Review: NorthShore International Kaftan Cases
We've been quite open about the fact that we're not generally fans of flip-open cases, a design that started out on PDAs and for five years has made its way from iPod to iPod. Once merely predictable, the flip-open case actively became a hinderance to normal iPod use with the release of fifth-generation, video-ready iPods; it's inconvenient to have a huge flap precluding access to the iPod's screen and controls. But some users - those who rarely use video, and those who like to cover as much of the iPod as possible with a case - still find these cases interesting, so we continue to review them.
Today, we’re looking briefly at flip cases from three companies - ifrogz, NorthShore International, and Sena, each company with a slight spin on the now very familiar design. The ifrogz Exotics series ($50) are PDA cases with standard black leather interiors and animal fur or skin exteriors. NorthShore’s Kaftan Cases ($16) also have standard black leather interiors, but have soft multi-colored, padded fabric exteriors resembling Turkish rugs. And finally, Sena’s Video Premium Stand Leather Cases ($40-50) offer eighteen different color choices, including specially textured Crocodile and Piombo textured versions sold at a $10 premium over the standard $40 case. Sena’s lid doubles back to let the iPod stand up on a flat surface for easier video viewing.
Whether they’re closed or open, most people would be hard-pressed to tell anything but cosmetic differences between these three case designs. None of the cases includes an internal iPod screen protector - an unnecessary touch we occasionally see in flip cases - and though each provides substantial front, back, and bottom coverage, none does a great job of protecting the iPod’s corners. Sena’s is the most protective of the bunch on the top and sides, using leather that exposes only the headphone port and small parts of the side corners; ifrogz’ leather design is a very close second, also exposing the Hold switch, and NorthShore’s design is the least protective, with largely open elastic sides and an almost fully exposed iPod top. All of the cases fully protect the iPod’s Dock Connector while closed.
There are also a few minor differences. The Sena and NorthShore cases close with a snap, rather than the magnetic clasp used in the ifrogz Exotics. Only the Sena case opens from the top, rather than the bottom, to accommodate its “video stand” feature, which we found to be adequate but not as angle-adjustable as in similar cases we’ve previously tested. And the NorthShore case is the only one of the bunch without an internal credit card-sized pocket on the interior of the front flap - it’s also the only one covers the iPod’s Dock Connector even when the case is open, and fits any thickness of 5G iPod. Sena’s design is sold in separate 30GB and 60/80GB sizes; ifrogz’ is made only for 30GB iPods. None of the cases comes with a belt clip, nub, or lanyard, but one of NorthShore’s designs includes a wrist strap.
The major differences here are obviously the aesthetic ones: ifrogz’ Exotic cases range from furry to reptilian, and though our faux giraffe and alligator samples did an equally good job at both extremes - the alligator case is actually one of the most elaborate artificial ones we’ve seen - some people won’t see them as worth the full $50 asking price. Zebra, crocodile, and “spotted animal” options are also options. Sena’s $50 crocodile case is less elaborately textured, but more richly stained with interesting color, and nicely accented with lighter brown stitching. While its $40 standard leather case isn’t as striking, you have your choice of colors, and the leather quality is certainly better than some of the low-end offerings we’ve seen. Finally, the NorthShore cases use the least expensive-looking and -feeling materials of the bunch - the elaborate fabric outsides are more distinctive than the thin leather and elastic interiors - but sell for so much less than they’re actually aggressively priced by iPod 5G case standards.
Ultimately, though we’re not incredibly enthusiastic about flip-style iPod cases, these cases distinguish themselves more dramatically on looks than most of their predecessors - the only questions are whether you like those looks and are willing to pay these asking prices. All three of the cases come out within a point of each other in rating - either a 31 or 32, just enough to rate our flat B, general recommendation. As we’ve said before with PDA-style designs, our hope is that these case designers will consider using their interesting materials to develop even more practical designs for future iPods.
[Editor’s Note: Priced at $13, the iPod nano version of this case rates a B-, as it has imperfect alignment for the nano’s controls. It’s also worth mentioning that NorthShore sells a version of this case made for older 3G and 4G iPods as well.]