Pros: An innovative, attractive rubberized wallet for full-sized iPods; different colors and interchangable straps add to appeal and customizability; works especially well with 40GB iPods.
Cons: Minor sizing issues with 20GB and 30GB iPods and iPod photos; major sizing issue with 40/60GB iPod photos that makes strap unreliable.
After years of releasing interesting but familiar iPod cases, Speck Products has emerged over the last three months as the clear leader in iPod case innovation. Though the cases have varied in execution and utility, they’ve all been smart ideas: ToughSkin (iLounge rating: A-), iGuy (iLounge rating: B+), and Connect & Protect (iLounge rating: B+) have each gone beyond existing offerings to address the needs of specific types of iPod owners.
Now Speck has unveiled two more innovative cases – PortfolioSkin and HandSkin ($34.95 each) – which like their predecessors are targeted at specific audiences: PortfolioSkin is the first rubberized fashion case we’ve seen, while HandSkin is the first rubberized jogging case. We review HandSkin separately here.
PortfolioSkin is a flip-open case with design cues taken from modern women’s wallets and old books: a flap on the left side folds over an iPod sheathe on the right, binding closed with a rubberized strap that runs across the case’s entire front and right side before hooking onto a peg on PortfolioSkin’s back. The strap is detachable and interchangeable: four straps come in each Portfolio package, with green, pink, black and white straps in the pink Portfolio set, and green, blue, orange and black in the clear Portfolio set.
When opened, the case gives you full access to the iPod’s screen and controls, which are uncovered, while leaving a hole to the left of the sheathe for iPod insertion and removal. There are small crescent-shaped grooves on the inner top and bottom surfaces to let you easily remove your iPod with your fingers, while tailored holes are left for the iPod’s top headphone port and Hold switch, as well as the bottom Dock Connector port.
These top and bottom holes are the only parts of the iPod left exposed when the case is closed – PortfolioSkin covers the rest in thick, soft Kraton plastic (its spin on rubber), and is therefore one of the most protective cases we’ve seen, but not the most.
Strictly speaking, this isn’t an innovaton in wallet-style design for the iPod – Acme Made’s The Wallet (iLounge rating: B+), for example, does the same thing. But the innovation here is in the use of materials. Speck’s clear PortfolioSkin for the first time permits a translucent, frosted view of the iPod inside of a wallet, and its inclusion of multi-colored detachable straps is a brilliant touch. Not only do the straps look good and provide customizability; they also work well, doing a good job of holding the PortfolioSkin closed with varying thicknesses of full-sized iPods.
Except for 40 and 60GB iPod photos.
Though it does a fine job with everything from the 20GB fourth-generation iPod to its 40GB brother, and everything in-between (U2 iPod and 30GB iPod photo), PortfolioSkin regrettably doesn’t hold closed as well as we would have liked with these thicker models. They strain the included straps to a point where it’s fairly easy to accidentally pop the case open under normal use; a bigger rubber nub on the case’s back probably would have solved this. As-is, however, the case isn’t quite right for these iPod photos, a fact that Speck tacitly acknowledges by leaving out those models on PortfolioSkin’s packaging, though it advertises them as compatible on its web site.
One-size-fits-all case design has other consequences, too: the case fits just right on the now-discontinued 40GB iPod, but is a little loose on the 20GB and 30GB models mentioned above. The looseness has no practical consequence except for alignment of the top and buttom holes, which are off-center with thinner iPods but still entirely usable. Speck generally addresses this issue in other cases with hard plastic spacers, but none is included with the PortfolioSkin.
Overall, PortfolioSkin gets high marks for innovation and appearance: we really liked the looks and feels of both versions, ourselves preferring the clear one to the pink one, but finding both appealing for their own reasons.