Review: iSkin Duo for iPod nano
Pros: An attractive, innovative dual-layer silicone rubber case that provides nearly complete protection for the iPod nano, including hard screen protection that never touches your nano’s face, two layers of Click Wheel protection, and virtually full body protection. Very smart detachable belt clip system. Fair price given the extraordinary design.
Cons: Hold switch is not covered. Initial color selection is limited. Price will initially seem high until quality of case design sinks in.
Following only weeks after the release of iSkin’s Shuffle Duo (iLounge rating: A) for iPod shuffle, the new silicone rubber iSkin Duo case for iPod nano ($30) is equally impressive, and the sign of major things to come for its Canada-based manufacturer - a big step up over the cases it sold for 4G and mini iPods in 2004 and 2005. How big of a step? It arrived at our offices too late to review for our Buyers’ Guide, but as we noted in our Sneak Peeks section, if it had, it would have won our nano Case of the Year award.
We look at iSkin Duo with our new capsule review system, which spotlights the six critical factors in a case’s design: appearance, build quality, ease of use, special features/innovation, protectiveness, and value for the dollar.
Appearance: By silicone case standards, the iSkin Duo cases are almost universally appealing, limited only by iSkin’s initial four color choices. Thanks to two separate layers of silicone rubber, each case is two-toned - there’s a medium blue and green combination, a light blue and clear combination, a pink and white combination, and a gray and orange combination. Each Duo set includes a hard clear plastic screen protector, a soft clear plastic Wheel Cap, and a new version of iSkin’s detachable RevoClip belt clip. While none of the color combos leaps out as superb, one of the bunch will suit most people’s needs, and all of the parts look exceedingly good by comparison with what we’ve seen from other nano cases.
It’s also worth a brief note that iSkin has released matching Cerulean-branded headphones to go with each case - there are blue, green, pink and gray versions, each with matching ear foams. Typically sold for $30, they’re discounted to $15 when purchased with iSkin Duo.
Build Quality: Many case generations after its first silicone covers for original iPods, iSkin has the case making process down to a science. Its two layers of silicone feel as if they’ve been precision molded down to the micrometer, allowing the parts to integrate properly with each other - just as in the pictures. Even the one-piece belt clip - not our favorite in concept - is sturdy and strong. You’d have to try to break it.
Ease of Use: iSkin Duo has what some might call a better than perfect solution to ease use of the iPod nano inside this case: if you want no Click Wheel or screen coverage, use just the outer shell. Want Click Wheel coverage? Use the inner and outer shell together, or just the inner shell, which includes a rubber Click Wheel protector. The iPod nano’s wheel becomes a hint less sensitive - a good thing for those of us who find it too twitchy. Want to go even further? Add the Wheel Cap cover. The more you add, the less sensitive the Wheel becomes, and the better protected it is. Similarly, your nano’s screen is visible at all times inside.
Special Features/Innovation: In addition to the two layers of rubber, which create distinctive bits of color that pop out of Duo’s sides and Click Wheel, iSkin has included a good screen protector. First, let’s underscore the fact that there is one - an automatic bonus over many of the silicone nano cases out there, including Apple’s nano Tubes (iLounge rating: B+). Second, iSkin’s two-layer design does something brilliant: the protector fits between the two layers, so it never touches the nano’s front surface. Very smart.
Similarly, iSkin has created separate pop-open covers for the Dock Connector and headphone ports on bottom, with rubber between them. Cover as much of nano’s bottom as you want - our preferred design. The only compromise: Apple’s Lanyard Headphones will only work with the outer shell if you snip the rubber bridge between the two port covers. You can choose whether to do this, or just wear the inner shell with nano while on the lanyard.
Finally, there’s the new RevoClip. It rotates (with ratchets) through nearly 180 degrees, giving you horizontal or vertical mounting nano belt mounting ability. And it also uses an ingenious locking mechanism to attach or detach from the rest of the case - twist a small lock with a fingernail to secure or release the clip. These are both significant improvements on most of the silicone cases out there, which either don’t include belt clips, or include old, bulky ones taken from iPod and iPod mini designs.
Protectiveness: iSkin Duo is only a little shy of perfection in protectiveness - unlike Apple’s nano Tubes, it doesn’t cover the nano’s top Hold switch, a disappointment for those looking for a totally moisture-proof rubber case, like the company’s earlier Shuffle Duo. But it covers literally every other part of the nano, most parts with two layers of rubber, which no other nano case at present can claim to do. By historical standards, more iPod surface area is covered with this design than with 99% of earlier silicone cases, so iSkin Duo rates very highly here.
Value: The $30 asking price isn’t cheap; you get one iSkin Duo for the same price as 5 Apple nano Tubes. But this is the rare situation where “less is more:” when you come as close to protective perfection and innovate as much as iSkin did, you’ve earned your premium for what amounts to a little rubber and plastic. Except for the Hold switch, there’s not a single thing you’ll need to do to further protect your nano once you buy iSkin Duo, and we’ll take the rare step of strongly recommending that you do so. It truly sets the protectiveness and innovation bars by which all other iPod nano cases will be judged - rubber and otherwise.