Review: Tunewear Prie Ambassador, TuneTag and TuneWallet for iPod nano
Prices: TuneTag - $29.95, TuneWallet - $39.95, Ambassador - $49.95
Compatible: iPod nano
Pros: Quality leather cases with clear vinyl screen and Click Wheel protectors, each thin enough to properly suit the needs of any iPod nano owner. Each of the three cases is well-made, available in three colors, and attractive. Ambassador case is especially excellent, with detachable smart belt clip and metal hook options, plus very good protectiveness.
Cons: Prices of Ambassador and TuneWallet are considerably higher than other leather options we’ve reviewed, less expensive TuneTag still seems pricey for such a simple design. TuneWallet and TuneTag are a little on the plain side visually.
It’s very rare for us to see an iPod case that evolves significantly from its prototype version, but the final versions of Tunewear’s three new Prie cases for iPod nano have all made major advances since we saw them at Apple Expo in Paris. The cases are called Ambassador, TuneTag, and TuneWallet.
Our new capsule reviews are designed to spotlight six critical factors in each case’s design: appearance, build quality, ease of use, special features/innovation, protectiveness, and value for the dollar. As with all of our reviews, independent of whatever our ratings may be, we hope to provide enough information to let you decide whether a particular design is right for you.
Of all of Tunewear’s new cases, Ambassador is definitely the best: a leather case that simultaneously protects almost all of the iPod nano and offers tremendous versatility in how it’s carried or worn. Its only serious flaw is an eye-popping price: at $49.95, or 1/4 the price of a 2GB iPod nano, many people will pass on it regardless of its great features and quality. A three-piece protective film cover comes with each case, but did not come with our review samples.
Appearance: Though our review unit came in black leather with red trim and stitching, Tunewear also sells one in black leather with white stitching and trim, and one in white leather with white stitching and trim. We’d go with one of the latter two options: the red coloration looks fine, but out of place. Other than that oddity, Ambassador is a sharp-looking design: with dual clear vinyl windows on the nano’s top front and back, you can see nano’s screen and any engraving on its back. The same vinyl’s used for a Click Wheel cover, and looks good there, too.
Build Quality: Our only minus on build quality was a stray thread under the screen guard that was near-impossible to remove. Otherwise, this is a well-built case, and though it doesn’t feel like a $50 product, it comes close.
Ease of Use: Ambassador scores big for protecting so much of the iPod without significantly compromising access to its screen or controls with a front lid. The Click Wheel protector works well, but it’s worth noting that you’ll have to push a little to use the controls.
Special Features/Innovation: Ambassador stands out most in this category. A substantial, attractive, and easily detachable metal hook lets you attach it to your clothes or a bag, while a very smart, thin and easily detachable rear plastic belt clip can mount nano on your pants. What we loved about this design was that removing the extras left us with a thin, uncluttered case without belt clip nubs or other issues. It’s one of Tunewear’s smartest leather designs, ever.
Protectiveness and Value: Every inch of your iPod nano is covered in Ambassador except for two holes: one for the Hold switch at top, and one for the headphone port at bottom. Both holes are appropriately sized, though the Hold switch one is a bit generous. It’s not a perfect pocket case, but it’s very close. Our major issue - and the only thing that cost this case our high recommendation - is the price tag. The leather doesn’t look our feel like top-of-the-line Vaja-quality stuff, and if you’re willing to forego this material and hook, you can get a $20 Incase Sleeve that has an equally nice look and essentially identical protectiveness. But if you don’t mind the price, you’ll be thrilled by this case.
Of all of the cases we received, we didn’t expect to like TuneTag nano ($29.95) - one of several different TuneTags now being created by TuneWear - but we were again pleasantly surprised, albeit less so than with Ambassador. For the price, you get a leather and vinyl iPod nano holder intended to dangle from a bag, purse or belt loop, as well as a film protector, which we didn’t receive for review.
Appearance: Nappa leather is used to form a luggage tag-like enclosure around the nano’s body, with a thin vinyl front window that’s just large enough for nano’s screen and controls to be fully accessible. A smaller vinyl back window exposes the nano’s engravings, if any. And again like Ambassador, three versions are available: black with red trim and stitching, white on white, and white trim and stitching on black. Our review unit was the white on white one, and as expected looked like a high-class luggage tag. If you like that, great; we thought it was fine.
Build Quality: Overall, we had no complaints about the way TuneTag felt or was made. It feels sturdy, and didn’t have any rough edges.
Ease of Use: As with Ambassador, you’ll need to press through the vinyl to access your controls, but that’s not too hard. Seeing the screen is easy with the clear vinyl protector - superior to covering the front of the nano with leather, as many luggage tags might have done.
Special Features/Innovation: Other than its unique appearence, which is a bit generic for our tastes, the only thing special about TuneTag is a thin leather bag strap that attaches to the case’s bottom for easy attachment to a bag. The strap can be adjusted with a silver clasp to one of three positions - adequate, not that impressive - or removed entirely from the case.
Protectiveness and Value: Holes at the case’s top and bottom are its only exposed points, but the bottom hole is a lot bigger than the one on Ambassador, using a thin central strip that exposes almost all of nano’s Dock Connector and headphone port. This could have been better, like Ambassador’s bottom. But there’s a $20 difference in price between the cases - at $29.95 this one is a bit less of a bank breaker, yet still too pricey in our judgment for such a small piece of leather and vinyl. We’d be less likely to pick it as a pocket case because of the mostly open bottom, but if you’re looking to make a fashion statement, consider it.
What Tunewear accomplished with TuneWallet ($39.95) is almost enough to make it worth its price. Almost. Given the task of designing an under-$25 leather wallet-like enclosure for the nano, Belkin did a good job with Folio (iLounge rating: B), while Incase surprisingly dropped the ball with its Leather Wallet (iLounge rating: C-). While TuneWallet isn’t perfect, Tunewear has outdone both of them in two ways: creating a smart iPod holder, and creating a usable wallet. Like the other Prie cases, this one comes with nano-covering film, whcih we did not receive for review.
Appearance: In footprint, TuneWallet is identical to Incase’s Wallet - about 4” by 2.75”. It lacks external embellishments: like the other cases here, it’s either white stitching on black leather, red on black, or white on white. Our review unit was white on black, and looked very nice on the outside, if a bit plain. But the inside shines, with the nano looking very nice inside a leather sleeve, and the rest of the case showing matching leather and a fabric patch that matches the stitching. Tunewear’s logo is embossed on the case’s inside right, and on a small tag at its top inner center.
Build Quality: As with TuneTag, we had no issues with TuneWallet’s build quality. It felt good and its stitching was without any apparent problems.
Ease of Use: By design, TuneWallet covers the front of your iPod at all time when it’s in your pocket. This prevents you from having access to the iPod’s screen and controls unless you open the case. If you buy this case, you’ll understand going in that it’s a limitation of the design.
Special Features/Innovation: This is another example of Tunewear at its design best. Incase erred by putting nano on the Wallet’s right side, creating a headphone port issue with nano’s bottom. Instead, Tunewear puts nano on the left, then not only covers nano’s Dock Connector, but properly exposes only as much of the headphone port as is necessary. This was really good work. A fabric tab inside makes nano removal effortless, while a two-pocket design on the right actually lets you carry cash and a card or two in the TuneWallet. This is a real wallet, with a real iPod nano holder.
Protectiveness and Value: There are only two holes on TuneWallet: one for the top Hold switch and a small one for the headphone port. The top hole again makes this case less than ideal if you actually intend to use the case as a wallet with keys in your pocket, but most of your nano - including more of its bottom than with Incase’s design - is protected. There are vinyl covers on the nano’s screen and Wheel to protect it from whatever else may be in the wallet, too. Is a somewhat smarter design worth a $20 premium over the Incase Wallet, or $15 over Belkin’s Folio, which is smaller and has no pockets? TuneWallet is a better product than Incase’s Wallet, hence its substantially higher grade. But the price tag still feels a bit high for such a small case, dimming our enthusiasm a bit. As with Ambassador, which is a more versatile case, if you don’t mind the price, you’ll be very happy with the design.