Review: Speck Products Mini FlipStand
Pros: Attractive-looking transparent protection accentuates and protects the entire iPod mini case, provides relatively easy access to the Click Wheel without compromising protection.
Cons: Belt clip is only okay, Dock Connector access is limited even in “open�? position, lack of Dock and angle of flip stand precludes iPod from recharging unless laid awkwardly on flat surface.
Last December, we reviewed Speck Products’ transparent hard plastic FlipStand, a well-designed third-generation iPod case that impressively included its own customized replacement for Apple’s Dock. Now that the iPod mini market has matured, Speck has just introduced a Mini FlipStand that’s similar in most ways to its predecessor, improved in a couple others, and lacking in only one way that may be of importance to certain users.
Transparent plastic is a perfect style match for each iteration of the iPod family, and it’s an even better fit for the iPod mini: unlike 3G and 4G iPod cases, designers don’t need to include foam inserts to adjust for different thicknesses in iPod mini. As a result, after you’ve dropped the iPod mini inside, you can immediately turn the case around and view the device perfectly from all angles. When inside, the iPod mini moves only a little - not enough to produce a large rattle, but enough to make insertion and removal very easy. The FlipStand’s two millimeters of hard plastic add protective thickness comparable to the average silicone rubber case, except at four points.
Point one is the case’s top. A metal-pinnned hinge juts out a bit from the back of the case, and allows you to open and close the case at will, locking closed with a plastic-on-plastic lock in the front of the case. The top includes holes for the iPod’s hold switch – an improvement on the prior FlipStand’s design – and the headphone jack. Speck’s new headphone jack hole is large enough for even higher-end headphone plugs, though they’re a bit of a tight fit. And of course, it fits Apple’s official Remote and headphone accessories without an issue.
Point two is the case’s bottom, where another metal-pinned hinge juts out at the case’s back. It provides enough of a “foot�? for the Mini FlipStand that the case can stand straight up on its own without wobbling, but the key concept behind each FlipStand is the reason for the hinge: the hard plastic Click Wheel protector that flips out and under the case, forming a much larger foot in the case’s back and allowing the iPod mini to incline on an angle similar to when it’s in Apple’s Dock.
Point three is the small lip in the front of the case where the Click Wheel protector can be accessed and pulled out. We found the lip perfectly sized for a fingertip, and the hole it leaves in the front of the case is perfect for accessing the iPod mini’s entire Click Wheel. Impressively, Speck designed the case to continue to cover the iPod mini’s metal surface under the Wheel, even when the protector is in an open position, though a hole for the Dock Connector port is wisely left exposed when the flip stand is opened.
Finally, point four is a small-ish, non-detachable belt clip that’s branded with the Speck Products name. Our review of the prior FlipStand expressed some concerns about the strength of the prior clip, and while this one has the presumptively added strength of being physically integrated into the rest of the case, the material remains on the thin side.
The case’s only major design issue – and one which limited its appeal for our purposes, specifically – is the small size of the Dock Connector hole at the bottom of the case. Made just large enough for Apple-developed accessory cables, we found it hard to connect any thicker third-party Dock Connector plugs – including car chargers – to the bottom of the Mini FlipStand. And this was a serious shame, in that the case was otherwise perfectly suited for everyday carrying and use in our vehicles.
Value and Conclusions
While not impervious to scratching, Speck’s Mini FlipStand is above average in this regard: not only does its transparent shell entirely encase the iPod mini (save its Hold switch and Headphone jack), but it provides a more than adequate line of anti-scratch defense for the screen, Click Wheel and all surfaces. At worst, the case will absorb the damage that otherwise would impact your iPod, and frankly that’s the major reason people buy cases for their iPods. In this regard, the case scores about as well as it could on our scale. Unlike a silicone rubber case, you can’t open the Mini FlipStand’s top, flip the case over, and expect the iPod mini not to fall out, but it’s otherwise highly protective in all the ways that count.
It’s also worth noting that by comparison with other iPod mini hard cases, such as the metal Innopocket ($34.90) and Matias ($49.95) cases, the Mini FlipStand is relatively inexpensive, generally more protective, and lacking only in one major way: metallic appeal. However, we think that as between these choices, the Mini FlipStand currently offers the best price to protectiveness ratio, plus a bit better versatility for everyday usage.
With that said, the Mini FlipStand is unlike its predecessor in that it doesn’t include a Dock replacement, and moreover cannot stand properly on its own when plugged in to an Apple Dock Connector cable. When you do plug a cable in, and lay the iPod mini on its back, the cord juts out just enough to put the case’s flip stand piece on an awkward angle. As a result, the product is less practically useful than the older FlipStand, and since it’s priced at the same $29.95 level, it represents less of a value than before – especially considering that the new case itself is smaller and seemingly a little less elaborate than the prior product.
We like the Mini FlipStand for what it is: a comprehensively protective transparent hard case for the iPod mini. Because of its flip-open top, it can be used with all top-connecting accessories, which is an asset of Matias’ iPod Armor mini product, yet it offers optional top protection Matias’ product does not. And there’s no arguing the fact that even though it may not represent a good value by comparison with Speck’s prior FlipStand, it’s a very viable alternative in most regards to other hard cases that have been released. Its only issues – limited Dock Connector access and inability to stand when connected to a Dock Connector plug – are ones that won’t affect all users, but should be considered by those who plan to use their iPod minis in-car or recharge their iPod minis in-case.
Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge. A consumer electronics fanatic who practices intellectual property law in his spare time, Jeremy’s recent book Law School Insider has been called the “best book about law school - ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.