Review: Incase Leather Folio and Wallet for iPod nano
Pros: Two nice-looking leather case designs with attractive black leather, understated branding and integrated clear vinyl screen protection. Both cases protect most of the nano’s front and back. Pink and black versions of the Wallet both include a usable pocket, Folio a solid belt clip.
Cons: Both cases have useless holes for the nano’s Hold switch, bottom holes that expose too much of nano without good reason. Folio exposes too much of nano’s sides as well. Wallet cases don’t properly expose nano’s headphone port hole, which to be used requires you to shift nano out of proper control alignment inside case.
In our separate review of Incase’s Neoprene Sleeve and Sports Cases for iPod nano (iLounge ratings: A-), we noted that we were impressed by Incase’s ability to quickly translate two of its best iPod mini cases into highly protective, nano-ready designs.
By comparison, the company’s newest leather cases, the Incase nano Wallet ($19.95) and Incase Leather Folio ($24.95), are less impressive overall. Both are potential alternatives to Belkin’s recent NE Leather Cases for iPod nano, and while you may find a feature of either company’s product that appeals to your tastes, we think Incase’s Folio is the better (and more recommendable) of the two designs.
[Note: These cases will be available from Apple retail and online stores beginning in early- to mid-October.]
We hesitate to compare Incase’a nano Wallets to its earlier full-sized iPod Wallets (iLounge rating: B+), both because the newer cases are substantially less expensive, and equally less fully designed. We received two versions of the case that differed only in color: one black, the other pink. Both use the same clean but simple design to hold a nano inside, neither striving to become a true wallet nor aiming for the same narrow, nano-specific footprint as Belkin’s competing Folio product (iLounge rating: B).
The outside of each Wallet is entirely plain: a single piece of soft, quality leather is stitched on its outside with gray or pink thread, with a green and white Incase logo at the bottom right corner. Each folds in the center, and there is neither a belt clip on the rear nor a clasp to hold the case closed; they are like simple men’s wallets rather than more complex women’s wallets in that regard.
On the inside left, you’ll find a single, legitimately usable pocket with green fabric interior, covered by case-matching leather and accented in the bottom left corner with a green Incase leaf logo. The right side has a simple iPod nano holder that covers the nano’s body and entire right side, and even incorporates a clear vinyl screen protector. Gray suede-like fabric is used on most of the parts that touch the nano’s body. There are uncovered holes on the holder’s front for the Click Wheel - fine, given that the case is intended to be carried closed - plus on its left for inserting and removing the nano, and on its top and bottom for its Hold switch, headphone port and Dock Connector port.
We weren’t impressed by the top and bottom holes. It’s hard enough to use the nano’s Hold switch through the top hole that it should just have been covered; similarly, when the nano is aligned properly with the case’s front Click Wheel hole, the bottom headphone port is partially obscured by the case’s leather bottom. You need to push the nano over to the right to access the headphone port, and can’t simultaneously align the two holes properly with headphones connected. We’d have sooner seen the Dock Connector covered and a properly made hole for the headphone port designed.
Besides some of its stylistic flourishes, Wallet is also missing a couple of the features of its full-sized iPod predecessor: there’s no headphone cord manager in the center, and no elastic strap to hold the case closed. We don’t mind the missing cord piece given the case’s small size, but some way to keep the case from opening would have been nice.
Considering its ancestors and the company’s other nano designs, the nano Wallet seems like a comparatively rushed and nothing special design with some issues that really should be worked out in a successor product. Our low rating was mostly impacted by the headphone port problem, which can be worked around, but not in a way that people should need to consider in a good case. For all of its flaws, we preferred Belkin’s Folio, though both companies’ cases could stand to take lessons from each other - and Incase’s earlier Wallets.
Not to be confused with Belkin’s Folio, Incase’s Leather Folio is directly comparable with Belkin’s Flip Case (iLounge rating: B-), a highly similar leather design with a few small differences. Incase’s product comes only in black, but otherwise could be considered a kissing cousin: both cases start with an iPod holder that’s open at its bottom, sealing closed with a gray fabric-covered flap of leather that closes on the nano’s back. Once closed, both cases have belt clips on their front faces - Incase’s is metal and covered in matching black leather, embossed with the company’s logo - and tabs that stretch around their tops, holdiing the cases closed until you’re ready to open them.
They differ mostly in the particulars, and Incase’s are generally, but not always better. Both cases expose the nano’s side corners and bottom headphone port, but Incase’s holes are a little smaller. More notably, Incase doesn’t have a bizarre open hole on its case’s back to expose the nano’s iPod and Apple logos; it fully covers nano’s back, and also has a clear vinyl screen protector inside, which Belkin’s case lacks.
But then there’s the Hold switch. Incase’s top tab is positioned on the side to provide access to the Hold switch, while Belkin’s is awkwardly centered to partially cover and partially obscure it. Yet both cases actually err here: Incase’s hole for the Hold Switch is so small that you can’t even use it, so it should probably just have been entirely covered, while Belkin’s hole is both large and improperly covered by the top tab. On a brighter note for Belkin, its Flip Case closes with a magnetic clasp; Incase’s closes with a hard plastic hole and peg. Both solutions work, but we liked Belkin’s a bit more.
Both cases emphasize subtlety over boldness. The only colored elements on the Leather Folio are a green Incase logo below the bottom left of the nano’s Click Wheel, and a white and green Incase logo on the case’s bottom back side. That’s more than Belkin did; its logos are embossed in the top tab and in its belt clip. Neither case is going to attract chuckles, but neither is going to win fashion awards, either.
Other than the Hold switch and clasp issues, we preferred Incase’s Folio design to Belkin’s Flip Case by a bit, and would sooner recommend the Incase offering to our readers. That said, and as with Wallet above, we think that both companies could stand to improve these leather cases further. Incase has clearly demonstrated with the Neoprene and Sports Cases that it knows how to make the most of its earlier iPod case designs when creating new nano neoprene products; we wish we had seen more of that experience wisely applied in its leather cases.