Gadget Accessories is rapidly carving out a niche for itself in the iPod accessories market, producing low cost items that in some cases are a little rough around the edges. Some of the company’s newest products are outright clones of popular accessories we’ve reviewed from other companies: today’s are updated fourth-generation iPod knock-offs of Matias’ iPod Armor and similar open-faced cases from Innopocket and Pacific Rim. They’re compatible with all 4G iPods and the iPod Photo.
Of the two cases, the Solid Cover Aluminum Case ($14.99) has a significantly better chance of appealing to 4G iPod owners, primarily because it so brazenly duplicates the appearance of Matias’ popular iPod Armor. From its use of aluminum to its placement of finger grips, clips, headphone, hold switch holes and hinge parts, the Solid Cover looks just like iPod Armor from the outside – only Gadget Accessories updated their product’s front to both emboss and extrude the 4G iPod’s Click Wheel, a step Matias hadn’t yet taken with the iPod Armor at the time Gadget Accessories shipped their alternative. A hard plastic panel at the top provides headphone and hold switch access, while a rectangular hole at the bottom leads to the Dock Connector port.
The Solid Cover does a fine job of protecting an iPod that’s been inserted inside, but removing the iPod is another issue entirely. While there is soft foam rubber padding on most of the interior surfaces, a hard plastic unprotected surface at the top of the case can scuff your iPod if you’re not careful when trying to remove it – a challenge given that there isn’t an easy hole you can use to safely push the iPod out. Given the variety of softer options available for the 4G iPod today, this was our single biggest concern with this case, and the one that most forces us to qualify our recommendation. We tested Solid Cover with both our 4G iPod and iPod photo, and while it didn’t appear to scuff either unit’s top when we were careful, the potential was certainly there.
There are only two other problems: one shared by iPod Armor, the other not. Both cases completely preclude access to the iPod’s screen and controls unless you pop open the front hinge, which means that you’ll have to have a very specific protective need for this case in order for it to be worth your while. And Gadget Accessories’ case feels a bit thinner and flimsier than Matias’ product, leaving out its rubber Dock Connector protector and compromising a bit on the build quality that made iPod Armor famous, amongst other small differences. In essence, it offers 80% of the older iPod Armor case’s quality at 30% of the price.
Considering that iPod Armor sells for $49.95, it’s hard to argue with the Solid Cover’s $14.95 price tag, even with its flaws. And that’s exactly what Gadget Accessories is counting on. This mightn’t be an A-caliber case, but it’s a good enough option, at least until we have a chance to test Matias’s 4G version of the iPod Armor. We’re obsessive about protecting our iPod from scratches and scuffs, so the Solid Cover’s top is a bit iffy, but if you’re sure you can be careful when removing your iPod or otherwise are not concerned about that, the Solid Cover merits your consideration.
Aluminum Case with Removable Belt Clip
We were nowhere near as enthusiastic about the company’s other aluminum case, the Aluminum Case with Removable Belt Clip, a product that shows such telltale signs of sloppiness that we were surprised to see it even released.
In essence, this case is the Solid Cover with a slightly different back and a more open front. Two alternate holes on the back of the case allow you to attach a metal nub (using a Phillips head screwdriver and metal washer) at your desired high or low position, and an inexpensive black plastic detachable belt clip connects to the nub. It’s an inelegant belt clipping solution, but it works.
The problems are all in the front panel. Oversized holes cut for the screen and Click Wheel are entirely misaligned, clipping the Click Wheel’s and screen’s tops while providing plenty of extra space on their sides and bottoms. Unlike Pacific Rim’s 4gShield ($34.95), there’s no screen protector of any sort in the package, and the edge around the Click Wheel is rough and unbeveled – not pleasant to run your fingers around.
Otherwise, the case is identical to the Solid Cover above, with the same removal challenges and lightweight aluminum feel. They also share the same $14.95 price, for that matter. However, the clippable Aluminum Case is one of those rare products that we dislike even for the low price. It’s not patently dangerous, but it’s so poorly designed – even for a clone – that we would strongly recommend Pacific Rim’s more expensive 4gShield instead. The Aluminum Case with Removable Belt Clip isn’t unusable. It’s just highly undesirable.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge. 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: Gadget Accessories
Price: $14.95 (each)
Compatible: iPod 4G, iPod photo