version rates an 8.
Other than their branding, which will appeal to fans of DC Shoes products, the single biggest innovation of these cases is the companies’ use of a subtle black camouflage coating for the ballistic nylon, an even better overall look than the earlier Snow Camo coloration of the iPod mini Sleeve. The cases are black enough that they match well with anything you own in standard black - such as a black iPod - but the slight camo look is cool, and carried through the interior of the case by texturing the leather inside. The 5G version of the case does a little more with this theme, including using embossed suede on the interior flap, than the nano one does. Incase has also distinguished the cases in one other way: the nano one lacks an integrated belt clip, for a total rating of 2, while the 5G version has one, for a rating of 3.
Both of the cases do a very substantial job of protecting your iPod - way more than the earlier Sleeve. Everything with the exception of the 5G’s headphone port, Dock Connector, Hold switch, and bottom left corner has been covered; in the nano, only the Hold switch, headphone port, bottom left and top right corners are exposed. The cases also score two points for their strength of coverage - unusual for a fabric case design - because the reinforced ballistic nylon feels so strong on all covered sides of the iPod.
In our view, a potential buyer’s perception of a branded case’s value will depend on how much he or she appreciates the specific brand, and though DC Shoes isn’t an international fashion house in the Coach, Kate Spade or Louis Vuitton sense of the words, the small premium you’re paying for these cases isn’t unreasonable. That said, any other company selling similar cases would have been able to do just fine at a lower price - Gravis Shoes, creator of the cool dark camouflage G-Pod (iLounge rating: B+) for earlier iPods, doubled its original and affordable $15 price to $30 for subsequent full-sized iPod models. That’s only part of the story, though: here, you’ll pay $10 more for the full-sized Folio, but you’ll also get a better-designed case in the process.
In summary, the DC Shoes/Incase Folios represent nice steps up for both companies over their earlier, similar offerings, and are both worthy of our general recommendation. Though the 5G version has a few things the nano one lacks - Dock Connector access, a belt clip, and more textured interior suede - they’re both B+ quality cases in our view - not as screen and control accessable as we’d prefer, and a little more expensive than necessary, but very good options overall.
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.