Compatible: iPod touch
As smothered with leather case options as we've been over the past few months, the best new iPod cases we've seen tend to be ones made from plastics -- either hard plastic or rubber. Today, we're looking at three new iPod touch and iPhone plastic cases: SwitchEasy's CapsuleTouch ($25-27) and Capsule for iPhone ($30), plus Power Support's Silicone Jacket for iPod touch ($30).
The advantages that all three of these cases offer over many similar offerings are neutral looks, solid protection, and a high degree of usability. Both of SwitchEasy’s cases are made primarily from hard plastic that’s been split into two halves—one for the iPod touch or iPhone’s upper back and half of its sides, the other for its bottom, facial frame, and the remainder of its sides. A spring-loaded rear latch keeps the two parts together. Power Support instead replaces these pieces with a single clear or black rubber frame made to cover the iPod touch’s entire body, except for its glass face and bottom ports. Both companies then include parts to fill these holes.
Power Support’s package includes three extra parts: a full-face film screen protector, a second piece of film that covers part of the iPod touch’s back, and a rubber Dock Connector plug. Silicone Jacket is offered in clear or black versions, and the Dock Connectors match the cases, which though incredibly simple in shape are undeniably clean and nice looking on touch’s body. With all of the pieces attached, the only iPod touch components Silicone Jacket leaves exposed are the headphone port and Home button.
CapsuleTouch and Capsule for iPhone are comparatively insane in the pack-in department. You get at least two different-colored non-adhesive screen protectors, stickers to help the touch’s or iPhone’s Home button work with the protective plastic front, a film cover for the iPod touch’s back, a Dock Connector cover, a Universal Dock Adapter, a headphone port adapter, and a cleaning cloth. SwitchEasy actually includes a third screen protector in the iPhone package, and a clear video stand similar to Apple’s in the iPod touch package. It’s tempting to say that these cases lack for nothing, but that would be a little on the generous side.
The other major advantage SwitchEasy offers is color choices. While the iPhone version comes only in black or white, the $25 iPod touch case is sold in white, pink, orange, and crystal versions, as well as a $27 UltraBlack Limited Edition; a red version is also shown on the packaging but may not be released. Each case comes with one screen protector that extends its base color to the black portions at the top and bottom of the iPhone or iPod touch’s screen, as well as a second neutral black and clear one; the UltraBlack version includes a third screen protector that is capable of dimming the touch’s entire face for a stealthier, darker look.
As surprising as it may be given everything above, the case we actually liked more was Power Support’s Silicone Jacket, and the reason is simple: SwitchEasy’s face protectors just aren’t as good, because they don’t completely stick to your iPod touch’s or iPhone’s face, like Power Support’s film. This makes typing and other button use feel less precise. They’re not as flexible, either, and also are more susceptible to thin surface scratches. We’d be tempted to say “use the cases without them,” but then, they’re designed to be both cosmetic and protective additions, so you’re giving both things up. Note, however, that the dimming black protector included with SwitchEasy’s UltraBlack Limited Edition is an exception to this; it looks and fits touch’s face better, but you’ll have to crank up the brightness to use it.
Though we were reasonably comfortable with how the less keyboard-intensive iPod touch did with the combination of hard shell and screen protection, something just didn’t feel right when we used Capsule with the iPhone—between the way the protector felt on our faces and the way the rounded external shell felt a little slippery in our hands, little things were just off in the execution. It’s not for lack of trying, and screen protector aside, the case technically doesn’t impede your use of the iPhone in any way at all, but it doesn’t enhance the experience much other than adding protection, either. As similar as it is, the iPod touch version doesn’t need to come in contact with your face, and its shape is a little easier to grip in your hands.
Accessory compatibility on both of the SwitchEasy cases is solid. Dock Connecting cables, Universal Docks, and oversized headphone plugs will have no problem working with the design, the latter assuming you use the included port extender. Large bottom-connecting accessories, however, won’t fit unless you remove the device from the case, due to the thickness of the bottom plastic. The Power Support design is even more accessory-accommodating, due to the give of its rubber, and offers more protection thanks to its Sleep/Wake button cover; it’s also Universal Dock friendly.
SwitchEasy’s top competition varies by model. In the iPod touch arena, it competes against the superb VideoShell from DLO, which offers comparable protection and an even better video stand concept at a lower price, albeit without the color choices. In the iPhone sector, it comes up against numerous cases, such as Contour Design’s Showcase, Power Support’s Crystal Jacket Set, or Agent 18’s EcoShield for iPhone, none of which have proved ideal for dealing with all of iPhone’s numerous features, but many do a better job with screen protection and/or body feel at similar or lower prices than this case. We think the CapsuleTouch is a good choice, and the Capsule for iPhone falls a little under it, but both could use some work—particularly in the screen coverage department.