Review: Pods Plus Leather Cases for iPod shuffle
Pros: iPod shuffle’s first leather case with fairly attractive design that exposes all shuffle controls and lights, available in six colors. Compatible with shuffle lanyard and regular USB caps.
Cons: Limited protective ability - mostly decorative; price comparable with full-sized iPod leather cases of similar moderate leather quality.
What is the purpose of an iPod shuffle case? If you answered “decoration,” you might like Pods Plus’ new iPod shuffle-compatible Leather Case With Front Side Flap ($19.99). But if you answered “protection” or “both protection and decoration” you might feel otherwise. (Editor’s Note: This case is made by China-based JP’s and may appear through a number of vendors worldwide.)
Because the iPod shuffle is considered by many to be either less in need or worthy of protection than earlier, more expensive iPods, case makers are testing the waters with fanciful, semi-protective accessories that may or may not qualify as “cases.” We’ve seen rubberized add-ons that turn shuffles into keychains, full body skins, and now this - the shuffle’s first leather “case,” which mostly but not entirely covers the small iPod’s body.
We’ll be reviewing shuffle cases and quasi-cases as follows: if it’s billed or intended as a case, we’ll review it as a case, subject to our existing review standards. In other words, an A-caliber case design fully protects the iPod shuffle inside and looks great, like Apple’s Sport Case, whereas B-caliber cases compromise on protection or looks, C-caliber cases compromise on both protection and looks, and D-caliber cases compromise way too much on either or both. (F-caliber cases would have to be dangerous, and we’ll be surprised if we see any of them.)
Judged by these standards, the Pods Plus Leather Case is alright. It’s offered in six colors - black, gray, pale green, pink, white, and the steel blue reviewed here - most of which use neat white stitching at the case’s numerous curves. (The pink and green versions appear to use pink and green stitching rather than white.) An open triangle at the top exposes the headphone port and the shuffle’s two hidden face lights, while small holes also expose the shuffle’s top corners. Both the shuffle Control Pad and rear power switch and battery light are fully exposed, as are the bottom sides of whichever shuffle USB cap you attach.
A leather flap and ring hold the case closed regardless of the cap you’re using; one version of the case (the “Front Side Flap” version) closes on the front, while the other (“Back Side Flap”) closes on the rear. We didn’t receive the Back Side version for testing and can’t render a full opinion on it, other than to say that it makes more sense visually to us than the Front Side one.
Pods Plus’ leather quality is okay, not great. It’s thin and unpadded, with hard inside pieces of reinforcing material on its front and back sides, and a less firm but still hard piece on the bottom of the flap. You won’t confuse it with the ultra-high-quality leather cases made by companies such as Vaja and Piel Frama, or even the medium-quality cases offered by other companies, but for an inexpensive case, it’s fine.
Will it protect your shuffle? Partially, but not comprehensively. While it will be good enough when used with the shuffle’s lanyard, we wouldn’t toss it into a pocket with keys and expect the shuffle to emerge unscathed. The bottom sides of the shuffle are considerably more exposed than they need be; the leather could have come down further, though we can guess why the manufacturer opted not to go that route. Shuffle aside, we’re guessing that the leather itself is not going to stay intact for too long, either, especially if exposed to moisture or kept rubbing against other items in a pocket or bag.
On the bright side, most of the case’s holes have their benefits: the shuffle’s controls are easy to access, the headphone port isn’t precluded from working with oversized third-party headphone plugs, and the rear panel’s switch and button are very easy to access at all times. Only the top corner slits are unnecessary.
We’d categorize these cases as decorative convenience cases more than protective ones, and while they’re not bad, they’re not great, either. Though not made from leather, more protective options are already available; these would be ones we’d only recommend if you really, really liked the look.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.