Staggering is the only word we’d use to describe the number of hard plastic iPod and iPhone cases we’re reviewing today — over 20 different models that we’ve been comparing to one another, as well as past cases, over the last few weeks. To help you sort through all the options, we’ve assembled a few statistics that are worth knowing up front. All of the iPod nano cases in this roundup run from $20 to $30, with most at $25 or less, while the two iPod classic cases sell for $25 to $30, iPod touch cases range from $20 to $30, and iPhone 3G cases go for $20 to $35. Virtually every case offers at least partial back and side protection, but they vary widely in front, top, and bottom coverage. Though all use plastic as their base material, they differ considerably in color options and secondary materials. This review looks at Griffin’s highly similar Elan Form for iPod nano 4G and iPod touch 2G ($30 each), Nu Form for iPod touch 2G ($25), and Wave Cases for iPod nano 4G and iPod classic ($25 each).
All of these cases share the same basic design idea, borrowed from Incase’s Slider Case for the original iPhone: you get a two-piece plastic shell that slides apart low on the iPod’s body, rendering its bottom Dock Connector port compatible with any accessories that might be otherwise incompatible with the bottoms of the cases. As we’ve noted before, the idea was bright for the first iPhone because there actually was an accessory—Apple’s iPhone Dock—that required access to the bare bottom of that model, but it’s largely unnecessary for iPods, which generally fit without issues into the myriad Universal Dock accessories that are now available.
These slide-off bottoms, then, are an insurance policy against really oversized cases and plugs, but in our testing, you’re unlikely to actually need that feature for most accessories. It’s now mostly appealing as an easier way to get the iPod in and out of the case than using a fully open top, bottom, or face.
Nu Form for iPod touch 2G is the most basic implementation of the idea. The top half is semi-glossy gray plastic, with a collection of rounded squares floating in a pattern on the back left side, while the bottom is coated in soft touch black rubber; as with all of the products here, Griffin includes a screen protector and cleaning cloth in the package. While standard-sized headphone plugs and Dock Connector cables work just fine with holes in Nu Form’s bottom, oversized ones require you to pull the bottom off for connection. Universal Docks work with or without the bottom piece attached.
Elan Form for iPod touch is the exact same case, only with a thin layer of black leather coating both the top and bottom shells, and a $5 higher price tag. Our review sample’s leather was not precisely flattened in the corners, but generally looked pretty good anyway; it is no different in terms of accessory compatibility. The iPod nano 4G version sells for the same $30 price, and replaces the film screen protector with a hard plastic front shield. Once again, the leather wasn’t perfectly flattened in the corners, but it looked fine, and there was no need to pull the bottom off to use most accessories. In fact, the bottom here is compatible with every accessory we tested, including oversized headphone plugs and cables. All that’s missing from this case is Click Wheel, Hold switch, and full bottom protection for the nano; everything else is covered.
Though different users’ tastes will obviously vary, the variations in price and materials between these otherwise similar, good designs weigh in certain models’ favor. Nu Form struck us as a plain but nicely protective design, slightly pricey for its quality, while Elan Form looked legitimately handsome as a hybrid plastic and leather case, but also felt a little expensive given that it wasn’t ideally executed, either, especially for the iPod nano. Wave, with its cool curves and overlapping colors, was the best executed of this bunch, offering identical protection at more reasonable pricing. It’s worthy of our high recommendation, while the others fall into the general recommendation category.
Updated April 9, 2009: Griffin subsequently released a color-shifted version of Elan Form for the iPod touch 2G with blue plastic against black leather. A couple of images are included here for reference.
For iPod touch 2G
For iPod nano 4G
Company and Price
Company: Griffin Technology
Model: Elan Form
Compatible: iPod nano 4G, iPod touch 2G