Price: €20 (approx. $24 USD)
Compatible: iPod nano
SwitchEasy Capsule for iPod nano
Pros: A sleek-looking two-piece hard plastic shell for the iPod nano, available in five color combinations, and offering nearly comprehensive protection. Included matching colored lanyard and Click Wheel protector.
Cons: The iPod nano must be fully removed in order to use its Hold switch or Dock Connector port. The Hold switch can be damaged if the iPod isn’t inserted properly into the case’s bottom half, and the tinted clear plate that comprises a case’s front surface tends to scratch fairly easily.
A relative newcomer to the iPod accessory market, SwitchEasy made their debut with the PivotDock for iPod shuffle (iLounge rating: B/B-), and is now entering the iPod case space with their new Capsule Accessory System for iPod nano. Why does SwitchEasy call their new case an Accessory System? It really sounds more elaborate than it is: SwitchEasy soon plans to introduce a la carte options, allowing users to mix-and-match replacement Lens Caps (Capsule’s clear plastic front faces) and Stickies (Click Wheel protectors) of various colors.
With several key reservations regarding its design, explained in full detail below, we mostly liked and are willing to recommend the SwitchEasy Capsule.
The SwitchEasy Capsule for iPod nano consists of two pieces of color-matched polycarbonate resin. One opaque piece covers the iPod’s back and sides, and the other covers the iPod’s screen and front face (minus the Click Wheel). The two halves mate together with a locking tab on the Capsule’s bottom edge. The case’s only two holes (for the Click Wheel and headphone port) align properly with their respective components well, and no manufacturing defects are visible.
However, the case’s transparent front surface is easily scratched, a fact that will eventually detract from the case’s good looks as well as the usability of the iPod’s screen. For this reason, we’d strongly recommend that the Capsule not be carried in a pocket or bag along with spare change or keys.
The Capsule’s design provides usable access to only three of the iPod’s 5 key access areas - the Click Wheel, screen, and headphone port - leaving the Dock Connector and Hold switch covered full-time. Hold switch coverage, we don’t mind, but the headphone port is limited in its utility - the hole is too small for any headphone plug larger than that found on Apple’s packed-in earphones.
The iPod’s screen visibility is also dependent upon which color case you’ve purchased: each one tints the iPod’s display a bit, and the black model unsurprisingly but unfortunately dims it quite significantly. The impact on screen readability is even more profound outdoors. With the included Click Wheel protective sticker, which varies in color based on the case you select, scrolling remains maximally responsive, and the protector’s matte finish feels good to the touch.
Although it’s very tricky to attach - a problem which confounded two iLounge editors - it’s a nice touch that SwitchEasy includes a color-matched lanyard for mounting through one of two of the Capsule’s eyelets. There’s one in the center of the iPod’s bottom, best for around-the-neck use, and one in the iPod’s bottom-left corner, better for hand carrying.
Additionally, we award a point for Capsule’s offering of at least five color combinations, each of which look great, and include matching Click Wheel protectors.
If the user chooses to utilize the Capsule’s included Click Wheel protector, the case offers nearly comprehensive protection, leaving exposed only the small area for the iPod’s headphone port. The Click Wheel protector is easily removable and can be reapplied several times.
In the discussion of protection, however, we should also discuss one important - though not fatal - design flaw that potential Capsule users need to be aware of: the nano has a fairly tight fit in the included tray, and there’s no explicit recessed area for the iPod’s Hold switch. If you don’t install the iPod nano top-first into the tray, it’s entirely possible that you will knock the Hold switch right off the iPod. Two iLounge editors had the exact same experience while testing the case, leading us to deduct from the case’s otherwise good score (one point here, and one on value). In our view, there should be a deliberate Hold switch cut-out, or a label inside the case showing proper insertion, but keep this insertion process in mind and the iPod nano will be fine.
The Capsule’s selling price of €20(approx. $24 USD) is slightly better than today’s average price for a standard iPod nano case, and as such we would award it an extra point above our fair-price score. We also generally liked its design and feature package. However, because we were a bit disappointed by its Hold switch issue and third party headphone compatibility, our “reviewer’s tilt” kicks in to adjust the score back to 5.
Given the variety of color choices available, sleek looks, reasonable pricing, and generally excellent level of protection, the Capsule is an attractive choice for many pocket-carrying iPod nano owners. Other than its documented Hold switch issue and limited headphone compatibility - issues which together conspire to keep it from receiving our standard recommendation - the major problem facing Capsule is distribution. At the time of this writing, SwitchEasy has yet to acquire an American distributor for Capsule, which is currently available only from select companies based in Europe, Japan, and Singapore. If you can find a way to buy it, use Apple’s standard headphones, and are careful to avoid damaging your nano’s Hold switch, it’s worthy of your consideration.
A Note From the Editors of iLounge: Though all products and services reviewed by iLounge are "final," many companies now make changes to their offerings after publication of our reviews, which may or may not be reflected above. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.