Review: Power Support Silicone Jacket for iPod shuffle
Pros: Attractively thick, high-quality silicone rubber frosts and protects all of iPod shuffle’s edges; unique attention to front and rear controls makes both easy to use. Pack includes case, caps, and pocket clip.
Cons: Third-party headphones with oversized headphone jacks may not fit properly into case’s top hole, or may pop out.
Photographs may suggest that there’s only a small a difference between good and great iPod cases, but when you handle them for yourself, there’s no denying the importance of the distinctions. Such is the case with Power Support’s new Silicone Jacket for iPod shuffle (approx. $22.00), the first real rubber standout we’ve seen since Apple released the tiny new iPod in January.
As compared against Pacific Rim’s Gel Shields (iLounge rating: B+), the Silicone Jackets are noticeably thicker, more resilient, and generally better thought out. The clear version we received almost looks like a miniaturized version of Power Support’s superb Square Type iPod mini case (iLounge rating: A), adding an attractive frosted gloss to each of the iPod shuffle’s edges. We’ve also seen a wide variety of colors ranging from primaries to pastels and glow-in-the-darks, each of which has at least a hint more class than the rushed to market rubber cases that began to flow in from China quickly after the shuffle’s release.
Class only gets at part of the sophistication of the design: there are three significant differences between these cases and some of the less expensive ones we’ve seen. First, Power Support’s cases won’t rip under normal usage, and can even withstand over aggressive use. The company is using medical-grade silicone rubber at a thickness that doesn’t tear, a decision that has major aesthetic benefits and only one consequence. Because of the thickness, the case looks great no matter what color it’s in, and also protects the iPod shuffle wonderfully at all angles from top to bottom. It’s at least as protective as the best of the other cases we’ve seen, and on most edges, even more so.
However, Power Support’s design adds enough rubber to the shuffle’s top that only Apple’s headphones, or ones with a comparably thin headphone jack plug, are guaranteed to fit. The company clearly tried to engineer around this, but its solution (a different thickness of rubber around the iPod’s headphone port) only works with certain headphones. Oversized headphone plugs may pop out if jostled unless you have an appropriately-sized extender cord for third-party headphones. Apple’s iPod shuffle Sport Case includes one, but you may have some searching to do otherwise.
Each case also incorporates two very smart control concepts, at least one of which is patent-pending. The less bold idea is on the case’s front: rather than duplicating or extruding the shuffle’s controls in rubber, or just leaving a hole at the front as some other cases have done, Power Support molded the case to render the shuffle’s front flat and entirely covered. Then they extruded two rubber nubs: a circle for volume up, and a dash for volume down. That’s it. When you look at the front of the case, you have no problem seeing the shuffle’s controls, and when you can’t look at them, it’s easy to feel them and know exactly what to push.
Power Support’s really bold idea is on the Jacket’s back. Initially, we didn’t understand why the company created a set of concentric rings on the case’s rear with different thicknesses of rubber, and thought the rings were supposed to go on the shuffle’s front. But the rings turn out to be a really smart and highly durable way to control the iPod shuffle’s power switch: you stick your finger into the center ring and slide up and down to move the switch through its three positions. It sounds simple, but early shuffle case users will appreciate the difference between Power Support’s implementation, which always works, and others, which require harder presses or accidentally flip you back into sequential rather than shuffle mode. Some other cases skip covering the controls altogether, which thankfully Power Support didn’t even consider.
According to the company, the reason for the Jackets’ higher than average price is a combination of the case’s quality and the decision to bundle each case with a total of four parts. You get the main case, a USB cap, a lanyard-fitting cap, and a plastic clip that holds the encased shuffle. (The bundled ones will be white.) We thought the clip was fine, and if nothing else better suited to the shuffle than some of the not-so-impressive clips we’ve seen or received already for review. Whether you’ll want to clip the shuffle to a pocket or your pants is another issue altogether, and one you’ll have to decide for yourself. A small white hand strap will also be available as an optional add-on, as will be the clear clip with a USB jack cover (below).
Overall, Power Support’s Silicone Jacket for iPod shuffle is the best case we’ve seen for the shuffle so far, though also the most individually expensive as a result of its bundle. Save for the third-party headphone we noted - the only major reason the case missed our flat A mark - the case looks substantially better than others we’ve seen, and is at least as (or more) protective. If you’re using Apple’s in-ear buds, as many shuffle owners do, you’ll love it.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.