Review: iLeath Mini Print Case
Pros: A good idea - the first iPod mini case to offer digital photo integration into front flap, above average leather, provides above average protection for iPod inside.
Cons: Leather texture differs between various pieces, color of digital photos may not be what you expect, price seems a bit high given overall look and feel of case.
In August, iLounge reviewed a promising product from new iPod accessory maker iLeath – a leather print case with a customizable front panel. You use iLeath’s web site to submit a digital photograph of your choice, and the company sends you an iPod case featuring that photo.
While we liked the idea, we thought that the execution wasn’t quite as good as the concept. Now iLeath has released an iPod mini version of the case, and notes that it has addressed a number of the concerns we raised in our prior review, which you can read here. Since the products are so similar to one another, we won’t rehash all of the details beyond to provide a brief summary and address the improvements that have been made.
In brief summary, the iLeath mini Print Case is like its predecessor in that it features a wrinkled, medium-grade leather PDA-style body that seals closed with a front flap. The exterior of the flap includes a sewn-on photographic front panel made from a more taut piece of leather. When the flap is open, the leather-covered iPod mini is revealed inside, a solid piece of vinyl acting as protective covering for its screen. A stitched circular hole exposes the mini’s Click Wheel, and holes in the case’s top and bottom give you access to its headphone jack and Dock Connector port.
iLeath’s design changes are small, but noticeable. The iPod mini’s entire headphone jack, including its remote control port, is now properly exposed, and there’s no longer an awkward Velcro tab to hold the case closed: instead, iLeath wisely attached Velcro right under the Click Wheel and on the bottom of the front flap, a better combination that achieves the same effect as before, only in a more visually and functionally pleasing way. Stitching has gone from slightly careless to more precise, and though the front flap’s attached photo panel still isn’t perfectly aligned, it’s certainly closer to the mark. And now there’s an integrated and non-detachable belt clip – made from metal but covered in leather – on the back of the case, instead of an odd belt loop. In the omissions category, there’s only one item – the front flap is now too small to hold business cards, which is no great loss as far as we’re concerned.
Several of the old case’s issues still remain: the trapezoidal front panel still is a bit awkward looking both as a design element and as a frame for a digital photo, and the Dock Connector hole is still too small. As before, the color rendition of the digital photograph on the case isn’t stunning – the print we received isn’t as bright as the sample on the company’s web site – and the asking price ($33.99 for an uncustomized case, $44.99 for a customized one) is still on the high side given the look of the finished product.
Putting the photo version of iLeath’s mini Print Case aside for the moment, the $33.99 version of this product competes directly with Vaja’s premium leather iPod mini Classic case ($35.90) on price, and acceptable leather cases such as Global Source’s Deluxe Leather Case ($27.99) are available for lower prices. This would be a harder comparison to make if iLeath’s case was being sold at a more competitive price point, but as is, we would be inclined to recommend both of these cases to the iLeath offering, unless…
Unless you really want a custom photo print of your own on the front flap. While iLeath’s $11 photo premium is a bit steep in our view – a price point of $39.99 would be closer to “right�? in our opinion given the product’s materials and photo quality – the photo version of iLeath’s case certainly remains an interestingly customizable iPod accessory. iLeath has taken a few steps in the right direction, but we continue to think that further revisions – particularly in the photo, shape, and leather component departments—will help iLeath’s products become all that they have the potential to be. As-is, they’re better than average offerings, if a bit expensive.
Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge. A consumer electronics fanatic who practices intellectual property law in his spare time, Jeremy’s recent book Law School Insider has been called the “best book about law school - ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.