Pros: Inexpensive, fairly attractive (in clear color) and pretty solid protection. Included lanyard is a nice bonus.
Cons: No face or control scratch protection, and different colors and shades would work better.
When the 3G iPod was released, Speck Products was first to market with a rubber form-fitting case, and they’ve done it again with the iPod mini: Speck’s Mini Skins are the very first mini cases we’ve received for testing. Made from Kraton’s hardened rubber-style soft plastic and available in five colors nearly paralleling those of the mini, the Mini Skins are a good option for those who need a substantially protective case immediately.
Like Speck’s 3G iPod case, the Mini Skins protect everything but the controls, screen, and ports of the iPod, providing two or three millimeters of rubber as complete protection for the mini’s back and sides only. Port and hold switch access is above average for iPod cases in general, lacking the bevels of an iSkin eXo2 case but in no way obstructing access to any of these key parts. And though the bottom and top of the mini aren’t fully covered, each of the device’s four corners is, so the likelihood of scratching the top and buttom surfaces is pretty small unless you keep your music in your pocket with a keychain.
The face is another story. At the very least, we’d like to have seen a clear plastic scratch protector for the iPod mini’s screen, if not its controls, though the case does provide adequate protection for even the face of the iPod against accidental drops on flat surfaces. We know this because we accidentally dropped one of our minis on its face while it was inside a Mini Skin, and found zero damage to the iPod afterwards. The Kraton plastic absorbed the shock well, and reinforced our faith in Speck’s design.
Our only question concerns the little peripheral attachment holes on the bottom of the mini, which to date have not been used for anything, but most likely will be in the future. Speck’s case doesn’t entirely block them, but it probably won’t allow the mini to connect with them, either, just as it blocks use of Apple’s mini Dock. This isn’t an issue today, but it’s something to consider for the future.
Another nifty feature of the Mini Skin is its lanyard – a neckstrap that easily attaches and detaches from the rest of the case in one of two ways. A clip on the strap detaches the strap from a small ball-shaped plastic case insert, or the insert can be easily removed altogether to leave the Mini Skin bereft of any necklace-like feature. Under typical strain, the insert will not detach from the case, but right before the aforementioned drop of the iPod mini – when we accidentally left a Dock Connector cable attached to the bottom of the mini and tried to stand up with the necklace on – the insert pulled off without damaging the case, but leaving the mini tumbling to the ground. It took quite a bit of force to cause this to happen, however, and we’re chalking up the experience to – ahem – “user error.” With no harm, no foul.
Fashionistas will find the iPod mini’s weight quite bearable on the neck for day to day use – unlike older iPods – and techies may even find the neck a suitable location to mount the mini while driving, given that Dock Connectors fit quite well into the Mini Skin’s bottom. Potential for car and cable-tugging accidents aside, we think it’s a sort of cool if not yet stylish use of the Mini Skin, though we doubt Speck Products would endorse it for obvious liability reasons.
As personal tastes vary, we’ll only say that we found four of Speck’s color choices for the Mini Skins to be a bit on the eye-catching side. The lime green and pink cases we received were quite bright, and though we’ve only seen pictures of the yellow and blue cases, we’d personally pick the clear case over the others. It mutes the shine of iPod mini’s attractive anodized metal, but preserves enough color to retain the personality you chose when picking your mini. The other colors are strong enough to block out almost all of the original case color, though the case is cut such that a millimeter or so of metal will still show around the edges of the screen, and perhaps a tiny bit around the Click Wheel. A clear case eliminates the possibility of any color conflict.
Earliest out of the gate, the Mini Skin will be good enough protection for most iPod mini users. We’ll have to see whether later competitors improve upon Speck’s design, but for now, we have no reservation in recommending the Mini Skin – especially in clear color – as a great choice for iPod mini owners.
Jeremy Horwitz is a consumer electronics fanatic who practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school -ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.
Company and Price
Company: Speck Products
Model: Mini Skin
Price: $19.95 for 1, $29.95 for 3
Compatible: iPod mini