Review: Sumo Cases Flip and Stripe Cases for iPod nano
Pros: Highly attractive and reasonably priced padded leather cases for the iPod nano, each with a matching detachable leather wrist strap. Impressive 95% iPod protection, accomplished with nice front flaps and soft velvet interiors. Each case looks and feels like it’s worth more than its price.
Cons: Cases have lost Sumo’s brilliant earlier slit-style hole design, which used to provide complete headphone port coverage, in favor of completely open holes. Flip’s screen hole is too small, alignment can go off if nano shifts around inside. No belt clips.
Over time, case makers are faced with two major potential pitfalls: first, that they’ll repeat themselves too often, churning out year after year of too-familiar designs, and second, that they will discard really good ideas when developing new products. With its new iPod nano Flip and Stripe Cases ($30 each), both softer and more feminine than its earlier leather, suede, and ballistic nylon designs, Sumo Cases has demonstrated that it’s not going to fall into the stale case design trap, but it’s also taking some design change risks that may or may not pay off.
Of the two cases, the one we thought we’d prefer is Flip Case, a cute vertical iPod nano holder made from soft, padded leather - the sort that is good enough to make you think it’s more expensive than it really is. Presently available in black and red colors, Flip will also be sold in blue, orange, green, and pink by year’s end. Each case uses the same design: a soft flip-closed front lid opens at the top to let you insert your nano, then closes on top of it, sliding through a leather ring mounted between the nano’s screen and Click Wheel. Though we’re not big fans of front flaps, this design is again more interesting than most, and the iPod’s face is covered until you want to use it. Headphones connect through a hole at the case’s bottom.
As always, Sumo’s look is plush, classy, and highly professional. From lid to bottom of the leather nano holder inside, the case’s interior is covered in soft velvet in a color matching the exterior. Stitching across the case’s holes and edges is white, a nice contrast with the other colors. A metal D-ring on the case’s back connects to an included leather wrist strap, which uses a silver lobster claw to attach or detach as you prefer. The only branding is a nicely integrated Sumo logo on the case’s bottom back.
On protectiveness, Flip does a very good job: like many closed-lid cases, every inch of your iPod is covered save its headphone and Dock Connector ports, here both at the bottom of the case, each with a hole cut out of the leather. Though small, both holes worked with our standard array of test accessories; the thin leather at the bottom presenting no impediment to making connections.
Could Flip be better? Ironically, Sumo’s earlier cases have proved that it could be - mostly in its holes. First, Flip’s screen hole is on the small side, clipping off the edges of the nano’s display. It doesn’t look as good as on Sumo’s earlier 4G PlayThru cases, and if nano moves around inside, the alignment can be off; in addition to the cutting, we think that too little internal padding is likely to blame. Additionally, we absolutely loved the company’s earlier use of a slit-like hole rather than a cut-out circle or box for the fourth-generation iPod’s headphone port. While Flip’s small bottom holes are as close to protection as Sumo could get without the slit-type design, we prefer the slit overall. It would have taken this case from 95% protection to 100%.
Finally, there’s the issue of Flip’s styling, which with strap and the soft leather is unquestionably more feminine than before. Sumo’s saved some of its more distinctive touches - stripes and mixed ballistic nylon/leather bodies - for other cases. Some people will like these changes, while others won’t. But other than the screen hole issues we’ve noted, even guys who don’t want these for themselves will concede that these are some of the best-looking leather cases for a girlfriend or wife’s nano. For $30, it’s a very good value, though a little extra polish would have made it stellar.
There are some similarities between Flip and Stripe - both use front flaps and include wrist straps, both are made from the same padded leather exterior with a matching soft velvet interior, and both leave holes inside for nano’s face, screen, and bottom ports. As with Flip, black and red initial units of Stripe are already in stores, with four more colors available by year’s end - blue, orange, green, and pink. But from there, they differ. Flip opens vertically, with the nano’s screen and controls rightside up. Stripe lays the nano on its side horizontally, with its screen off to the right. We were initially concerned about this difference, as we’ve seen many horizontal cases screw up an iPod’s ports, or allow the iPod to loosely drift around inside, but with Stripe, there was no problem at all.
You open the case’s flap by pulling open a Velcro-sealed tab on the case’s bottom center, use a large left side hole to insert nano into its leather interior holster, and then use the case by changing the orientation from horizontal to vertical. Thankfully, the case grips nano enough that it won’t fall out of the case’s left side, and the holes for both the screen and Click Wheel inside are perfectly sized. As with Flip, the bottom ports are exposed - here a little more than before - but again, the impact on protectiveness is small: it’s the only open part of the case. Accessories connected to the ports without any problem.
Stripe’s outside is a little more elaborate than Flip’s, thanks to a white stripe of leather than runs through the front, back, and top of the case’s left side. We liked the single stripe almost as much here as the two-colored stripe on the company’s new 5G Ballistic/Leather Case, which we’ll review separately. A circular Sumo logo appears on the front right side of the case, while a leather-matched, silver lobster claw wrist strap attaches to a ring on the case’s rear right.
Though we hadn’t expected to feel this way, Stripe turned out to be the better of the two cases overall, despite its horizontal orientation rather than because of it. Though we liked Flip’s front flap design a lot, we found Stripe’s stripe a bit more interesting to look at, its internal holes better cut, and its usability and protectiveness otherwise virtually identical to Flip. Without the hand strap attached, the black version is close to a unisex case in appeal, and like Flip, it lacks only a belt clip for those guys and girls who might prefer it. For $30, it’s a no-lose proposition for nano owners who like leather cases and don’t mind flip-closed fronts.