Review: SwitchEasy RebelTouch
Staggering is the only word we'd use to describe the number of hard plastic iPod and iPhone cases we're reviewing today -- over 20 different models that we've been comparing to one another, as well as past cases, over the last few weeks. To help you sort through all the options, we've assembled a few statistics that are worth knowing up front. All of the iPod nano cases in this roundup run from $20 to $30, with most at $25 or less, while the two iPod classic cases sell for $25 to $30, iPod touch cases range from $20 to $30, and iPhone 3G cases go for $20 to $35. Virtually every case offers at least partial back and side protection, but they vary widely in front, top, and bottom coverage. Though all use plastic as their base material, they differ considerably in color options and secondary materials. This review covers SwitchEasy's RebelTouch for iPod touch 2G ($25).
Long-time iLounge readers know that SwitchEasy’s iPod and iPhone accessories generally fall into two categories: great, or “so close to great, but not quite there.” RebelTouch is unfortunately in the latter category, even though it’s based almost entirely upon the earlier, excellent CapsuleRebel for iPhone 3G. It uses the same combination of soft and hard plastic shells to form a body frame, adding clear front film and an included, detachable Dock Connector port cover to protect almost all of the rest of the second-generation iPod touch.
Judged on protection, looks, and pricing, RebelTouch would be a knockout case for second-generation iPod touch users. Unlike so many competing products, SwitchEasy has integrated volume and Sleep/Wake button covers directly into the soft plastic part of the body, while a spine-like hard piece keeps the case firmly on the touch’s sides, front bezel, and back. You needn’t remove the case to use it with Apple’s Universal Docks or other common accessories; the company includes a headphone port extender for non-Apple headphones, a Universal Dock Adapter, a cleaning cloth, a squeegee, and a second spare film protector for touch’s face. You also get a video stand that holes the touch on its side for widescreen video viewing. As always, SwitchEasy impresses on the sheer quantity of items in the package for the price, and as with the iPhone 3G version, white and black versions are “initially” available; more could conceivably follow.
However, we ran into a fairly serious issue with RebelTouch immediately after we started to test it: the covered Sleep/Wake button doesn’t respond properly when the case is on. In fact, no matter how we tried to place the touch inside the case, we found that the Sleep/Wake button was non-functional, apparently being held in a fixed position. An e-mail from SwitchEasy suggested a “quick fix”—pulling “the power button back a bit with your finger”—and stated that the technique would be detailed on the company’s web site. We couldn’t get it to work, and couldn’t find the instructions on the company’s web site nearly three weeks later, immediately prior to publication of this review. Related or not, we also found the case’s hard plastic spine to be just a bit too tight, making removal of the case unusually difficult; it seems like slight manufacturing tweaks might be necessary to fix these issues.
As much as we like the RebelTouch design, and hope to see it eventually become available in additional colors a la CapsuleRebel for iPhone 3G, the current version of this case isn’t one we’d recommend to our readers. Given that every other iPod touch case we’ve tested has no problem with button use right out of the box, retailoring RebelTouch at the factory would be a more prudent fix than trying to advise users to tug at the plastic to make it work. We’ll consider a re-evaluation of RebelTouch in the event that it’s fixed in the near future.
Updated November 14, 2008: SwitchEasy has updated RebelTouch with five additional colors: “celestial” blue, “red,” white/black “skeleton,” clear “arctic,” and red/black “devil.” Each comes with a matching Dock Connector cover, and the company has remedied the Sleep/Wake button issue previously noted in our review.