Pros: Snug-fitting, easy to remove cases with screen protection and an affordable armband option.
Cons: No Click Wheel or top protection, and certain users may prefer other small missing features.
If you’ve read our previous review of Speck Products’ Mini Skin case for the iPod mini, you’re aware that the iPod mini is just about to start an accessories boom: over the next month, many companies will release slightly different takes on the same few accessory concepts, and we’ll be reviewing each of them here. The newest arrival is DLO’s Jam Jacket mini series – two slightly different rubber cases for the iPod mini. And both of them are winners.
A Blueberry Jam Jacket for our mini
Version one of the case is just the Jam Jacket mini – a soft silicone rubber case that slides very easily on to a mini, including screen protection, side protection, and bottom protection (minus a small hole for the Dock Connector port). The top is left entirely open to integrate with accessories, though the mini’s currently unused bottom holes – presumed by some to be there for future attachable accessories – are both covered. Version two, the Jam Jacket Pro mini, is identical to the first but for the presence of two slits in the back of the case and an elastic armband (included). DLO’s armband slips through the slits and quickly turns the Pro case into an arm-mounted holder for the mini – cheaper at $24.99 than Apple’s iPod mini Arm Band and more versatile, besides.
Even though we liked Speck’s case, we would prefer DLO’s for most purposes. The two most distinguishing features of DLO’s design are the built-in screen protector – a thin but appropriately protective piece of silicone rubber built right into the case, providing very good screen visibility – and its snugness while remaining easy to move onto and off of an iPod mini. We also liked that DLO included slightly elevated (under 1mm) rubber lips around the edge of the screen and the Click Wheel, giving the iPod just that much extra protection against a fall on its face.
Our minor gripes are indeed minor. On the fashion front, Speck’s brighter color offerings may appeal more to younger users, though we personally preferred DLO’s more subdued colors (clear, blue, graphite and pink). Additionally, Speck’s case covers the iPod’s top, includes a lanyard, and is every so slightly thicker than DLO’s. These weren’t issues for our personal iPod use at all, but we suspect that neck-wearing mini lovers will find Speck’s product better suited to their needs.
On the functionality front, there’s no Click Wheel protection, but we are okay without it – at least, for now. And hard-core screen protector users might prefer a separate protector that leaves less of a “wet” look on the mini’s screen. We don’t mind it, especially when the backlight’s turned on, and even moreso given how easy the mini is to remove from the case for perfect viewing.
Go Pro For a Workout
There are only a few additional notes on the Jam Jacket Pro version of the mini case. Having tested Apple’s own mini Arm Band, we would sooner recommend the Jam Jacket Pro for athletic use, even though reasonable people might differ in their interpretations of both products. Apple’s overpriced Arm Band ($29.00) offers absolutely no protection for the mini in the event of a drop or impact, and can’t be used as anything but an armband. DLO’s silicone case protects the mini whether it’s on or off your arm, is cheaper, and works just as well. Unlike prior iPods, which were a challenge to keep fastened to your arm during exercise, the iPod mini can be secured adequately with a band as simple as DLO’s Velcro, elastic and plastic design. Apple’s band and clip system look slightly better, but we don’t think the modest aesthetic difference justifies the higher price or compensates for the less protective design.
Our only concerns with DLO’s Pro case – again, small ones – regard the slits in the back of the case. First, they leave two thin slivers of the mini’s back exposed when not on an armband – enough to risk scratch damage if you keep car keys and a mini in your pocket. If you’re concerned about this, skip the Pro version and go for the standard Jam Jacket mini. We wouldn’t be concerned.
Second, while the slits are adequately designed for normal use and exercise, they are not reinforced enough to withstand abuse from younger users. We emphasize that under normal conditions we would not expect the case to tear, but it would have been nice if the slits had the little extra rubber lips found on the Jam Jackets’ fronts – just in case. For those keeping score, these are small and very user-specific quibbles, and not ones we think most people will care about.
Overall, we’re more than happy about both versions of DLO’s Jam Jacket mini case, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to most iPod mini owners. While we’re not sure whether we’ll prefer them to whatever will come down the pike over the next few months, both of these new cases are good values given their present price points and competition.
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 ($34.99 for 3 pack), $24.99 ($39.99 for 3 pack), respectively
Compatible: iPod mini