Review: Vaja AP11 for iPod shuffle
Pros: Attractive leather design similar to other flip-open iPod shuffle cases we’ve seen, but with better attention to fit and finish, and higher-quality leather.
Cons: Exposed top corners, bottom sides, and rear switch; front Control Pad coverage uses hard to read icons on certain case colors. Price creep has brought this to same level as company’s Classic iPod and iPod mini cases
Every iPod gets a leather case - or two, or three - from Argentina’s Vaja, and we’ve been big fans of most of them. The company’s A-rated iVod and i-Volution cases still remain at the top of our lists of leather iPod and iPod mini cases, owing to their uniquely iPod-contoured bodies and high-quality leather.
Vaja’s AP11 case ($34.90 and up) for the iPod shuffle is more similar to the company’s line of “Classic” iPod cases - flip-open, PDA case-style designs that cover an iPod’s back and sides with leather, with a flap that opens to reveal its front. AP11 is somewhat simpler, sheathing the iPod shuffle in high-quality leather and using a flap only for its bottom and bottom front faces - where the shuffle’s USB caps go. Hard backing is used for the shuffle’s back, while the front, top, sides and bottom are all soft. Two types of leather are offered - 15 colors of Vitelino leather at a $6 premium per case ($40.90 total), or 8 colors of the more plain Aneline leather.
In many ways, AP11 resembles the flip-open leather cases we’ve already reviewed from Pods Plus (iLounge rating: C+) and Kroo (iLounge rating: D+), only with better quality components, a bit more protection, and a little extra attention to details. The stitching and edges were impeccable on the case we saw, with refinement surpassing each of the other offerings; AP11’s combination of hard back and soft body work well.
As with the other cases, the AB11’s flap is adjustable and held down by a matching front leather ring; together, the flap and ring permit shuffle owners to use their standard or lanyard USB caps, but expose the shuffle’s bottom sides to the elements (and potential scratching) as a consequence. An appropriate hole is left at the top for your headphones, which also exposes the shuffle’s hidden status indicator lights; two other holes needlessly expose the shuffle’s top corners. Finally, there’s a hole on the case’s back to give you full-time access to the shuffle’s power and mode switch, which extends just enough below to let you see and press half of the battery indicator button.
Unlike Pods Plus, Vaja made a potentially controversial move by deciding to cover the shuffle’s entire face with leather rather than expose its Control Pad - a more protective design made plausible by the smallest iPod’s lack of a touch-sensitive wheel. Kroo did the same thing, but made it impossible to use the controls through the leather, but Vaja’s volume, track, and play/pause buttons work just fine through the leather surface, and are marked off by icons engraved in gray on AP11’s face. On the burgundy-colored Vitelino review unit we received, however, the icons are difficult to see under indoor and low light, and we’re not sure that they are more conspicuous with other colors of leather - Vaja’s web site suggests that they may be. Regardless, A.B. Sutton’s Kidskin Case (iLounge rating: B) handled Control Pad protection better with its easy-to-use transparent integrated protector.
While the AP11 is aided a bit by the look of its higher-quality leather, it’s far from the best case Vaja’s released; to the contrary, it’s a bit pedestrian by design standards, like the Classic cases are to the iVods, and doesn’t benefit from the fine touches the company has previously innovated in leather cases- translucent control protection or curve-matching padded leather. Its biggest distinguishing features are the metal Vaja logo on its front ring, and the lacquered look of the leather dye used in Vitelino. Every AP11 comes with the former, but the premium for the latter pushes AP11’s price higher than any other leather shuffle case we’ve seen.
By comparison with other leather cases we’ve seen for the iPod shuffle, AP11 is a small step up, but certainly not the sort of breakthrough, i-Volution class design we know Vaja is capable of producing. If you see it in person - particularly the Vitelino version, which is fashion accessory-worthy - you’ll agree that it’s more worthy of its asking prices than the forgettable $20 leather cases we’ve seen, but neither as good a value or design as our A-rated shuffle offerings. Given its competition and the fact that it has the same overall quality as the company’s Classic iPod and iPod mini cases, counterbalanced by the same high prices (and nowhere near as much leather), we think that it’s a classy and recommendable case, but we’re waiting for an iVod shuffle.