One month after the release of Apple’s new iPod touch, we’ve had the chance to test thirteen different cases that are in or on their way to stores in the United States. Many of the designs will be familiar to owners of other iPods, but for those who aren’t familiar — and for those who need additional information before making a purchasing decision — we’ve created three comparative reviews to give you a big picture look at all of these options. One review focuses on four $20-30 armbands, the next on six $30-35 leather or neoprene cases, and the last on three $15-25 plastic cases.
Clockwise from Top Right: Belkin Leather Folio, Leather Sleeve; DLO HipCase; Griffin Elan Convertible, Incase Neoprene Sleeve, Leather Sleeve
Our second comparative review of the day looks at five cases that are made from leather, and a sixth that is almost identical to its leather cousin, except for its replacement of leather with soft plastic and neoprene. Belkin has the Leather Folio ($30) and Leather Sleeve ($30), DLO has the HipCase Leather Sleeve ($30), Griffin has the Elan Convertible ($30), and Incase has the Leather Sleeve ($35) and Neoprene Sleeve ($30). Since these cases have a lot in common with one another, we’ll quickly sum up their similarities, walk you through a table we’ve assembled to help you quickly understand their differences, and then discuss their individual features in separate reviews.
All six of the cases cover parts of the iPod touch’s sides, bottom, and face with leather or plastic: most of the cases cover all of touch’s sides and back, and only parts of its top, bottom, and face. Every case has a soft lining that varies from velvet to suede or soft neoprene, preventing touch from being scratched inside. And every case provides full-time access to the touch’s headphone port, Dock Connector port, and Sleep/Wake button.
From there, they differ. Two of the cases cover the iPod’s screen with a leather flap, while four of the cases do not; one includes clear film to protect touch’s screen. A different four cases come with a belt clip—none with the ability to serve as a video stand—and each case has at least one classy touch, though the amount of class, and color options, vary from case to case as noted below.
With only one or two exceptions—most notably, its inclusion of a clear film screen protector—DLO’s HipCase Leather Sleeve for iPod touch feels like a low-rent version of Belkin’s Leather Sleeve design. It covers the same amount of the touch’s face and back, save for the brightness sensor cut-out that Belkin lacks, but has gaping holes in its top, sides, and bottom. HipCase actually exposes half of each of touch’s sides, its entire top, and both bottom corners, as well as the headphone port and Dock Connector; on a positive note, DLO’s tailoring properly exposes all of the ports and controls without a hassle, and its full face protection is a comparable offset.
Protection aside, what HipCase lacks is class. With the exception of a padded and hard-reinforced rear surface that feels really nice, surrounding the fixed-position vertical belt clip, HipCase looks and feels like most of the generic leather cases we receive from no-name Asian manufacturers—a step or two above disposable, rather than great. While we applaud DLO for offering the right combination of protection and control access in this case, we’re not blown away by its looks, which are a real step below almost all of the other leather cases we’ve tested; Griffin’s equally generic Elan Convertible is the only comparably bland exception.
Overall, the first crop of leather iPod touch cases didn’t really blow us away: though we liked three of the open-faced cases enough to generally recommend them to our readers, none was as protective as we’d expect for a $30 or $35 asking price, and each had at least a little something that could really benefit from a superior redesign. The other three cases rated limited recommendations for different reasons; Belkin’s Leather Folio looks good but interferes with normal use of iPod touch’s screen, Griffin’s Elan Convertible has the most protection and best belt clip of the bunch but is still too big, bulky, and otherwise inconvenient because of its flap, and DLO’s HipCase compromises a little too much in looks and side protectiveness. We’re holding out for the next round of leather designs in hopes that they’re better and smarter.
Company and Price
Company: Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO)
Model: HipCase Leather Sleeve
Compatible: iPod touch