Speck’s groundbreaking hard plastic and rubber CandyShell case series has been one of our favorites for quite some time; the iPhone 3G/3GS version won our Case of the Year Award back in 2009. We were therefore pleased to see the company debut CandyShell ($35) and CandyShell Grip ($35) for iPod touch 4G. A total of eleven color combinations are available for the standard CandyShell, and three more for CandyShell Grip, though none of them come with a screen protector, a noteworthy omission in protection relative to the award-winning original.
The core design features of the basic CandyShell case have not changed significantly over the years. CandyShell is composed of two layers: an inner layer of soft, shock-absorbent rubber and an outer layer of hard glossy plastic. We prefer the integrated dual-layer solution to that of cases like Incipio’s Silicryclic, which has two distinct pieces that the user must manually attach to the iPod and then align with each other. Plastic covers the back and all the sides of the iPod touch, while the rubber extends outwards to the four corners, front lip, volume buttons, and Sleep/Wake Button.
By combining these materials together, Speck effectively protects almost all of the iPod touch’s metal body, including buttons, which is excellent, though the glossy plastic case’s rear surface itself develops thin surface scratches. It is of note that the rubber inner lining uses a pattern with small holes. Previous iPhone 3G/3GS and iPod touch 2G/3G versions of CandyShell did not have this same design, which reduces rubber and thereby the case’s weight without impacting protection; this material reduction technique was debuted on earlier iPad and iPhone 4 releases of this case.
If you look at the two pictures above, you’ll see CandyShell at the top and CandyShell Grip at the bottom—they look virtually identical to one another. But from the back, the differences are obvious. Grip adds a set of four ribbed rubber pads that are wonderfully designed to integrate directly into the rest of the case rather than bulging out beyond the hard plastic. This is different from the vast majority of “gaming-friendly” iPod touch cases in that it doesn’t attempt to add dramatically thicker corners to the iPod touch, and rather uses judicious enhancements in texture to achieve its results. It also has the advantage of reducing the amount of scratchable glossy plastic on the iPod touch, while still remaining handsomely modern in appearance.
One of two areas left significantly exposed in both CandyShell variations is the bottom. Rather than using precision cutouts for the speaker, Dock Connector, and headphone port, Speck chose to use one long opening. This design feature is common, and provides the benefit of docking in Apple’s Universal Dock. While Speck could have relied on the same bottom design as the iPhone 4 variant case called CandyShell Flip, which added a flip-up bottom, this wouldn’t have really improved accessory compatibility much, and would likely only have made marginal improvements in protection. SwitchEasy’s formula of packed-in, detachable port protectors are the only better option we’ve seen. On the other hand, Speck’s omission of screen film leaves the iPod touch’s entire face exposed, which leaves users with one major surface to protect on their own, or leave subject to possible scratches. That there’s a significant rubber lip around the front of the screen, protecting the iPod touch from directly face planting into the ground after taking a tumble, is the only offset here.
While the $35 asking price is a bit higher than some other cases, we continue to be pleased with both of these members of the CandyShell family. You’ll have to choose the version that’s best for your personal needs, but because Speck has made both CandyShell and CandyShell Grip relatively lightweight and slender, the only major question is whether you’d like to add a little bit of extra texture to the otherwise slippery iPod touch’s back, or leave it flatter and cleaner. Our feeling is that both versions are equally strong. Combining the best of soft and hard cases, Speck has come up with really nice-looking, highly protective, and distinctive options. Though screen protection really should be included in these packages—the only reason they’re on the edge of our A- and B+ ratings—and optional detachable port protection would benefit some users, we’d still highly recommend both iPod touch versions of CandyShell as-is. Few cases are as well-designed as these.
Company and Price
Company: Speck Products
Compatible: iPod touch 4G