Price: $15 (shuffle), $20 (mini)
Compatible: iPod shuffle, iPod mini
iSkin Vibes for iPod shuffle and mini
Pros: Hip art-covered plastic cases for your iPod shuffle or mini, featuring complete access to the iPod’s controls and substantial access to their ports. iPod mini version includes lanyard and rotating RevoClip belt clip; shuffle version is compatible with lanyard USB cap. Eight types of cool art by Tokidoki to choose from for each iPod.
Cons: Protection and/or ease of use of each iPod’s ports and controls is less than ideal, shuffle version’s support for standard USB cap isn’t great, and doesn’t include the cool pack-ins found in the mini version.
After the death of the iPod mini and close to the end of the iPod shuffle as we know it, iSkin, Griffin, and other companies have released variants on a case design marketed generically as iJacket - a plastic body with colorful front artwork and a single-colored rear. iSkin’s cases are called Vibes ($15 for shuffle, $20 for mini, first shot below), and Griffin has Chameleons ($15 for mini, second shot below), the former of which we’re reviewing for only two reasons: iSkin picked great artwork, and we expect to see this concept carry forward into iPod nano and 5G cases in the near future. We’re not reviewing this generation of Chameleons, but will mention a couple of facts about them below, and consider covering future editions for currently shipping iPods.
Both of the Vibes rate highly on build quality: they fit their respective iPods perfectly, and are basically flawless on internal and external finish. They also stand up well to abuse, using an interesting plastic that doesn’t show damage easily, and has a nice front gloss. The rear of each case is matte, and also does well. Griffin’s Chamelon cases are identical save for one thing: their matte rear sides are flat and untextured, whereas iSkin’s use a series of elevated dots to provide an easier grip for users.
The iPod mini version of Vibe provides full access to the mini’s screen, top, and controls, with a Click Wheel cover that still allows the controls to work without a problem. iSkin’s Dock Connector hole is on the small side - not right for all connectors, but fine for Apple’s, resulting in a one-point deduction, and a total rating here of 9. The iPod shuffle version is intended only to be used with the lanyard USB cap included with the shuffle, but works alright with the standard USB cap; a one-point deduction applies. It provides full-time access to the shuffle’s front and rear controls at all times, and has a very small hole for the headphone port - too small for oversized headphones, leading to a second point deduction, for a rating of 8.
The major feature of these cases is their artwork: you have eight choices for either the mini or shuffle, each done by the artist Tokidoki. We’re not awarding points based on the quality of the artwork, which we loved, but we were seriously impressed by both the cartoony, Japanese-style designs and the inking, which sometimes includes metallic paint and is always eye-catching, for a base rating level of 3 points. The iPod mini version of Vibes includes two bonuses not found in the shuffle version: a cool, silver and gray metallic fabric lanyard, which we really liked, and iSkin’s detachable, rotating RevoClip belt clip. Because of these two pack ins, the mini case rates higher, as a 5.
It’s worth a brief note that Griffin’s Chameleon cases instead include a more generic-looking but sturdy white or black spring-loaded belt clip, which attaches to a removable screw-in belt clip nub. A 21” lanyard similar to iSkin’s is also packed in. The company’s artwork is decidedly less exciting, but there are 26 different designs, some of which might actually catch your attention.
The mini version of Vibes rates a 5 based on its lack of screen, top, and Dock Connector coverage, and its use of a medium-grade plastic to protect the rest of the iPod. The iPod shuffle version rates a 6 based on its front and rear control holes, semi-open, lanyard USB cap specific bottom design, and same sort of plastic material. Neither case is as good as it should have been on protectiveness, especially given iSkin’s history of awesome protection innovations, but neither case is awful, either.
Both of iSkin’s prices for the Vibes cases strike us as reasonable: though these are mass-manufactured, “standard” iPod cases, and walk the line between rubber and plastic cases, they fall under the prices we consider “normal” for iPod hard plastic holders, earning a one-point bonus each for price aggression. Without the artwork, they’d be too expensive, but the artwork makes the cases worthy of a premium over standard rubber designs. The mini version is a better value thanks to its detachable belt clip and necklace, both of which we liked, rating one point higher than the shuffle version. We’re also giving each case a one-point bonus for overall likeability - we found them to be really cool ideas, released just a bit too late in each iPod’s life cycle. We’re hoping for more along the same lines for current iPods. That brings the shuffle case up to a rating of 7, and the mini to 8.
Though the cases rate somewhat differently on the five above criteria due to design decisions and pack-ins, both cases receive the same overall rating of B+, falling at different ends of the B+ spectrum. Preserving the same quality of artwork and making small tweaks to future versions of Vibes - more art choices, more protection, and better value - could easily elevate them into our high recommendation category.
A Note From the Editors of iLounge: Though all products and services reviewed by iLounge are "final," many companies now make changes to their offerings after publication of our reviews, which may or may not be reflected above. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.