Company: H2O Audio
Model: H2O Audio for iPod nano
Compatible: iPod nano
H2O Audio Waterproof Housing for iPod nano
Pros: An impressively elaborate clear underwater housing for the iPod nano that provides full access to its screen, controls, and headphone port while it’s protected at up to 10-foot depths, or from common rain, splashes, or snow conditions when enjoying outdoor sports. Mechanical Click Wheel cover enables best possible use of iPod’s controls in challenging conditions. Includes neoprene armband for use above or below water. About as small as a properly protective case of its size can be.
Cons: Once-included waterproof headphones are now sold separately. Still twice the price of a competing option that also works underwater, though competitor is not guaranteed to the same depth.
We’ve reviewed a couple of H2O Audio’s waterproof iPod cases in great detail in the past - the company released $150, 10-foot submersible cases for both the fourth-generation iPod (iLounge rating: B+) and iPod mini (iLounge rating: B+), each virtually identical except in size. Now that H2O has released the Waterproof Housing for iPod nano ($80), it has taken the opportunity to significantly drop its price, add one pack-in and remove another, and exploit a recent change in the competitive landscape. How does it fare? Read on.
Waterproof Housing for iPod nano is one of the very best-built iPod nano cases we’ve seen - a fact equally attributable to excellent design and the requirement that it be precisely engineered for water resistance. Unlike any of the other nano cases on the market, H2O’s design uses a mechanical Click Wheel cover that enables users to continue to use the nano’s controls even in deep warm or cold water - a feat that’s not as easy to accomplish as just placing a thin plastic or rubber cover on top. The cover works perfectly with the nano’s controls, and the rest of the case is basically pinpoint-level perfect in its alignment with the nano’s components, and not as easy to scratch as one would expect from clear plastic.
It pains us to award Waterproof Housing only 6 points for Ease of Use, but it’s a fact that you can only access the nano’s screen, Click Wheel, and headphone port while inside, and not the Hold switch or Dock Connector. Truthfully, no one’s going to care about the Dock Connector underwater or in the other typical situations this case is likely to be used; the Hold switch is arguable, but we didn’t mind its inaccessibility, either.
The obvious benefit of Waterproof Housing for iPod nano is that it promises and delivers underwater protection to a depth of 10 feet: enough for swimmers, surfers, and participants in most other water sports save diving. It’s presently the only iPod nano case on the market that is guaranteed for 10-foot depths, now that Otter’s promising only 3-foot resistance. Thanks to a lock mechanism found on the case’s top and a sturdy interior rubber gasket that surrounds its hinged edges, the case completely seals water out, so long as the right pair of headphones is attached. The case scores 5 points for the innovation of this design, which is unmatched in functionality and appearance. As with Otter’s design, some may gripe about the case’s size, but waterproof protection isn’t easy to achieve, and H2O’s done a great job of shrinking the nano case to the minimum profile necessary to provide adequate protection.
Because some users will want to buy the case for potentially wet activities that aren’t strictly underwater - snowboarding, skiing, jogging in the rain, and so on - H2O no longer includes waterproof headphones in the package, and has re-engineered the case to work with any pair of headphones you might own. You can buy the waterproof headphones separately from H2O for $40. In their place, the company now includes a nice, perfectly-sized neoprene armband that lets you carry the case easily wherever you go, for an extra point. It’s worth a brief note that H2O does not include a belt clip or lanyard, features found in this case’s chief competitor, Otterbox for iPod nano (iLounge rating: A-).
Because it’s made from hard, reslient plastic, and completely protects every bit of the iPod nano - to a level unachievable by any other nano case - Waterproof Housing for iPod nano easily scores our top rating on protectiveness. The only note necessary here is that there’s a single potential leak point on the case - the headphone port, which is similarly an issue with all other cases, waterproof or not - and in order to take maximum advantage of the case’s water resilience, you’ll need to be sure you’re using a properly sealed connector. Those planning to jog with the case will have no problem using standard in-ear headphones, but true underwater aficionados will want H2O’s headphones, for sure.
In the past, we balked a bit at H2O’s pricing - $150 represented three times the cost of a comparable Otter case, with only two key benefits, namely included headphones and a mechanical Click Wheel cover. But H2O has partially remedied our concerns here, providing significant price relief ($30) even if you choose to buy the company’s separate headphones, and now including a useful armband in the package at no extra charge. Our feeling is that the current pricing isn’t aggressive, but it’s closer to fair, and we genuinely liked the case, too. At this point, there’s no doubt in our minds that if you need an case for up to 10-foot underwater iPod fun, Waterproof Housing for iPod nano should be at the top of your list, and if you’re looking for a good case for other potentially wet sports, the only other option worth considering is Otter’s similarly impressive Otterbox for iPod nano, which costs and does less.
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.