Pros: Six colorful sleeves that hold any sized iPod, protecting against scratch and some drop damage.
Cons: No screen, control, or Dock Connector access, price is high by sock standards (let alone miniature sock standards).
There aren’t many iPod accessories that split the opinions of iLounge’s editors, but Apple’s new iPod Socks ($29.00) are amongst them. Viewed by some as a cynical marketing ploy and heralded as perfect holiday fun by others, iPod Socks are six-packs of two-toned colored baby socks that serve as quasi-cases for any size of iPod.
Each transparent box contains six individual gray, pink, blue, green, purple and orange Socks, knit nicely enough from cotton and tagged with a stitched two-sided logo tag. The Apple icon’s on one side, and an iPod logo’s on the other, so you can display either logo at the “front” by flipping the Sock over and inserting your iPod in your choice of directions.
Removed from the box, each unstretched Sock is about the size of an iPod mini, with just enough space at the top to cover any iPod’s headphone port and hold switch. Push in any iPod – and we’ve tested the Socks with all of them from 1G to mini to iPod Photo – and the elastic fabric expands to cover all of the iPod’s sides, leaving only a modest opening for headphones at a full-sized iPod’s top. Unfortunately, you can’t get access to the iPod’s controls or screen once inside unless you pop it out of the Sock, and there’s no hole for the Dock Connector port. Between these limits and the fact that the fabric won’t let you operate the iPod’s touch-sensitive scrolling and volume control features, the iPod Socks are rendered especially limited for use in automobiles, and without either pre-programmed playlists or iPod Remote controls.
The look of the Socks on iPods is somewhat predictable: they look like you’ve stuffed your iPod into almost any small sock.
Well, not just any sock: a preppy new J. Crew sock highlighted by a bright-colored stripe at the top. It’s a clean but generic look that no one would associate with Apple or iPods but for the label. While not unattractive aesthetically, they don’t compare in either form or function to most of the fabric iPod cases we’ve seen, save perhaps some of the especially ill-designed neoprene ones. They can’t be belt-clipped (like the cases and clips Apple gives away with some iPods), don’t cinch closed like the fabric bags that come with high-end iPods, and basically just provide limited scratch and drop protection without any additional utility.
Apple hasn’t gone out of its way to explain the reasoning behind the development and release of iPod Socks, but we have our guesses: ‘hip’ younger buyers (especially girls) and holiday shoppers will be their primary target, and if they’re vaguely popular, they could become a cheaper replacement pack-in for Apple’s iPod mini belt clips or iPod fabric cases. Sold only in six-packs today, it’s easiest to rationalize their pricing by considering them individually.
While unquestionably expensive as a package, the Socks are an almost reasonable less than $5 individually – cheaper than almost every bulk-sold iPod case on the market. They also could fulfill the need of some people to present disappointing gag holiday gifts (three pairs of ugh, socks, insert giggle here) before unveiling the true treat (a real iPod).
iLounge editorial opinion is split between the B and C ratings on iPod Socks: our final rating of B- is a compromise between differing perspectives. On one hand, we could recommend the Socks to people who aren’t especially discerning and want something that just looks sort of neat even though it’s not nearly as useful of a case as many other options we’ve recommended. On the other hand, we don’t like to strain to justify the existence of iPod accessories, especially those made by Apple, even if they’re colorful and cute. Though we continue to maintain that the iPod’s style and elegant user interface validate its price tag, the company is already perceived by a considerable portion of the population as opportunist on both hardware and accessories, and the iPod Socks don’t combat this perception – if anything, they make it worse. In a year that saw Apple release the innovatively small iPod mini on one end of the price scale and the innovatively powerful iPod photo on the other, the generic iPod Socks seem beneath such an impressive company.
Apple’s iPod Socks are a better-than-average execution of a questionable concept at a higher-than-average price tag.