Review: Speck ArmorSkin for iPod classic, iPod touch + iPhone
Speck's iPod cases occasionally fall into "brilliant" territory, and with one general exception -- slight inconsistency -- its newest series of ArmorSkin cases meet this standard: they are undeniably cool, grid-textured rubber enclosures that make the iPod classic ($30), iPod touch ($30), and iPhone ($30) look like futuristic props from Terminator 2. But just like the company's first ArmorSkin, released for the third-generation iPod nano, they're better choices for pocketing than docking.
Though ArmorSkin shares a consistent design from model to model—you choose from a black or clear body that wraps around the iPod’s or iPhone’s top, bottom, sides, and back—there are some major differences between the different versions of the case. Speck’s iPod classic version has the most in common with its nano predecessor: classic comes with a hard, clear plastic front shield, a grid textured rubber back and side casing, and an insert to make the 160GB classic-sized case fit the smaller 80GB classic as well.
Both the nano and classic cases expose the iPod’s Click Wheel, Hold switch, and headphone port, but the classic one has something the nano doesn’t: an open Dock Connector port at the bottom. The good news is that this hole lets you connect thin cables to the classic; the bad news is that the case is too thick to dock in a Universal Dock, or use with most other iPod accessories. Additionally, while right-sized for the 160GB classic, it adds quite a bit of thickness to the smaller 80GB model.
There are further differences in the iPod touch and iPhone versions of ArmorSkin. The iPod touch version includes both the rubber case body and a film-like clear screen protector, covering the touch’s Sleep/Wake button and exposing its entire bottom. ArmorSkin for iPod touch is definitely the best of the family in terms of protection, and is just able to squeeze into a Universal Dock, as well as work with other bottom-mounting accessories.
But the iPhone version is, once again, different from the others. This one comes with a case, but has no screen protection, instead including a black plastic rear ratcheting belt clip and holster system. There are also holes for the ear speaker, ringer switch, rear camera, and entire bottom of the iPhone, which help to make this case the family’s least protective, though the Sleep/Wake and volume buttons are covered, as is the rest of the iPhone’s body.
One other surprising difference is in the type of “clear” rubber used for these cases. Like the iPod nano case, the classic version is truly clear, rendering these iPods more ice cube-like in appearance—we really preferred this—while the touch and iPhone versions are more of a frosted, milky white color. We would have preferred to see all of the clear cases done in the same truly clear rubber, but the iPod touch and iPhone versions still look pretty cool; the black versions are all the same.
While all of these cases are made well, and are reasonably priced at $30 a piece, their design differences merit slight differences in their ratings. The iPod classic case looks the best of the bunch, but falls a little short in accessory compatibility and protection; thanks to its one-size-fits-all design, it also has the disadvantage of really bulking up the more slender 80GB iPod classic. By comparison, the iPod touch version is the best on protection and accessory compatibility, but doesn’t look as sharp in “clear;” those interested in the black version will be more impressed. And the iPhone version is the worst on protection, but does well on accessory compatibility and includes the extra holster, a feature we really wouldn’t use but also wouldn’t discount in value for some users. A little extra consistency in functionality and coloration would have made all of the ArmorSkins highly recommendable; as-is, the touch version comes the closest to our definition of the “ideal” iPod case.