ifrogz Rana Italian Leather Cases
When Apple introduced its iPod Leather Cases for iPod and iPod nano (iLounge rating: C+) last year, public response was swift and merciless. Originally sold for $99 a piece before falling to $40 on clearance, the Leather Cases were designed to snugly hold full-sized iPods and nanos inside, keeping their screens and Click Wheels entirely concealed in the process. We didn't especially like that component of the cases, but Apple partially compensated for it with a unique fabric drawstring that popped the iPod out when necessary.
Now ifrogz has released Rana Italian Leather Cases ($25), full-sized iPod holders with similar drawstrings and materials but different exterior styling - and much lower prices. For a quarter of Apple’s original sticker, you get a Western pouch-style case in your choice of three leather colors - textured tan, smooth brown, and textured dark brown. The inside of each is soft suede, too gentle to scratch any iPod on insertion or removal, and large enough to hold any fifth-generation iPod regardless of thickness. With a 30GB iPod inside, the case is big enough that the drawstring isn’t really important, but with 60GB or 80GB iPods, it’s more helpful, if not strictly required to separate case from Pod.
There are two pieces of leather in Rana that aren’t found in Apple’s earlier cases. A top leather flap with two snaps per side enables you to secure your iPod in the pouch-like Rana with or without headphones plugged in. And there’s a loop on the back to let you attach Rana to your belt. These two pieces make Rana a bit more protective and versatile than the Apple design, providing almost complete coverage the iPod inside - the only omission is a small gap due to the loose-fitting top flap; rather than giving you a dedicated headphone plug hole, the flap fits loosely enough to accommodate most plugs. Bose’s overly tall TriPort IE plug is a notable and absolutely unusual recent exception, but all L-shaped plugs will work just fine. Similar tiny slits in the case’s bottom side don’t practically compromise the iPod’s coverage enough to matter much, either.
We had a point’s worth of finish issue with each of the cases we tested. The tan case had a sharp glue edge near its snaps, the smooth brown case had slightly rough stitching, and our dark brown case arrived with some odd but small silver markings near the drawstring. Each case had slightly rough edges around the flap, but they looked consistent with the leather design, and not worthy of any additional point deductions.
Since ifrogz has priced Rana at an attractive level - the leather in the cases feels pretty good for $25 - the only real issues here are whether you like the look and the design. The former’s your call, but the latter strikes us as the justification for the price here: this is a pretty minimalist design, with no frills, and the idea of fully covering the iPod’s screen and controls at all times isn’t one that we’ve ever liked. Most people want the ability to use the iPod without removing it entirely from the case, and Rana makes that impossible, even covering the Dock Connector - like Apple’s Leather Cases, you have to set the iPod up, press play, then sit back and listen. Ease of use is this case’s biggest issue, but at least you don’t pay a significant price penalty for it.
Overall, Rana was one point away from our standard recommendation, a testiment to reasonable pricing given the quality and protectiveness of its leather, but also a reinforcement of the fact that threadbare features and highly limited access to the iPod’s key components will generally result in a low overall point total. If you’re interested in a leather iPod case like Apple’s, this one is a better deal - if looser and a bit less “professional” - and worthy of your consideration if you like its Western styling.