If it hadn’t been for Better Energy Systems — makers of the Solio and some seriously cool recycled Tread cases — we would be forced to assume that environmentalists care way more about marketing than they do about actually designing great iPod products. What else could explain the uninspired and not especially well-conceived Imoeba Alpine Nano ($20) and Alpine Classic ($25) as follow-ups to the earlier, similarly weak I-nique Eco-nique cases we reviewed late last year?
Imoeba bills the Alpines as “earth friendly cases” for the third-generation iPod nano and iPod classic, making each one from bonded leather—in other words, left-over leather scraps and latex—in alternating green and white versions. The “green” cases are predominantly green with white parts, while the “white” cases are mostly white with green parts; both come in boxes made from 90% recycled paper. Alpine Classic’s elastic sides expand to fit 80GB and 160GB iPod classic models.
In similarly recycled fashion, each of the Alpine cases merely mimics generic flip cases we’ve seen before: a front flap prevents you from using the iPod’s screen or Click Wheel unless you open it, and obviously exposed interior magnets on their insides hold the lid shut. When opened, each case has holes for the screen and the Click Wheel, while their corners are open in a way that we’ve sadly come to expect from generic flip cases. On the back is a belt clip that can be turned for horizontal or vertical belt mounting.
With cases as familiar as these, the little things tend to make the difference between memorable and non-memorable designs. Imoeba’s only positive is one that’s relative to the earlier I-nique cases, which were sloppily painted with green trim—the Alpine cases have similar two-tone designs, but there’s nothing sloppy in the inking, as these cases use separate pieces of green and white material.
Unfortunately, Imoeba has other problems. The iPod nano case’s holes don’t line up quite perfectly with the device’s Click Wheel inside, either with or without headphones attached. Try to plug even Apple’s slender headphones in or use the bottom Hold switch and you’ll need to shift the nano over to one side in a really inappropriate way. The case just wasn’t tailored right. By comparison, the iPod classic one’s holes are only a little off, and also provide access to its bottom Dock Connector for use with small, Apple-sized accessories. There’s no reason to dislike this case other than for its generic design and impracticality.
As we’ve said many times before, flip cases are dinosaur designs for video-ready iPods, and as much as we’d like to support eco-friendly case designers, Better Energy Systems set the bar much higher with its Tread cases than any me-too company has been able to match. To the extent that Imoeba’s pricing isn’t crazy, we wouldn’t dissuade you from buying the technically decent but otherwise unspectacular Alpine Classic, but the poorly tailored Alpine Nano is another story—we’d pass. Neither case is awful, but in our view, iPod case makers need to focus more on design than on process, and no matter how “earth friendly” a case may be, we wouldn’t recommend it if we wouldn’t use it ourselves.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPod classic, iPod nano (video)