Review: Slappa ShockShell for iPod mini
Pros: Unique-looking iPod mini cases with hard aluminum cores and multi-colored rubber-like exteriors, most appropriate in design for younger iPod owners. Detachable belt clips and nubs are included.
Cons: No top, screen, or Wheel protection, and limited anti-shock protection guarantee, despite the strong-sounding name. Dock Connector hole is on the small side. Small rough edges in construction detract a bit from looks and overall feeling of quality.
If originality was the only hallmark of a fantastic iPod case, Slappa’s new ShockShell ($34.99 each, three for $84.99) would be one of the best cases we’ve seen. The maker of distinctive hard rubberized CD and DVD holders has turned its attention to creating iPod accessories, and has six new iPod mini-fitting designs, most of which are available in multiple colors.
Slappa calls the cases ShockShells because they’re supposed to be somewhat drop resistant, and the company advertises them with “Core 3” technology - drop protection from a distance of three feet from the ground. However, the site’s small print notes that “the ‘drop tested’ feature refers to the slight bumps and jarring your ShockBody case for the iPod mini may experience through normal use. SLAPPA stands by the ShockBody case’s ability to retain its original shape and design in drops of up to 3 feet in distance. SLAPPA cannot guarantee your iPod mini will remain fully functioning after experiencing a severe drop or impact.”
That’s not a huge guarantee to begin with - our iPod minis have survived three-foot drops on soft surfaces without any case; they’ll scuff or bend only if they hit a hard surface. The ShockShell, which extended a little past each of the mini’s own edges - is basically there to avoid the scuff. Just don’t expect the ShockShell to compare with OtterBox for the iPod mini in the anti-shock department; it’s a nice-looking case, and can withstand a small drop, but it’s not all-protective.
The way Slappa has achieved its combination of protection and looks is fairly unique. Each ShockShell starts with a hard aluminum exoskeleton for your iPod mini, then adds a colorful rubber-like outer shell and a soft, matching foam-like inner shell that won’t scratch your iPod. Slappa’s masculine outer shells are the tattoo-like Tribal and metal-textured Gridz, each available in two different colors. Then there are four feminine shells, the swirled Mod, the Butterfly-patterened Flutter and Little Wing, and the lacy Eden. Some of these cases are available in two or three colors; Eden’s sold only in one. Most of the cases have at least slight textured grooves where the different colored elements meet each others; each single-colored Gridz case instead has extruded grips.
Other than their colorful outside patterns, the ShockShells are fairly simple designs. A Slappa logo appears on each one’s front bottom except for Eden, though all of the designs have a smaller engraved logo on a stripe that runs through their backs. Near the top of that back stripe is a detachable plastic belt clip nub that uses a hidden metal screw to stay in place, and each case comes with a sturdy matching belt clip as well. The clip system is pretty good, and we were glad that both parts can be removed.
There’s also a hole in each case’s bottom so that you can use the iPod mini’s Dock Connector port without removing the case. The hole just passed our “standard/small-sized” Apple cable test, but failed our “large-sized” Monster cable test, which means that you may need to remove the ShockShell to use some bottom-mounting accessories.
That won’t be a problem with the case’s top hole, or with its front screen and Click Wheel holes. All are cut almost exactly to the size of the iPod mini’s components, so slipping the mini into the ShockShell is a hint of a squeeze, and once it’s in, it’s not coming out unless you push it out - hard - using the bottom hole.
The pressure we needed to exert highlighted one of the case’s three issues: when we removed the iPod mini, the Tribal case’s bottom gooey rubber-to-plastic adhesive began to spread apart, but then came back together when we pushed it into place. Similarly, there were other slight fit and finish issues, such as rough edges around the screen holes of both of our test cases - more in the Tribal than the Mod design - and the aluminum core is partially exposed on each case’s top surface.
Finally, the case’s lack of top and control protection may be right for some, but not for others; “hard” cases often have a tightwire to walk in this part of the design, and we tend to prefer those cases that have come up with good screen and wheel protectors. Especially given that the ShockShell is a three-layer case, we’d have to imagine that there was some way to pull off this sort of protection here - as Vaja and other case makers have done.
Overall, the ShockShell is a pretty good case on looks - if audience-specific - and decent on protection. We’re absolutely certain that some people - particularly younger iPod mini owners - will like the ShockShells’ looks enough not to mind the lack of screen, Wheel, or top protectiveness, small Dock Connector holes, and other little rough edges. From our perspective, the rough edges place these cases a bit under our “recommended” level for the price, but Slappa has a strong enough initial design that some small tweaks could make the next generation of ShockShells truly excellent offerings for a greater variety of users.