Company: Speck Products
Price: $17.95, $34.90, respectively
Compatible: iPod mini
Speck Products Mini iStyle
Pros: Interesting style case with integrated screen protection and belt clip.
Cons: Not super protective of iPod mini as a whole, no Click Wheel protection, style and apparent stitching/material quality will turn some potential users off.
Speck Products has been at the forefront of iPod case designs in the past: its kraton plastic iPod and iPod mini cases heralded the coming of silicone rubber cases for both platforms, with both products shipping before competing alternatives were available. Now the company has introduced a different “soft case” design, made from an inexpensive laminated fabric that Speck calls “leather-like material finished in metallic colors (except black),” referring to the metallic silver, blue and pink cases, plus a plasticine black one.
We say and mean the following in a good way: these new Mini iStyle cases are trashy-trendy. Trashy-trendy like the Beastie Boys in faux spacesuits. Trashy-trendy like the girl who paints her toes and fingernails with metallic polish to match her purse. In other words, good trash, if you’re in the mood for trashy. They’re the polar opposite of Vaja’s deluxe leather cases, and some people are really going to like that.
The Mini iStyles feature clear plastic screen protectors and protective coating for all of the iPod mini’s metal surfaces; the tops and bottoms are each partially open, with snapping flaps in the middle of their tops and hand-sewn holes for the Dock Connector ports at the bottom, small access holes open on the left and right bottom sides. Click Wheel access is entirely open, unprotected, as are the top left and right sides of the iPod. A Speck Products label covers the Dock Connector port unless you fold it open - an interesting, even smart little touch. The rear of each Mini iStyle case includes a large, sturdy enough metal belt clip, and though they’re not detachable, this case looks like one where the belt clips might actually get used.
Both the fabric quality and its stitching are adequate, but uneven in a seemingly intentional way. Read most positively, they give the cases a shaggy chic appearance, bringing to mind the ironic reference in Fight Club to “glass dishes with tiny bubbles and imperfections, proof that they were crafted by the honest, simple, hard-working, indigenous peoples of… wherever.” We think it’s intentional. Mini iStyles aren’t trying to be polished, perfect, or even classy. They seem content to be cheap soft cases, reveling in their imperfection, designed to appeal mostly to young girls and women. Others will view the imperfections as, well, imperfections, despite the fact that the cases are under $12 a piece when purchased in threes, or under $18 when sold separately.
The Mini iStyles earn our Happy rating for doing something different and mostly well. Build quality could have been better, but the look works as it is. While we wouldn’t extend the same benefit of the doubt to copycats, and wouldn’t want to see these cases proliferate or appear on more expensive third-generation iPods, they work really well for what they are. They’re not super protective, but they’re protective enough; they’re not right for everyone, but they’re right for their niche, and while we wouldn’t buy them for ourselves, we know people who would. If nothing else, the Mini iStyles are an interesting change from the norm, and though we weren’t impressed when we first saw them in photos, they make a good - trashy good - impression in person.
Jeremy Horwitz is a consumer electronics fanatic who practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His 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.