Review: Griffin Courier Utility Case for iPod touch, classic & iPhone
Last year, Griffin Technology introduced a unique case concept called Courier, which was primarily designed to mount an iPod or iPod nano on the shoulder strap of a backpack. We weren't especially impressed by Courier's build quality or looks, but the idea was a good one, and now that a year has passed, three companies are offering somewhat similar takes on the same idea. One is a revised version of Courier ($35); another is DLO's StrapWrap ($20); and another is Speck's TransPort ($35).
Left to Right: Courier, StrapWrap, and TransPort
All three of the cases have two things in common: first, they’re all designed to work with either the iPod touch or the iPhone, and second, each includes two Velcro-based rear flaps that open to let you place your bag strap inside, then fold over each other to grip the strap tightly while you’re walking. From there, they differ substantially in protectiveness, device accessibility, and other features.
Of the three cases, there’s no doubt that Griffin’s is the most fully thought out and complex—a result of retooling last year’s design to look and work better. This time, Courier includes two half neoprene, half clear soft plastic cases, one designed for the iPod classic or 5G, and the other for the iPod touch or iPhone. Though simplistic in design, these cases provide complete screen and control access at the same time as they offer substantial protection, a combination not found in either of the other designs. Griffin also is the only company to include a detachable accessory holder that can be used to carry your earbuds or a cable around, a zippered inner compartment to hold cash or cards, and a silver carabiner hook that you can use to hang Courier from anything that doesn’t fit the strap holder.
Courier’s positives are balanced by a couple of negatives. It’s by far the largest of the strap-holding cases, measuring 7” long and 3.3” wide to StrapWrap’s 6.25” by 3” and TransPort’s 5” by 2.5”, mostly because of the extra space it allots for the front-mounted accessory holder. This size makes it especially conspicuous and potentially unwieldy if you’re using a bag with thin or short straps. Additionally, Griffin’s iPod/iPhone cases are fine, but not great. Their plastic fronts are susceptible to permanent wrinkling, and their neoprene bodies are cut only marginally to provide bottom port access—both “work,” but aren’t ideal. Still, these cases are a better compromise than either of the other options, and can be pulled off of the Courier strap mount and used separately if you desire.
DLO’s design, by comparison, is a generally good, device-agnostic compromise. Rather than using iPod- or iPhone-specific cases, StrapWrap is almost entirely neoprene, with a pocket that can hold either type of device, and another pocket in front for holding earbuds or a cable. There’s no interior pocket for cash or cards, but there’s a plastic simple hook on the top for attachment to something other than a bag strap, and the strap holder is bolstered by grippy plastic dots to keep StrapWrap from sliding around once installed. Its slightly thinner body allows it to hold a typical bag strap at least as tightly as the Griffin design, while its shorter height and lack of a clear iPod or iPhone screen cover allow its contents to be comparatively inconspicuous.
StrapWrap’s major issue is that it doesn’t permit you to do much with whatever device has been placed inside: it’s designed for people who start a playlist or album going and then don’t interact much with their iPods or iPhones thereafter. If you want to play with the controls or watch a video, you need to pull the iPod or iPhone out. Additionally, the accessory pocket has an interior hole, which means that you probably don’t want to put keys or other device-scratching items inside if you’re concerned about damaging your phone or media player.
Finally, there’s TransPort. Unlike the other cases, it isn’t designed to work with hard disk-based iPods; it’s only made for the iPod touch and iPhone, though to its credit, both of these devices fit inside exactly as they should. Speck has repurposed a holster-style design found in its earlier Holster Pro to hold both of these iPods, attaching the strap flaps to its back instead of a belt clip, and adding a detachable front flap that covers either device’s screen and parts of either the top or bottom, depending on what you’ve inserted. The iPod touch needs to go in upside down, so that its headphone port is accessible, while the iPhone goes in rightside up.
TransPort’s design is nearly different enough from the others to fall into its own category. Thanks to its narrower width, it’s the least conspicuous of the group when attached to a bag, but as the strap holder is only around 2” wide, it’s the most in need of bunching up or adjustment if you’re dealing with a wide strap. Speck bills this width as belt attachment-friendly, which is fair, and something that couldn’t be said about the other cases above; conversely, the DLO and Griffin cases are more likely to work with larger bag straps, and can use their hooks to dangle from things that TransPort has no way to attach to.
The issues with TransPort are relatively straightforward. Put aside the fact that you have to choose from protection or accessibility; at least Speck, unlike DLO, offers this option, though Griffin’s Courier lets you have both without compromise. It’s the only case in this group that doesn’t include an accessory compartment of any sort, and though it looks and feels relatively inexpensive—roughly in the $20 StrapWrap’s league—it sells for $35. Speck has used a combination of a leatherette-like plastic and a microsuede-styled lining for the case’s body, and an even more rubbery rear portion for the strap attachment. None of the cases in this collection feels luxurious, but TransPort feels a little overpriced for what you’re getting.
Overall, these three bagstrap iPod holders each offer reasons for certain users to prefer their features, but it’s our feeling that Griffin came closest to getting the core idea right with the versatile and easy-to-use Courier, tied with DLO mostly because of its more aggressive pricing, and a little ahead of Speck’s still pretty good offering for iPod touch and iPhone users, albeit a little on the narrow and pricey sides. Each of these designs could benefit from additional size, cosmetic, and functional tweaks, but they’re all good at what they do, and recommendable.