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 covers Incase’s Hard Cases for iPod nano 4G ($25) and iPod touch 2G ($30).
Understanding our perspective on these two cases requires reference to two additional reviews published today: SwitchEasy’s CapsuleThins for iPod nano 4G, and Griffin’s iClear for iPod touch 2G. Simply put, Incase’s designs are so similar that they could have come from the same factories as these competitors, but they’re also more expensive and less aggressively equipped. Other than their Incase branding, there’s no reason to prefer them over these alternatives.
Start with the iPod nano 4G Hard Case, which has one semi-advantage over most—not all—of the clear cases we’ve seen for this model: it’s thinner. There are front and back halves, but no other pieces in the box, and they snap together using super-small side clips. Put the encased nano down flat on a table next to most of its competitors and you’ll see a millimeter or two difference between them; for better or worse, Incase also most closely matches Apple’s dull knife-like side curves. Oversized headphones, any Dock Connecting plug you can imagine, and Universal Docks all work with this case; it leaves holes for the Hold switch, Click Wheel, and bottom ports, plus one more.
That’s a thin, coin-sized slit on the case’s right side, designed to help you remove the case when you don’t want to keep it on. Despite the presence of this slit and the nano portion it exposes, we found the Hard Case legitimately difficult to remove from the nano, though not impossible. It’s a case to put on and leave on; the wide accessory compatibility makes this plausible.
By comparison, the iPod touch 2G version ($30) is thicker and initially far less distinctive in design from competing options we’ve seen; it’s actually very similar to Griffin’s iClear case for the first-generation iPod touch. with a front half that covers literally everything save for the Home button and the 3.5” rectangular touchscreen. However, in addition to offering a Griffin-like transparent front and frosted rear shell combination, Incase offers both the iPod touch and nano cases in clear, black, magenta and cyan versions. The touch version here has the black back, which provides a smoky translucent view of the iPod and Apple logos, rear antenna, and a subtly embossed Incase logo as well. Both of the cases have tiny Incase leaf icons on their faces in the bottom left corner.
While there’s nothing hugely wrong with either of these designs, and we praise Incase for once again developing handsome-looking iPod enclosures, a quick look at their competitors paints a different picture. SwitchEasy’s aforementioned case is almost identically thin, but uses a little extra plastic to smooth out the nano’s sides and make opening the case a little easier; these CapsuleThins also include tons of packed-in accessories, including more bottom and Click Wheel protection, video stands, and headphone port expanders, while selling for $5. Griffin’s iClear case for iPod touch sells for $10 less, and includes screen protection. By contrast, Incase’s Hard Cases don’t offer any advantages save for color options. They’re nice cases, but based on pricing and protection, we’d pick competitors first.
Company and Price
Model: Hard Case
Compatible: iPod nano 4G, iPod touch 2G