Pros: Protective and fairly attractive 4G iPod cases that incorporate some of the better features from other companies’ designs, incorporates screen protection at reasonable price.
Cons: No Click Wheel protection, top slit leaves a bit of iPod exposed, “wet screen” look may not be right for everyone. Pro belt clip not worth an additional $10 over the standard Jam Jacket’s price.
When it comes to silicone rubber cases, DLO’s on a roll. Especially given how early they were to market, we really liked the company’s Jam Jacket and Jam Jacket Pro offerings for the iPod mini. Now we’ve tested and liked the company’s mostly similar 4G iPod updates to those cases, which share the same names. The big surprise is that the Jam Jackets also fit Apple’s new iPod Photo perfectly.
We’ve gone through the basics of the Jam Jacket series before, but here’s a quick refresher with a couple of new twists: Jam Jacket ($19.99) and its Pro ($29.99) version are inexpensive but resilient silicone rubber cases with one common distinctive feature: integrated soft rubber screen protectors that some people like, others don’t. Both cases are made in differently-sized 20GB and 40GB versions that are identical other than size. Each leaves holes for the iPod’s Dock Connector port, controls, and most of its top, as well as breathable pores for heat dissipation on the iPod’s back.
Color options are limited, but reasonable enough. They’re available in Clear, Glow Green, Fuchsia (pink) and Cobalt Blue, with a Black Special Edition version forthcoming to match Apple’s 20GB U2 iPod. Of the cases we tested, we liked the Clear one especially, but the Cobalt Blue version is vibrant and attractive, too.
Standard and Pro versions of the cases are modestly different. The Jam Jacket is a plain rubber case with no belt clip or other functionality, while the Jam Jacket Pro features a smart integrated hard plastic belt clip nub and better than average transparent belt clip. DLO’s clip system is the only difference between the cases, and given the price difference weighs heavily in favor of a non-Pro purchase unless you’ll really use the belt clip. If you plan to alternate between using it and not using it, Pro includes a well-designed means to remove the plastic nub in a completely safe and replaceable way.
There are a couple of differences from the iPod mini versions of these Jam Jackets to the 4G iPod versions. First, the iPod mini Jam Jacket Pro included an arm band and served quite well as an exercise companion; the 4G iPod Pro version does not. Second, both 4G cases are adorned with attractive textured hand grips on the upper 2/3 of their sides, and a beveled ridge at their bottoms – a clear borrowing of iSkin’s eVo concept. While the second difference doesn’t quite make up for the omission of the first, we do like how the cases look and their general feature sets.
As a blanket statement, we’ve found the standard Jam Jacket models to offer good, cheap iPod protection, and even though other and better cases typically emerge later in the lifespan of a given iPod, these are never too far behind their competitors. The Jam Jacket lets you use top-mounting accessories quite easily, though iSkin’s thin rubber top surface is a generally superior option, and while DLO’s square Dock Connector port is on the small side, it works with most of the peripherals we recommend without a problem.
DLO’s repeated decision to include integrated rubber screen protection is perhaps the only factor that dates the cases: it’s a quick and simple way to protect your iPod’s screen, but unlike iSkin cases, for example, DLO’s soft rubber leaves fairly considerable “wet marks” (not scratches) on your iPod’s screen. The result is a product that protects well but isn’t as aesthetically attractive as some others, limiting easy viewing of the screen under certain light conditions.
This isn’t a major issue for 4G iPods – assuming you keep your backlight on, generally – but it does limit the cases’ usefulness with the new iPod Photo. Granted, DLO doesn’t yet advertise the Jam Jackets as iPod Photo compatible, but the 40GB Jackets do fit the Photo quite well – thrilling because we were desperate for such protection. The only problem’s that the wet screen look wasn’t pleasing when we went to view photos, so we found ourselves peeling the top of the case down when we showed the screen off. It was entirely usable as a music player (especially when backlit), but don’t expect photorealistic beauty from the screen guard of a Jam Jacket.
Because the prices of the two cases differ somewhat dramatically given the modest (belt clip) difference between them, our grades differ a bit as well. The standard Jam Jacket is a good value for any 20GB, 40GB or 60GB iPod user, albeit with the limitations we’ve noted above. Some people will like the rubber protector, others won’t. But for $29.99, we think that people could do a fair bit better than the Jam Jacket Pro with iSkin’s eVo 2, even given that product’s own limitations. However, the value equation shifts a bit if you’re looking for multiple cases – DLO sells three-packs of Pros for $44.99 ($15 each), and standards for $39.99 ($13 each), so if you’re looking for multiple cases, bump our marks up to A- and B respectively.
Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge and practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school – ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.
Company and Price
Company: Digital Lifestyle Outfitters
Price: $19.99, $29.99 respectively
Compatible: iPod 4G, iPod photo