One month after the release of Apple’s new iPod touch, we’ve had the chance to test thirteen different cases that are in or on their way to stores in the United States. Many of the designs will be familiar to owners of other iPods, but for those who aren’t familiar — and for those who need additional information before making a purchasing decision — we’ve created three comparative reviews to give you a big picture look at all of these options. One review focuses on four $20-30 armbands, the next on six $30-35 leather or neoprene cases, and the last on three $15-25 plastic cases.
Clockwise from Top Right: Belkin Leather Folio, Leather Sleeve; DLO HipCase; Griffin Elan Convertible, Incase Neoprene Sleeve, Leather Sleeve
Our second comparative review of the day looks at five cases that are made from leather, and a sixth that is almost identical to its leather cousin, except for its replacement of leather with soft plastic and neoprene. Belkin has the Leather Folio ($30) and Leather Sleeve ($30), DLO has the HipCase Leather Sleeve ($30), Griffin has the Elan Convertible ($30), and Incase has the Leather Sleeve ($35) and Neoprene Sleeve ($30). Since these cases have a lot in common with one another, we’ll quickly sum up their similarities, walk you through a table we’ve assembled to help you quickly understand their differences, and then discuss their individual features in separate reviews.
All six of the cases cover parts of the iPod touch’s sides, bottom, and face with leather or plastic: most of the cases cover all of touch’s sides and back, and only parts of its top, bottom, and face. Every case has a soft lining that varies from velvet to suede or soft neoprene, preventing touch from being scratched inside. And every case provides full-time access to the touch’s headphone port, Dock Connector port, and Sleep/Wake button.
From there, they differ. Two of the cases cover the iPod’s screen with a leather flap, while four of the cases do not; one includes clear film to protect touch’s screen. A different four cases come with a belt clip—none with the ability to serve as a video stand—and each case has at least one classy touch, though the amount of class, and color options, vary from case to case as noted below.
Roughly tied with DLO’s HipCase in the “unimpressive design” category is Griffin’s Elan Convertible, a black flip-open-from-top case design with a removable vertically or horizontally positioned belt clip. Based heavily on the Elan Holster for iPhone, Elan Convertible looks and feels like a stale PDA case—the sort of weak design we’ve seen over and over again with only modest adjustments from generation to generation. As the iPod touch is slimmer than past full-sized iPods, Convertible feels awkwardly thick in your hands: three hard-reinforced layers inside make Apple’s thinnest touchscreen device feel decidedly bigger and bulkier than an iPhone.
Griffin’s only touch of class is a soft-stamped double-oval pattern on the magnetically-sealed front flap’s left side, the only feature that visually differentiates Elan Convertible from numerous generic flip cases we’ve tested. When opened, Convertible reveals touch’s entire screen, oddly with two sets of brightness sensor holes; one is there only for cosmetic parity. We suspect that some users will find the slit-like holes hard to properly align with the touch’s sensor: as with Belkin’s hole-less cases, turning the auto-adjustment feature off may be a good idea. On a more positive note, Griffin’s bottom holes are better-aligned than most, and with the exception of Elan’s open top sides, the case offers better protection than any of the other options here. It also has the aforementioned two-position belt clip, which slides out of the back to enable Elan to be mounted vertically or horizontally, or used without any belt clip at all.
Overall, the first crop of leather iPod touch cases didn’t really blow us away: though we liked three of the open-faced cases enough to generally recommend them to our readers, none was as protective as we’d expect for a $30 or $35 asking price, and each had at least a little something that could really benefit from a superior redesign. The other three cases rated limited recommendations for different reasons; Belkin’s Leather Folio looks good but interferes with normal use of iPod touch’s screen, Griffin’s Elan Convertible has the most protection and best belt clip of the bunch but is still too big, bulky, and otherwise inconvenient because of its flap, and DLO’s HipCase compromises a little too much in looks and side protectiveness. We’re holding out for the next round of leather designs in hopes that they’re better and smarter.
Company and Price
Company: Griffin Technology
Model: Elan Convertible
Compatible: iPod touch