One month ago, we reviewed and really liked iJacket for iPod nano (iLounge rating: A-), a soft plastic, graphic-ready case design that manufacturer Aquarius has parlayed into a massive array of colorful $13 art cases. As in the past, Aquarius has quietly partnered with iSkin to release iSkin Vibes ($25), which are nearly identical to the iJackets, but nearly twice as expensive, and only featuring artwork by a single artist. Full details on the iJacket are available in this earlier review.
As with the iPod 5G, mini, and first-generation iPod shuffle versions of Vibes, iSkin’s chosen artist Tokidoki has created cartoony front-of-case graphics that fuse Japanese manga characters with alternatingly happy and morbid themes. The Cactus Party design shown here features images of a pink-haired, cactus-eared girl alongside rainbow clouds and a death’s head star, while another case we tested, Camo, has a camouflage-ish color theme with a large death’s head star and images of girls’ heads in the background. Six other Vibes cases offer similar alternatives with different color schemes, art that we really liked, but found very limited by comparison with the ever-expanding iJacket collection.
Art options and price are only two of the ways in which iJacket bests the iSkin offerings. While Aquarius includes both a lanyard necklace and a slip-on belt clip, iSkin includes only a clip, which is one of its familiar RevoClip2 designs. As with all RevoClip2-equipped cases, fully removing the clip leaves two small mounting holes in Vibes’ back, slightly reducing Vibes’ rear protectiveness in a way that the thicker but otherwise nice Aquarius clip doesn’t. But then, Aquarius has a single, albeit smaller hole on its back bottom for lanyard mounting, which is entirely missing from Vibes. Additionally, while iSkin’s site notes that Vibes include stick-on screen protectors, they’re almost hidden in the box, secreted on the back of an cardboard iPod nano-shaped insert that you might throw away before checking*. (Editor’s Note: We didn’t find a screen protector in our first Vibes box at all, and it took extra hunting to discover one in a later sample – resulting in this edit to our earlier text – look behind the insert or you’ll miss it.)
Other than those differences, Vibes are essentially the same as iJackets, which is to say pretty good cases if you can find them for a low price. They protect all of the nano’s back and sides, most of its top, and all of its face except for its screen. Click Wheel access is, like iJacket, slightly encumbered by the thick built-in protector, and each case’s back is grip textured, iJacket’s with flat dots, and Vibes’ with smaller, sharper dots. Both cases have fully open bottoms – good for use with any accessories you may have, including docks – and wide-open Hold switch holes, each compromising the nano’s protection a bit.
In our view, there’s no doubt that Aquarius’s $13 iJackets are a smarter buy than iSkin’s $25 Vibes – you get more in the box while saving nearly 50% the price. Though we did like the Tokidoki art featured exclusively on the Vibes cases, and some people will be willing to pay a premium for it, the artist’s style and themes aren’t right for everyone, contrasting with the incredible variety of themes, colors, and styles offered by Aquarius. We consider Vibes good enough to merit our general recommendation, but Aquarius’s superior pricing and variations continue to make it our most highly recommended art case option for iPod nano owners.
Company and Price
Company: iSkin, Inc.
Compatible: iPod nano (aluminum)