With the exception of the iPod shuffle, none of Apple’s music players have had such a dearth of cases as the seventh-generation iPod nano; the previous model at least had a number of watchbands. That’s not to say there are none though, and we’ve rounded up seven recent offerings from three different companies. From Cygnett, there’s Action Nano Case ($20), Holster Hybrid Case ($20), and Second Skin Silicone Case ($10). Griffin has Courier Clip ($25), Protector ($20), and Trainer ($20), and there’s also Hipster Clip ($20) from Incipio. Because the iPod nano is so simple and light, body protection isn’t as crucial as it is with an iPhone or iPod touch. The only real extra feature any of them offers, other than pack-ins, is a clip or other mechanism for wearing or carrying the device.
Of this grouping, the most basic and least expensive is Cygnett’s Second Skin Silicone Case, available in red or black. It’s a thin piece of crosshatch-textured rubber that wraps around the iPod’s body, covering everything except for the screen, headphone port, and Lightning port. This means there’s full button coverage, and the material is thin enough that they maintain their full tactility, which is always a factor we appreciate. The openings on the bottom are large enough to accommodate oversized plugs, without leaving all of the aluminum exposed. We like that the material is slightly raised along the left and bottom edges, adding some sublet flair. If we had to find a gripe with the design of this one, it’d be that the material around the screen isn’t as tight as it could be, and therefore not perfectly rectangular. Really, it’s not a problem. The skin is simple, but it works.
The next step up is Protector. Griffin’s case, designed with the same generally styling as its iPhone 5 version, is a thicker silicone rubber option, that comes in black or frost. An interestingly angular molding with a inner rear grid texture keeps the rubber case from feeling cheap. Like Second Skin Silicone Case, it completely covers the iPod nano’s body; the only openings are for the ports and screen. This one fits around the screen a little more tightly, adding to the more premium feel. Because the material is so thick though, the buttons, particularly the Sleep/Wake button, are just a bit less clicky. We were worried that this would also limit the plugs that can be connected, but that turned out to not be a problem. The Lightning port opening is a bit tighter, but it can still accept the average third-party plug.
Courier Clip is essentially the same as Protector, but it adds one key feature. The body is made of the same thick silicone rubber, although it swaps out the frost version for bright orange. Its shape is slightly different in the details, but overall, it offers the same level of coverage for the body, and the same exact openings. We did find the Sleep/Wake button to click a little better though. The big difference here is the molded silicone loop at the top, and the included carabiner clip. This makes it easy to attach the iPod nano to a bag or belt. It’s not the most inconspicuous method, but it works, and we know some people will really like the rugged aesthetic.
Next, there’s Hipster Clip from Incipio. Much like the company’s Frequency, this one offers a bit less protection than most of the iPod nano cases we’ve seen. Instead of covering the black or white bezel, the semi-rigid rubber case comes right up to the black or white edge. The rest of the device, except for the ports, is covered. Hipster Clip’s design is particularly slim, and the material feels quite nice, even over the buttons. Like the others, it’s accommodating to oversized plugs. Flip it over to the back and you’ll find the namesake clip. A raised piece of plastic molded into the back of the case, it reinstates what was lost in the evolution from the sixth-generation nano, and is pretty sturdy. Those who like to run or otherwise workout with the diminutive iPod will likely appreciate the functionality and simplicity. It’s also the only one of the bunch to include a screen film, cleaning cloth, and squeegee.
Holster Hybrid Case also adds a clip, although it does so in a different way. This one’s actually a two-piece case. At its core is a bright green protector that’s essentially Second Skin Silicone Case, with a different texture. The port openings are a little tighter, but it’s otherwise functionally identical. It comes packed with a black plastic holster; that’s where the spring-loaded clip is housed. The rubber skin slides into the holder, with a U-shaped opening on the front exposing most of the device. There’s also a small passive clip at the top to hold the iPod in place. Obviously it’s not as elegant as Hipster Clip, but it does provide the choice, depending on how you’re using your iPod nano.
Out of this group, Action Nano Case is the most interesting. Like Holster Hybrid Case it comes as two parts, with a silicone case as the first step. It’s a significantly different case though. Instead of covering the bezel, it exposes it in the same manner as Hipster Clip. There are openings for the buttons, rather than raised protectors, and a superfluous hole at the left of the top edge. Along the bottom, there’s a long opening that not only exposes the Lightning port, but the Bluetooth antenna as well. It’s the least protective option in this roundup. What’s even more interesting, however, is how Cygnett has you wear it. Instead of a clip, the case comes with a soft-touch slap bracelet that fits through a raised loop on the back. Thread it through, and then you slap it against your wrist. It contours to the size of your arm, and allows you to wear the iPod as you would a watch.
Finally, there’s Griffin’s Trainer. This one is a traditional armband, the likes of which are more common for iPhones and iPod touches. At the center of the accessory is a 3.5” wide, 3.6” tall neoprene holder with a clear plastic window the size of the iPod nano’s bezel. A slot on the back allows you to insert the device, with the ports at the bottom being the only segments actually exposed. As long as you press with just a little bit of pressure, the screen is totally responsive through the window. There are 15 air holes on on either side of the iPod, and an elastic strap attached to either side of the holder. It can stretch up to a claimed 19” circumference, although at its largest, it fit rather snugly on an average sized arm in testing. This one’s not for bodybuilders.
Out of all these cases, the best combination of protection, features, and price is found in Hipster Clip and Holster Hybrid Case. The former is the most elegant, and makes up for its lack of bezel protection with a screen film. The silicone skin on the latter is as protective as it gets, while the holster adds the ability to clip it wherever you’d like. Both earn our strong general recommendation, and are among the best seventh-generation iPod nano cases we’ve seen. At the next level, a flat B rating, is Second Skin Silicone Case. The inexpensive rubber case is the best option for someone who wants cheap and simple body protection. It’s not as nice looking or feeling as SwitchEasy’s Colors, and doesn’t come with the same pack-ins, but is the least costly option we’ve seen and is slimmer, too. Griffin’s cases all earn limited recommendations. While they’re good, Courier Clip and Trainer are too expensive for what they offer. Trainer, on the other hand, works well, but is limited to a single use. Hipster Clip or Holster Hybrid Case can work in and out of the gym, for the same price. Finally, there’s Action Nano Case. While it’s the most original of all these cases, it’s also the least protective and, in our opinion, the least practical, earning it a C+ rating.
Company and Price
Model: Holster Hybrid Case
Compatible: iPod nano 7G