Staggering is the only word we’d use to describe the number of hard plastic iPod and iPhone cases we’re reviewing today — over 20 different models that we’ve been comparing to one another, as well as past cases, over the last few weeks. To help you sort through all the options, we’ve assembled a few statistics that are worth knowing up front. All of the iPod nano cases in this roundup run from $20 to $30, with most at $25 or less, while the two iPod classic cases sell for $25 to $30, iPod touch cases range from $20 to $30, and iPhone 3G cases go for $20 to $35. Virtually every case offers at least partial back and side protection, but they vary widely in front, top, and bottom coverage. Though all use plastic as their base material, they differ considerably in color options and secondary materials. This review covers SwitchEasy’s new CapsuleThins for iPod nano 4G ($20).
Like Incase’s Hard Case for iPod nano, CapsuleThins are designed to offer super-thin hard plastic protection: SwitchEasy’s front and rear shells measure a mere 1.2mm in thickness, snapping together on the sides, top, and rear bottom for great stability. To put the thickness in some perspective, we laid out all of the iPod nano cases we reviewed today on a single table, and CapsuleThins were only a hair thicker than the Incase version—in our view, for the better. SwitchEasy’s design is smoother on the sides and easier to take apart when you want to do so; it feels better in the hand and forces only one compromise.
That’s connectivity. As designed, CapsuleThins have a bottom lip that doesn’t let you connect oversized headphone ports or Dock Connector plugs larger than Apple’s, though the case is fully Universal Dock compatible. However, the company has hedged against this issue with a large bundle of accessories: along with the shell, you get a Dock Connector protector, a headphone port extension cable, a video viewing stand, Screen and Click Wheel protectors, a cleaning cloth for the case and for initial film application, and a custom-sized Universal Dock Adapter.
With the included cable, you can use any headphone plug out there; the only question is whether you’ll be able to squeeze really big plugs and bottom-mounting accessories in. The answer will vary from item to item, but as a general rule, if it’s big, you’ll find the answer to be no.
Putting that aside, SwitchEasy’s package is very compelling. As with prior iPod nano cases the company has released, it comes in completely clear and “UltraBlack” versions, the former with white accessories and the latter with black ones. Inside the clear case, you can see the nano’s color and screen without any inhibition, but inside the black one, only the slightest hints of color creep through the shell, save for the Click Wheel’s center button, which is fully exposed. The screen is also dimmed, but visible, behind the translucent black plastic—a design choice made intentionally by the company, and left to the user to either prefer or avoid. This year, it’s not being sold at any premium price, which is a good idea.
Pricing is the single biggest advantage CapsuleThins have over all of their competitors. The sheer variety of items in the package, ranging from the video stand to the varied optional protectors, enable users to cover more of their nanos than with any competing clear case we’ve yet seen for this model, and make more of its video capabilities, as well. You get all of this for $20, which is at the low end of the nano case pricing spectrum, and all of the pieces here are well-made. With the exception of the Dock Connector issue noted above, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend CapsuleThins to any iPod nano user; it’s otherwise extremely worthy of our high recommendation.
Updated: On October 23, 2008, SwitchEasy debuted CapsuleThins in eight additional colors: yellow, orange, red, pink, green, blue, purple, and white. Each new color comes with a Dock Connector cover that matches the case’s color, but the other included accessories are white. Each of the colors is close to Apple’s original shade, but not a precise match: purple, red, and orange are a little darker, while pink, yellow, and green are a little lighter. Blue is nearly spot-on but a hint lighter, while white obviously is not intended to match any of the models. Clear and black versions remain available for those who prefer them.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPod nano 4G