Attributed to a German/American designer and architect, the phrase “less is more” has become a rallying call for certain iPod accessory makers, who have sought to emulate Apple’s ever-shrinking iPods with increasingly clean and simple add-ons. Having previously released complex clear hard plastic iPod cases, then mirrored ones, and finally iPhone versions, Japan’s Power Support has most recently tested a new category: an extremely thin plastic shell inspired by the MacBook Air. Called the Crystal Air Jacket in Japan, it’s known as the Air Jacket in the United States, and sold for $30.
Power Support’s approach with the Air Jacket is markedly different than with its predecessor, the excellent Crystal Jacket. Both cases sell for the same price here, but Crystal Jacket comes with front and rear plastic shells, a rotating, pop-out video viewing stand, as well as crystal clear protective screen film and a Dock Connector cover. Air Jacket instead jettisons the front shell, while including a reengineered rear shell, one crystal clear face protector, one anti-glare face protector, and a Dock Connector port cover. Consequently, you give up the rear stand and protection of the iPod touch’s charcoal-colored front bezel, gaining a choice of either glossy or matte screen protection.
Why would you ever want to give up front bezel protection? Power Support’s answer is simple: thinness. Air Jacket’s rear shell is a mere 0.7mm thick, adding just enough plastic to completely protect the iPod touch’s highly scratchable back, sides, and top, but nothing else. It’s tailored to leave the Sleep/Wake button uncovered, as well as the full bottom save for the corners, so keeping it on makes virtually no difference in weight or accessory compatibility relative to taking it off. There’s also an aesthetic advantage: you can choose between a clear black version that slightly mutes the otherwise stark difference between the antenna and bright metal parts of touch’s back, or an opaque black version that’s rubberized and almost completely hides the bright metal. Each version has its advantages, depending on whether you like to see the Apple logo or completely neutralize the device’s identity.
After spending a few weeks with the Air Jacket, as well as an as-yet-unreleased version for the first-generation iPhone, our feelings have continued to be mixed. There is absolutely no question that the design’s utter simplicity has great appeal, and that under certain circumstances, we prefer the iPod touch with Air Jacket on than with it off. It’s the first case we can recall that strikes us as possessing the best qualities of the clear film protectors we’ve tested, without requiring adhesive or possessing an odd texture. But the absence of bezel protection, combined with a price tag that could buy a full Crystal Jacket with more coverage and a rear stand, leaves us cold. We might prefer this case’s thinness, but the added functionality and protection of the prior case are certainly more desirable overall—Crystal Jacket’s ability to prop the iPod touch up on a table is fully worth that case’s greater thickness. It’s also worth noting that the company’s similarly minimalist but thicker Silicone Jacket for iPod touch offers Crystal Jacket-like protection, which is to say more than Air Jacket’s, for the same $30 price.
For these reasons, though we applaud Power Support’s effort to further simplify its already clean plastic case designs, Air Jacket for iPod touch strikes us as less worthy of a $30 asking price than its predecessors. At some point, thinness and protectivity reductions make great products feel less worthy of price premiums, and although Air Jacket straddles that line well enough to merit our general recommendation, we’d sooner recommend its older brothers for the cost. That said, if you’re as obsessed about shaving off millimeters or fractions thereof as Apple has been over the past few years, Air Jacket’s only rivals are full-body film covers; no other case can approach its slimness.
Company and Price
Company: Power Support
Model: Air Jacket
Compatible: iPod touch