Company: iSkin, Inc.
Model: iSkin eVo2
Compatible: iPod 4G, iPod photo
Pros: Great screen protection, top-mounting accessory access, flat back design.
Cons: No control protection, potentially aggravating Dock Connector protection, questionable belt clip, and required purchase of unnecessary accessories.
When we received the first crop of 4G iPod cases based on 3G iPod cases a month ago, we wondered aloud: “will we take the time to review a 4G case that looks virtually identical to its 3G predecessor?”
As is evident from this review, the answer turned out to be yes, because the “virtually identical” 4G cases have actually proved different in some relevant way from their predecessors. iSkin’s silicone rubber case eVo 2 is a prime example. On the surface, it looks just like iSkin’s most recent third-generation iPod case eVo, which you can read all about right here. But iSkin has actually made three changes to the new case, of which one was mostly positive, one was obvious and neutral, and one was negative.
From eVo to eVo 2
Let’s start with the positives that were carried over from eVo. Both eVo case sets include a considerable number of design innovations from Canada-based iSkin: their silicone rubber case moldings cover everything but an iPod’s controls, top ports, and screen, using different thicknesses of rubber to facilitate easy use of both under-the-eVo screen protectors and top-mounting iPod accessories. The bottoms of both cases include rubber flip-open Dock Connector port covers, and their backs include detachable rotating hard plastic belt clips. Each eVo also includes a unique “Ultra Clear” hard plastic screen protector, and a soft plastic zippered carrying case for all the components.
Taking these components together, the eVo 2 is unquestionably the most complete rubber case package currently sold for the 4G iPod. Contrasted with Power Support’s previously reviewed 4G Silicone Jacket Set ($28.00), the eVo 2 is slightly more expensive and doesn’t protect the iPod’s Click Wheel, but does include the detachable belt clip, more rugged screen protection, Dock Connector protection, and its own carrying case. Similarly, Speck Products’ considerably cheaper ($19.95) Skin Tight case doesn’t include screen or Click Wheel protection, a belt clip, or a separate carrying case, and Speck only makes one size of their case (that doesn’t properly fit the 40GB iPod) - unlike both iSkin and Power Support. Therefore, except for the lack of Click Wheel coverage, buying the right-sized eVo 2 will get you pretty close to completely protecting your 4G iPod.
Then there’s the issue of colors. iSkin offers eVo 2 in nine of them, including the predictable white, black, and gray variants we’d expect, plus fruit-colored and glow-in-the dark cases. Today’s competitors hardly compare in this regard. At the present moment, Power Support’s offering one color (admittedly our favorite - frosted transparent), and Speck’s offering three. Better yet, iSkin will soon sell five-packs of Shades, five different colored (blue, pink, green, purple, orange) versions of its screen protectors. On color, nothing else we’ve received for review on the 4G iPod comes close to iSkin’s variety, though that may change whenever ####’s 4G cases arrive.
One negative was also carried over from the eVo. The rubber Dock Connector cover, while conceptually valuable, remains way too small to use easily with peripherals other than Apple’s reference-sized plug. We pointed it out in our previous review, and it’s now probably our single biggest pet peeve about the eVo 2, an issue that prevents us from using these cases with the accessories we keep in our cars. Since Dock Connector incompatibilities can cause aggravation, it’s strongly worth considering whether this will bother you or not before you pull the purchasing trigger.
We mentioned that iSkin changed three things on the eVo 2, one mostly positive, one neutral, and one negative. The mostly positive change to the eVo is a new screen protection system, featuring a new hard plastic Shade with six flat edge and corner pieces of rubber instead of four rounded corners. Unlike ####’s earlier, soft plastic iShades, iSkin’s Shade (confused yet?) doesn’t leave a wet look on the iPod’s covered screen, and uses its extra rubber to provide a softer iPod screen guard.
We liked iSkin’s previous screen protector a lot, and think the new Shade is in concept an improvement inasmuch as it has less chance of itself scratching the iPod’s plastic. Thanks to the extra rubber, it also holds a bit better to the face of the iPod - it’s not sticky, but doesn’t slide much either.
Unfortunately, it’s more conspicuous than the prior version when combined with the eVo 2, with its corners and edges more clearly visible around the eVo 2’s rubber edge. Therefore, while we prefer the look of iSkin’s clear Shade to ####’s iShades, we prefer the way ####’s cases integrate with the iShades. It doesn’t hurt that #### offers a wider variety of color options, either.
iSkin’s most obvious change from the eVo to the eVo 2 is the latter product’s physical compatibility with the 4G iPod, having changed from Apple’s 3G “four buttons and a wheel” design to the simpler 4G Click Wheel design. iSkin’s Click Wheel cut-out is plain and unbeveled but entirely functional, so we’re generally fine with it as-is. But we would have preferred a little more embellishment around the wheel to match the eVo 2’s uniquely molded bottom grips.
The final change to eVo 2 caught us by surprise in a not-so-positive way. For some reason, iSkin changed the eVo 2’s newest version of the REVOClip belt clip for the worse, remolding the hard plastic such that the clip “mechanism” no longer bends open and closed. Having called the old REVOClip “durable”, the new RevoClip is touted as “more durable”, and that may be true: it certainly doesn’t feel as lightly made as the last one. But because it doesn’t bend in a true clip-like fashion, it’s hardly a clip at this point - more like a single piece of plastic that just happens to hold to your pants. Though we don’t belt clip our own iPods, we would actually prefer either of iSkin’s previous clips to this one if given the choice. It looks good, but wouldn’t be our first choice.
By keeping their pricing scheme and most of their features so similar from the eVo to the eVo 2, iSkin has virtually guaranteed that their legion of loyal fans will be satisfied with their newest product. Like its predecessor, the eVo 2 is a solid, largely protective case, and unlike at least one of its competitors comes in two versions to properly fit any 4G iPod. For these positive reasons, if you’re willing to spend the money, you can’t go wrong with the eVo 2.
However, as often happens with good products, the company had little to change, and in the rush to get a new product to market has made fewer changes than some had expected. eVo 2 is a smaller evolution from the eVo than we’d hoped, and we’ll be surprised if the company doesn’t add further polish to the now inevitable eVo 3. Additionally, there’s little doubt that there are cheaper rubber and rubberesque cases, and ones with features such as Click Wheel protection (Power Support) and a larger pop-off Dock Connector cover (Speck) that may appeal to certain users. For these not-as-positive reasons, while the eVo 2 represents a slight improvement over the eVo, it rates the same as its predecessor - a firm B+. Some people will love it, but others will find better options on price or features.
As a brief aside, the eVo 2 fits Apple’s new iPod Photo reasonably well. We’ll need to see whether iSkin releases a Photo-specific case, but if you need something in a pinch, eVo 2 is a good solution.
Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge and practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His 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.