Pros: Black leather iPod nano cases of acceptable build quality, varying designs. Bifold case protects all of nano save top and bottom when closed. Designs span a range of tastes.
Cons: Higher prices across the board than those of competing leather case options, generally without comparable polish around the edges. Four of the five cases expose nano’s screen, controls, and portions of their tops and bottoms; the best of them exposes entire bottom and part of top. Eye-catching Thong offers very little protection.
We were a little surprised that leather case makers were amongst the first out of the gate with iPod nano-ready designs, and more surprised that no company has been content to release just one leather case. The first arrays of cases we saw from Belkin and Incase were a mixed bag, and now iPodstreet has released five more to choose from. Each of the small black leather cases is priced at $34.95 – higher by $10 than both Incase and Belkin’s top leather prices – and they vary widely in protectivity and practicality.
To offset this, iPodstreet’s site says that each case includes a black microfiber bag – sort of a catchall way to get around having to make a case fully protective. Unfortunately, we didn’t receive these bags for evaluation, and can’t say how good of a job they really do.
iPod Nano Bifold Leather Encased
iPod Nano Bifold Leather Encased is the best of the designs – it’s protective of all but parts of nano’s top and bottom, and the first we’d choose to hold our own nanos. Like Incase and Belkin flip-closed cases, it is a wallet-like holder with a flap that closes to cover nano’s front, and opens to reveal holes for the nano’s screen and Click Wheel. The case is held closed with a leather tab rather than a snap or magnetic latch, but regardless of its lower-tech approach, the tab works quite well.
Internally and reasonably reinforced leather is used to protect the nano’s back and both sides at all times; a hole in the bottom lets you insert and remove nano, while a thin strip of leather at the top keeps the iPod from sliding out. Soft black fabric touches the nano inside, and a small pocket is on the left of the flap – regrettably not large enough to hold a business or credit card, making us wonder why they bothered to include it. As with most of the other iPodstreet cases, there’s no belt clip or belt loop, which is fine by us.
Other than the fact that it’s visually plain and pricey, our only issue with Bifold is its unfortunate exposure of so much of nano’s top and bottom. The smarter, cheaper Incase-style Wallet design inserts nano through the case’s interior left side, rather than through its bottom, which can then be better protected. That iPodstreet’s design leaves nano’s top right and bottom left to middle so open has little to no functional benefit, either. On the bright side, you’ll be able to plug any pair of headphones in, and use the Hold switch, both without an issue.
iPod Nano Horizontal Encased
By comparison with Bifold, iPod Nano Horizontal Encased didn’t make a lot of sense to us. It opens up like a change purse with two silver snaps on its rear, revealing a long horizontal hole so that you can insert the nano on its side. Once the two snaps are closed, nano’s two sides and back are completely protected, but its top, bottom, and face are largely open. There’s a thin strip of leather covering part of nano’s top, a thin strip between nano’s Dock Connector and headphone ports, and two holes on the front for nano’s screen and Click Wheel.
Though the case looks fine, nano doesn’t sit perfectly flush with the front holes when it’s closed, an alignment problem that we’ve seen in certain other early leather nano cases as well. Because of the thin leather strip on the bottom, this is the only one of the iPodstreet leather cases that you may need to fidget around with to make compatible with oversized headphone plugs; the other cases’ bottoms are open enough that it’s not an issue. All things considered, we’d really have preferred the company close off the case’s top and Dock Connector on the bottom entirely, and put protectors on the screen and Click Wheel. With roughly the same amount of material, Bifold above does a better job of protecting nano – particularly its scratch-sensitive screen – in virtually all regards.
iPod Nano Jacket (with and without Trim)
iPod Nano Jacket is the simplest of the five designs. Most of its exterior is thin, simple black leather that covers the nano’s sides, top, and most of its front – holes are left for the screen, Click Wheel, bottom, and all four corners, most generously the top left near the Hold switch. Inside and on the case’s back is a soft black fabric, with a small amount of front and rear reinforcement to keep the case stable when not on a nano.
We’d characterize the case as bland and simple, much like the generic leather cases that have appeared at the $20 price point for earlier iPods. Its only unique addition is a leather belt loop on its rear, which is thin enough not to add too much bulk to nano’s body. There’s a single hole in the bottom left corner of the Jacket’s back, for reasons that aren’t clear.
iPod Nano Jacket with Trim is a slight evolution of the standard Jacket design, clearly inspired by Incase’s prior-generation iPod mini Handcrafted Leather Sleeves. Practically, this means that the Jacket includes white thread on its sides and also around all of its holes, but unlike Incase’s design, the thread isn’t precisely sewn or especially nice-looking.
While the case protects all of the same surface area as the standard Jacket, it lacks the rear belt loop – a fact that we preferred because of the reduction in thickness – and has a full leather back instead of a fabric one. Like Jacket, for some unclear reason, there are two holes in the back of the case near nano’s bottom, suggesting that a lanyard may have been planned for inclusion, but none comes with the case or is advertised.
iPod Nano Thong
iPod Nano Thong is the weirdest of the bunch. As the name implies, it’s little more than a v-shaped thong of leather that fits on the nano’s body, with a shoelace that runs through holes on one of its sides. The shoelace can be tied into a necklace, or worn around a thin waist. A small piece of elastic at the case’s back makes it easy to put the nano in and pull it out of the Thong.
iPodstreet describes Thong as “sexy.” We suppose it might be if the person carrying it was similarly attired, but the design itself is simplistic and not especially well thought out. You can sort of see your screen and sort of see the nano’s controls, and similarly, you can sort of use them if you make an effort. More importantly, the iPod’s body is poorly protected. Big swaths of the scratch-attracting front, back, top, bottom and sides are left open, making the Nano Thong – far less so than a real thong – not protective enough for the important stuff inside.
Freaky as it is, we liked the concept because of its creativity, but like many other “good try” cases we’ve seen, the problem was in the execution. If we can’t trust a case to protect an iPod, we wouldn’t buy it. We really hope that iPodstreet and other case makers will continue to experiment with unique designs like this one, so long as they don’t compromise so much on the practical dimension of case design in the process.
If you’re looking for a leather nano case right now, there aren’t many options actually available on store shelves, so you may find iPodstreet’s options attractive. Given what we’ve seen so far, we’d pick Bifold Leather Encased as the top design of the bunch, and the only one we’d recommend to our readers. As Incase’s and Belkin’s Leather Folio Cases demonstrate, more polished and better-priced leather options are out there, though equally fraught with issues that will limit their appeal.
In our view, the biggest stumbling block here is price – a factor which knocked even Bifold’s grade down a bit from what it otherwise would have earned. Particularly given that Incase and Belkin are selling their top nano designs for under $25, it’s hard to think of any of these cases as worth $34.95, especially given that four of them offer little or no screen or control protection, and one is barely even a case at all. If you really like these designs and are willing to pay the premium for them, consider them, but with the exception of Bifold Leather Encased, we’d pass.
Bifold Leather Encased
Horizontal Encased, Jacket, Jacket w/ Trim
Company and Price
Price: $34.95 each
Compatible: iPod nano