It’s almost a mantra at this point: your first accessory purchase for an iPod should be a case. Whether or not you agreed with this concept prior to late 2005, the release of the scratch-attractive iPod nano and video-screened fifth-generation iPod made protective cases – or alternatives – increasingly necessary for iPod owners.
iLounge has been testing iPod cases since 2001, and they’ve come a long way. Thanks to detachable hard screen protectors, thin Click Wheel protectors, pop-open Dock Connector and headphone port covers, it’s possible today for any company to offer a perfect combination of at least part-time protection for every millimeter of an iPod’s body, exposing exactly as much as the user needs at a given moment. But few companies have truly mastered case design, so numerous options unnecessarily leave portions of the iPod out to be scratched or dented, while others make it impossible to use the iPod’s screen or controls inside.
We review cases on six main criteria: appearance, build quality, ease of use, special features/innovation, protectiveness, and value. Most iPod cases sell for $35 or less, with smaller iPods generally (but not always) benefitting from lower case prices. Premium options typically peak at under $100, but certain fashion houses have developed multi-hundred- and even multi-thousand-dollar cases. Many cases include detachable belt clips, hooks, wrist straps and/or necklaces so that you can carry your iPod wherever you desire, but others do not.
There are also several related categories of products. Stickers provide complete or partial scratch protection for an iPod, but don’t do much good on spots they fail to cover, or if the iPod’s dropped. They come in clear (“film”) and decorative variations, depending on your tastes, and sell for $3-15 per set. Clips provide partial iPod coverage, but are primarily designed to attach an iPod to your clothes – typically only smaller iPods. They sell for $5 to $20 each, but are sometimes bundled in a package for more. And Cord Managers are sometimes included with cases, or sold separately, allowing you to wind your headphone or other cords around something rather than letting them dangle. They range from $5 to $15.
Our reviews of iPod cases are available from this page, with Clips and Cord Managers (General) here, iPod shuffle-specific Clips and Guards here, and Stickers here.