Review: Speck Products Skin Tight 4G iPod Skin
Pros: Solid soft plastic protection for the 4G iPod with nice Dock-friendly opening port at the bottom. Several color choices.
Cons: Doesn’t fit 40GB iPod properly, Kraton plastic isn’t as pleasant to the touch (or for iPod insertion/removal) as most silicone rubber cases, no belt clip, screen protection, Click Wheel protection.
As a long time iPod accessory maker, Speck Products is known for several very different types of protective iPod cases - some soft plastic, some hard plastic, some leather and leatheresque - that have been retrofitted and/or redesigned to match the different bodies of full-sized iPods and iPod minis. iLounge has liked some of these cases better than others; the company’s hard transparent plastic FlipStands have generally proved to be quite good throughout each iteration, and its unique iStyle leather cases are pretty good, too.
The iPod Skin design has previously stood out for two positive reasons: first, it is almost always the first soft plastic (rubber-like) case to emerge for any new iPod, and second, starting with the third-generation iPod, it innovated the idea of a large flap at the case’s bottom to permit exceptionally easy Dock Connector access. As a result, Speck claims - accurately for the moment - that the iPod Skin is the only rubber-like iPod case that works with Apple’s official Dock. While the feature has been cloned by case maker Lajo’s exoflp series of rubber cases, Speck has always beaten Lajo to the punch by having products in stores faster, and so the claim won’t be technically inaccurate until the release of Lajo’s exoflp 4g.
Past iPod Skins have also had two limitations. Most importantly, unlike its key competitors Lajo and iSkin, Speck has never offered an attached or separate screen protector or Wheel protector of any sort, which means that each of the holes in the case are fully exposed to the elements. Less critically, Speck has offered far fewer colors of its cases than Lajo and iSkin, which have exploited myriad dyes and glow-in-the-dark materials to great effect. Our test version of the newest iPod Skin arrived in “Frosted Clear” color, and “Cobalt Blue” and “Pink” colors will also be available. Frankly, we prefer the clear colors, so this isn’t an issue to us, but others will unquestionably prefer a greater variety of color options.
The most important issue with the 4G version of the iPod Skin turned out to be something that we really weren’t expecting. Like its predecessors, the 4G iPod Skin is made from a rubber-ish material called Kraton plastic, which is less flexible than rubber and has a slightly harsher texture. And unlike rubber, which could conceivably stretch reasonably well to accommodate 4G iPods of different sizes, we didn’t feel good about the way the one-size-fits-all Kraton plastic 4G iPod Skin flexed to fit the current 40GB iPod body design.
Like a tight shirt on a fat body, the 4G iPod Skin only awkwardly fits a 40GB iPod. After you slip it on to the iPod - which has in every generation of the iPod Skin been a little challenge given the harder-than-rubber texture of the Kraton plastic - it buckles at its three hole openings, leaving the 40GB iPod’s screen and Click Wheel with exposed edges, and leaves a sizeable gap in the rear of the case where the Dock Connector cover meets the rest of the case back.
There is little question that the 4G iPod Skin was designed for use with the smaller 20GB iPod body, and labeled as one-size-fits-all in the hope that 40GB users just wouldn’t mind too much. This contrasts with the way other 4G case designers have approached iPod protection: having tested two one-size-fits-all hard 4G cases, we’ve seen cases designed primarily to accommodate the later 40GB body size that use a foam spacer to made the smaller iPod fit as well. We’ve also tested a rubber 4G case that comes in two different sizes, one specific to the 20GB iPod, one for the 40GB version. Designing a case around the smaller body and expecting it to stretch seems like a less appropriate choice, comparatively speaking.
The 4G iPod Skin also does not offer a belt clip option of any sort. Like the lack of colors, we personally don’t mind this omission, as we don’t belt clip our iPods, but it’s a factor to consider if you plan to wear your iPod on the outside of your pants.
On the flip side, Speck’s $19.95 MSRP for the iPod Skin - and $29.95 MSRP for three skins together - is a reasonable price for what we consider to be a reasonable 4G 20GB iPod case. Users of 20GB iPods won’t be as disappointed by the iPod Skin as their 40GB-owning brethren, who we would advise to look for a better fitting option - perhaps one with screen protection, Click Wheel protection, and maybe more colors as options.
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.