Review: iSkin Shuffle Duo for iPod shuffle
Pros: A completely protective and highly attractive iPod shuffle case that solves basically every one of the problems that have faced shuffle case designers. Every part of the shuffle is usable, and you have the choice to attach or detach an included lanyard necklace witthout using Apple’s shuffle pack-in.
Cons: Icons on front of Control Pad are tricky to line up, and weren’t necessary. Rear power switch is slightly easier to use with Power Support’s cases, though not critically so.
They are undeniably late. They are also undeniably excellent. As the first fruits of an effort to distinguish their silicone cases from the commodity products that have flooded the iPod market, iSkin’s Shuffle Duo cases for the iPod shuffle ($19.99 each) represent several firsts: the first iPod shuffle cases to use two layers of colored rubber, the first cases to completely solve the lanyard versus standard USB cap dilemma, and the first shuffle cases to cover every millimeter of the iPod’s body - including its headphone port.
The most notable evolution of iSkin’s prior design efforts is its adoption of a two-layer rubber process for added protection and visual distinction. Each of the company’s four cases - Oxygen (clear), Impulse (black), Vigor (red) and Adrenaline Indigo - comes with one “inner skin” in one of two colors, Oxygen or Adrenaline Green. Our review units had red and indigo outer skins, with clear and green inner skins, respectively.
This inner skin covers the iPod shuffle’s entire top, including its headphone port but excluding its rear power switch, and then slides inside of the outer skin, integrating with grooves and holes molded to fit its own bumps. You can buy a second inner skin of a different color for an additional $9.99.
Outer skins have five holes: one each for the headphone port, Control Pad, status lights, battery light indicator, and USB plug of the shuffle. The first four holes are filled by the inner skin’s rubber, which shows through, while the fifth opens forwards in a traditional iSkin flap. At first, the flap looks like it’s sized to fit the shuffle’s lanyard cap.
But it’s not. You put your standard USB cap inside and easily pull it on and off the shuffle’s USB plug. If you want to wear your shuffle as a necklace, you just attach an included clear plastic necklace with two sturdy prongs to the sides of the outer skin’s bottom. Voila - one case with one bottom that can be used with or without a lanyard, but in all cases, without any holes. The prongs fit into depressed grooves, not complete portals into the case.
In places where the shuffle needs to be accessed, iSkin only uses one layer of rubber. As long as you’ve properly aligned the inner skin, which doesn’t take much effort, it’s easy to see and use the shuffle’s Control Pad, Power Switch, battery light indicator, and headphone port. iSkin’s top innovation is a small flap that covers the headphone port hole when not in use, easily pulling open with a fingernail. The design lets you use oversized headphone plugs without a problem, but otherwise protects as much of the shuffle as it can - truly superlative engineering.
Shuffle Duo also has iSkin’s trademark style, which includes both nice textures and interesting colors. The top side corners and back of the USB cap are given textured dots for an easy grip, while the case’s front has an attractive V-shaped molding, and the back has both an iSkin logo and a thin spot or two where the inner skin intentionally shows through. It’s easily the best design iSkin has ever come up with, and one that we hope to see on other iPods as well.
The only two issues we will note with this case are small: iSkin’s decision to texture the shuffle’s Control Pad with icons wasn’t necessary, and makes lining up the graphics properly more of a challenge than it should have been. Most people will not notice, or care. And Power Support’s rear power switch access design Power Ring makes it slightly easier to switch the shuffle to your desired position on the first try. Again, virtually no one will mind. There’s way too much to like here to dwell on things so small.
Though it arrived many months after it was first announced, and may have missed out on many of the customers it might otherwise have attracted, Shuffle Duo is without a doubt the very best rubber case we’ve seen for the iPod shuffle. From looks to protectiveness, it’s going to be hard to beat - the only question in our minds now is whether anyone will try. Until then, this will be the case we use full-time.