Leather iPod and iPhone cases fall into three major categories these days: “play-through” designs that let you see the device’s screen, “flip-style” designs that inconveniently cover the screen and controls with a flap that needs to be opened every time you want to use them, and “sleeves,” which are little more than gloves that require you to slide the entire device in and out to use it. Today, we’re briefly reviewing 17 new cases for the iPod nano 4G, iPod classic, iPod touch 2G, and iPhone 3G from eight different companies. We’re starting with nine flip-style cases, the first three of which are Griffin Technology’s Elan Convertibles for iPod nano, iPod classic, and iPod touch ($30 each).
By now, our view of flip-style cases should be very clear: we can tolerate them for pre-touchscreen iPods, but really do not like them for touchscreen iPods or iPhones, as these devices rely so much on their screens for control that the lids on flip cases are nothing more than an encumbrance. Rare is the flip case that we like enough to consider it worthy of an exception to this standard, but on occasion, a company comes up with something that’s either so attractive-looking or versatile that we consider it worthy of our general recommendation.
Griffin’s Elan Convertibles are one of those exceptions. Rather than sticking users with a traditional lid, these cases combine a leather iPod-holding sleeve with an optional lid that can be attached for added face protection, or detached if you don’t want to bother with it. In every Elan Convertible, the lid slides into the back of the case—at the top of the iPod classic version, or the bottom of the iPod nano and touch versions, each of which otherwise has a sturdy and challenging to remove vertical metal belt clip. An invisible magnet lightly secures the nano lid, while Velcro tabs hold the classic and touch lids shut. Notably, the touch version covers the side Volume buttons, and though it doesn’t indicate where they are, you can deduce as much on your own and use them without a problem. Griffin has built the iPod classic version with elastic sides that expand to fit thicker 160GB classic models properly; it’s just snug enough with 80GB and 120GB versions.
The deal with Elan is that removing the lid reduces some of each case’s front protection, as well as a strip of added coverage offered by either the top- or bottom-attaching flap. As such, each case leaves all four of the iPod’s corners exposed when it’s closed, but covers everything else; opening the lid exposes more. On the nano version, the entire bottom and Click Wheel are exposed when it’s opened. The iPod classic case exposes the entire top, most of the bottom save for two Dock Connector-straddling Velcro strips, and the Click Wheel when it’s open. On the iPod touch version, the top corners, entire bottom, and Home button are exposed when it’s open. However, a clear plastic screen protector is found inside each case, making removal of the lid practical; it diminishes sensitivity on the iPod touch screen, but presents no issues with the nano and classic screens. These design choices collectively put each open Convertible on par with good but not great play-through cases in terms of protection.
While the Elan Convertibles aren’t our favorite leather cases, this year’s versions are more attractively designed than ones we’ve previously seen from Griffin, and represent legitimately good compromises between protection and versatility. Their $30 asking prices are also appropriate given the quality and features they offer. They’re certainly worthy of our general recommendation, and if you’re a fan of flip-style cases, they should be somewhere near the top of your list of options.
Company and Price
Company: Griffin Technology
Model: Elan Convertible
Compatible: iPod classic, nano 4G, touch 2G