Personalized iPod cases have been around for a long time, but in recent months, they’ve evolved considerably: a British company called Red Snapper and an American company called FatPengy have both released iPod nano covers that can be seriously customized. Red Snapper’s two-piece hard plastic Mypod cover (£15) allows you to add a digital photo or art of your choice to the case’s back, while FatPengy’s soft fabric iStitch ($20) is custom-embroidered with your choice of pre-selected or user-submitted rear artwork.
Materials aside, these two cases have a lot in common. They both protect the entire iPod nano save for its Hold switch, headphone port, Dock Connector, and one part of its face: Mypod covers the nano’s screen with a clear protector while exposing the Click Wheel, and iStitch covers the Wheel with fabric while exposing the screen. Both cases slightly limit headphone and Dock Connector access; the plastic Mypod isn’t compatible with oversized headphone or Dock Connector plugs, and iStitch has similar Dock Connector limitations; you may have to tug it a bit to get your favorite headphones in place, too. Mypod has all the precise lines of a molded plastic case; iStitch by comparison has the typical soft edges and imperfections of one made entirely from thread.
There are differences, too. Red Snapper sells different plastic shells for 1G and 2G nanos; FatPengy has a one-size-fits-all design that works with both models. The Mypod case uses hard plastic snaps on its sides to hold closed; iStitch has a single metal snap on its top rear. And, of course, there’s the nature of the customization. iStitch includes a rear graphic that is roughly 20 dots by 20 dots in detail—capable of being augmented by additional stitching inside each dot. FatPengy offers nine basic designs on its site, and allows you to submit additional graphics via e-mail as you prefer. The limited detail means that there may be compromises—the i in iLounge, for instance, disappeared in the company’s rendition of our logo—but if you’re looking for something cute and not photo-realistic, these renditions are nice.
Red Snapper’s approach is different. You upload, e-mail, or send the company a photograph of your choice, and the image is placed onto the back of the case through a process that feels more like permanent ink than a sticker or cheap transfer. We didn’t submit the iLounge sample here ourselves, but as the close-up photo demonstrates, ultimate image quality is dependent on the resolution of the source materials you provide; low-res art doesn’t look so hot when transferred, but good digital pictures look nice on the back of the case. Ultimately, if you want a piece of art that looks as close as possible to the original source material, Mypod does substantially better than the artsier iStitch.
Mypod’s only offset is its front face. Though its web site shows flat pink, green, blue, black, and gray plastic shells, the ones we received were so garishly marked with Mypod logos that we wouldn’t want to carry them around. iStitch, by contrast, is adorned with only the simplest FatPengy branding—a small red tag with the letters FP on one side. The company leaves the front of its cases comparatively bare, marking the center of the Click wheel with a small icon; ours looked like the missing i from the rear logo.
Ultimately, both of these cases are above-average values—assuming you live in the countries where they’re produced. At $20, iStitch is an extremely good value for the dollar, though the finished result isn’t necessarily going to be as impressive to other viewers as the photo-realistic Mypod, which costs a little more after U.S. dollar conversion but also offers superior protection and slightly more impressive build quality. Both of these designs merit our general recommendation; we give a small edge to Mypod because of the more impressive results its rear casing can deliver.