It's no brilliant observation to note the near-dominant success of the ever-changing world of iPod players. That success has spawned perhaps an even larger industry, that of third-party accessories, an industry that has almost become self-perpetuating as it has to keep changing every time Apple puts out a new iPod model with slightly (or sometimes vastly) different specs. In fact, this month we see a perfect example of that: the research for this column started months back to look at accessories for the iPod touch, generation 3 - and Apple subsequently released generation 4.
Have no fear, because those of you still with the third generation iPod (not much more than a mere year old) will find everything here applicable to your device. But for those who've already upgraded - take this as a mea culpa: the cases described here will alas no longer be appropriate since the current iPod touch now includes a camera. But if something here strikes your interest, keep in mind that it might be worth checking the links to the product's website to see if the particular item has been upgraded for the camera model. Know too that while the bulk of products here are cases (since protecting the touch's screen is so critical), there are a two items below appropriate for any iPod, whatever its version.
• Proporta Aluminum Lined Leather Case
• Proporta Recycled Leather Case
• Belkin Leather Folio
• Belkin Leather Sleeve with Clip
• Griffin Elan Passport Metal
• DLO HipCase Folio
• Griffin TuneBuds Mobile earphone
• Griffin SmartTalk earphone extension
Proporta Aluminum Lined Leather Case
Proporta is a British company that puts out a line of extremely well-made cases. The prices are higher than most (this is leather, after all), but so is the quality. This particular case, for example, retails for $43.
The case's style is a "flip-top," which is my personal preference, with the cover folding over at the top like a reporter's notebook. A nice feature is the metal lining in the cover, which does a great job protecting the face of the iPod. The trade-off is that this makes the case slightly heavier. It closes very firmly with a magnet. The top is very soft, which makes it easy to turn the iPod on/off with the cover closed.
On the upper left side, the case is open which gives very easy access to the volume control buttons. The side trim is fairly narrow and gives good access to the full screen and volume icon. However, I found a little difficulty accessing the corners.
My only notable quibble is that while the iPod touch slides in very easily, there's a bit of wiggle room. So, if you have the case open and turn it upside-down (not a common action certainly, but possible), the iPod could slide out. It's not a big issue, particularly for such a good case, and something easy to work around by merely gripping the sides a bit tighter on those rare occasions when it might crop up.
Proporta Recycled Leather Case
For those who want the quality of leather but also prefer to be slightly more eco friendlier, Proporta makes a case with 100% recycled leather. It's very thin and light, with a protective cover made of hard bamboo. The retails price is $46.
Also a flip-top notebook style, the sides are completely open and give excellent access to the volume control button. The iPod is held in place with side grips. As such, the screen is completely open and you get full access to it with nothing covered. There is a tiny "pin" at the bottom that helps keeps the device in place.
However, I do have a couple of important quibbles. When you push the on-off button at the top, a common action, it pushes the iPod itself down, which if hard enough can slide a bit past the pin holder. To be clear, the side grips hold the device, so it's not likely that the iPod will completely slide out, but the fact that it does slide down is discomfiting. The cover also doesn't cause tightly, though it's good enough. There's much about this case I like a great deal, but too much I wish were a bit better designed.
Belkin Leather Folio
Another flip-top case, but this one has a Velcro snap, which some people prefer thinking that a magnet might cause some electrical problems with the iPod - something I've never been able to confirm and which doesn't seem to be the case after years of personal use.
The snaps holds the cover closed tightly, but it's not possible to simply flip the cover open quickly for immediate use, which is a bother. The Velcro snap also seems a bit flimsy, like it could eventually snap off and break. But - and this is important, -- using the snap is an option and not really needed. Without it, the cover stays fairly well-closed. (If the Velcro closure is not used, its patch on the back could conceivably get attached to something "fuzzy" in your pocket, as Velcro is known to do, but that's not likely and a small matter).
The case is thin and light. It's fully enclosed on the sides, and doesn't give direct access to volume control button which is covered - however, there is a built-in raised ridge that gives a slightly tactile touch to the control. (I wish the ridge was a bit higher.)
The side trim gives pretty good access to full screen. However, the trim is wide, so the corners of the touch screen are difficult. But overall, it's a nice case which retails for $30.
Belkin Leather Sleeve with Clip
Slightly different from the others, there is no cover at all on this case for screen protection, but that means it gives immediate access to the touch face. This design is either a Great Thing for those who prefer nothing to stand in the way of the screen, or a deal-breaker for those who want the protection.
What this is case made for is use on your belt, since there is a clip on the back. It's here that you find an oddity about the case (not necessarily a bad thing, just odd). When the case sits on your belt, the iPod touch is upside down. It takes a little getting used to, but for some people this might be preferable - it means that if you look down at your hip, you can see the apps right-side up. And also means that the bottom-connected earphone jack is now at the "top," which is more convenient.
An iPod fits very securely in the case, and is held in with a Velcro snap at the bottom. Like the other Belkin, the sides are enclosed with that slightly-raised ridge for tactile feel to the volume button. There is, however, a hole at the top for the on-off button. It retails for $30, but at the time of writing can be found online for just $5.
Griffin Elan Passport Metal
Different, too, from the others, this case opens at the side like a book, not at the top.
Griffin makes excellent products, and this case has a stylish metal edge, and shuts closed completely. It's really very well made. The metal gives it the slightest extra weight, but this is what allows the cover to close fully, without a magnet or Velcro.
There is a very soft covering on left spine, where the volume buttons are. For my taste, this covering was a bit too thick to control the volume well with the cover closed. You can do so, but you have to maneuver your fingers around to find the control, and push hard. (When the cover is open, the volume control is fully accessible, of course.)
A cover over the Home button cover is fairly stiff, though you don't have to push hard. At the time of writing, the $35 retail price was lowered to $30.
DLO HipCase Folio
The DLO case is a nicely designed flip-top, with one caveat that might not make it for everyone. It's secure, with the iPod sitting in a sleeve. The sides are open for easy access to the volume control. And the side trim is narrow, giving good access to the corners of the touch screen. There is an open slot for the Home button. A magnet at the bottom keeps the cover tightly closed.
The caveat is that there is a non-removable belt grip on the back. If you're not looking to keep your iPod on your belt, the grip makes the case a bit bulky to stick in your pocket, though it's not problematic on occasion. But the case is quite nice if you're a "belt person." The clip is a very tight, a little hard to get on the belt, but it holds very well.
Inside the cover, there's pocket for cash, credit card or driver's license, a nice feature for use when jogging. Also, it should be noted that the top is very stiff, so it's a bit hard to access the on/off button without opening the cover. This should soften with use, though there's no guarantee of that. The case retails for $30.
Moving away from cases, this is an earphone device of a kind that's become important since the iPod generation 3 was introduced, allowing for remote control and a microphone.
As noted above, Griffin is a company that makes wonderful products, but alas this is the first one from Griffin I've come across that just didn't cut it.
The remote control includes a microphone, which provides a nice ability to start and stop recording, after launching the iPod's Voice Memo app. And you can also access voice commands with it. The remote handles pause, fast-forward, reverse and such - but oddly there's no volume control. Since the iPod touch now has a volume control button on the outside, the company might have felt it wasn't critical, but...well, honestly, volume control would seem to be a basic part of a remote, since you might have put your iPod away in a pocket or backpack.
Yet the biggest disappointment is that the sound is just mediocre sound. There is little bass, and the overall sound is a bit thin. In the end, a terrific company didn't get it right this one time. Perhaps in the upgrade. It retails for $40 retail, but can be found online for $17.
This is a discontinued item and has some of the same issues as Griffin's TuneBuds Mobile. But it's worth mentioning because it's still available through places like Amazon and provides a function that might be useful for some. It's an "extension" cord, which lets you plug any high-end quality earplugs and have remote control capabilities.
Also, because this is an extension, the controls sit at a better, more reachable location than not only the TuneBuds Mobile, but also the standard iPod earplugs. And it has a clip that lets you attach the cord to a shirt of jack and keep it in place. So, it might be of interest to people with better earplugs they prefer using to Apple's, while wanting to have some remote control capabilities. Keep in mind, too, that the mediocre sound quality of the Tunebuds Mobile isn't an issue here, since the SmartTalk is just an extension cord, though the limited remote control remains. But though limited, at least some capability would be added to the ear plugs you prefer to use. Though discontinued by Griffin, as noted, it can be found on places like Amazon for $18, at the time of writing.
"The Writers Workbench" appears monthly on the website for the Writers Guild of America. To see this entire column, with complete product graphics and additional "TWW Notes," please click here
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