If ancient paintings on cave walls in France are any indication, then primitive humans discovered the silicone skin case just after they discovered the iPod itself. Since then, it's become one of the most popular varieties of protection for your valuable electronics. Today, we take a look at five silicone skin cases for the third-generation iPod nano, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, with an eye towards helping you pick the one that's right for you.
iSkin Duo for iPod nano
Long one of our favorite cases for the iPod line, the US$30 third-generation nano version of the iSkin Duo combines the shock-absorbancy and full coverage of a silicone skin with a robust, hard-plastic faceplate. With included dust covers for the dock-connector port and headphone jack, virtually no part of the iPod is exposed to the elements, and the transparent window provides some of the best screen protection around. As always, iSkin thoughtfully includes some add-ons like a lanyard that plugs into the dock-connector port and a removable belt clip (complete with a silicone insert for when you opt not to use it).
Unlike earlier models, however, the faceplate is more difficult to put on and take off, and the silicone requires extensive "massaging" in order to fit together correctly. And as much as we liked the dust cover over the headphone jack, it was frustratingly difficult to remove at times. Also, the combination of the case's two layers adds some bulk to the normally-svelte nano, though it's still plenty small enough to fit comfortably in a pocket. Still, although the iSkin Duo is somewhat pricier than many other silicone skin cases, it remains an excellent option for those concerned with full-fledged protection for their nano.
XtremeMac Tuffwrap Plus for iPod nano
Like the iSkin Duo, the $25 XtremeMac Tuffwrap Plus is a marriage between a silicone skin and a hard candy, er, plastic shell. The transparent shield slips on over the front of the silicone skin, leaving an opening for the Click Wheel (itself covered by the skin), and covering the screen completely. Ridges on the case's sides make it easy to grip, and the bottom of the case is left open to access the hold switch, dock-connector port, and headphone jack. XtremeMac also includes a carabiner clip that threads through the back of the case.
While the Tuffwrap Plus gets high marks for its protective features, it suffers somewhat on the accessibility front. The Click Wheel covering doesn't have any marks to let you find the controls by touch, and I had problems getting the scrolling functionality to work smoothly through the skin (it would just drop out sometimes). Also, the plastic cover seems to scuff easily, and those scuffs can make it difficult to see the screen. Still, the Tuffwrap is a good balance between silicone skin and hardshell protection, if not quite as full-featured as the iSkin Duo.
iFrogz Treadz for iPod nano
iFrogz has made a name for itself with its colorful modular case designs, though its Treadz case may be an exception to that rule, coming, as it does, only in black. Featuring a thick silicone exterior with a distinctive tire-tread pattern, the Treadz has good shock absorbency, and is easy to hold onto. And, at $15, the Treadz is cheaper than many of other silicone cases.
However, the low cost means fewer features. The screen protection is weak; it consists only of a thin, adhesive film, and the Click Wheel is recessed, but not covered by the silicone. You'll need to spend an extra $3 to buy a decorative sticker from iFrogz to protect the Click Wheel. The bottom of the case is open to allow you access to the dock-connector port. While the Treadz is a serviceable case, it's among the most barebones we've looked at.
Bone Collection Nano 3 Wrap
We've tested a number of Bone's iPod cases in the past, many of which incorporate unique features. Bone's $18 Nano 3 Wrap includes an integrated wrap for your iPod earbuds. The raised markings over the Click Wheel controls are a nice touch, as well, and the open bottom of the case lets you get at the iPod's dock-connector port, hold switch, and headphone jack.
However, the Nano 3 Wrap suffers from having only a thin, adhesive film for keeping your screen safe. And though the cable wrap on the back of the case is a useful addition for those who use the iPod's stock earbuds, or even some other earbud-style headphones, it's not terribly helpful to those with other types of headphones. We also experienced some of the same difficulties using the Click Wheel's scrolling functionality as we did with the TuffWrap Plus. If the cable wrap is useful to you, then the Nano 3 Wrap is a decent option, but if you don't use earbuds, there's really no reason for it.
SwitchEasy Silicon Biscuits
SwitchEasy's Biscuit case was one of our top cases last year, and the company's foray into the silicone skin market, the Silicon Biscuit, is likewise excellent, if a little bit odd in design. Modelled after a traditional tea "biscuit" (read: cookie), the Silicon Biscuit features interestingly "scalloped" sides. The Click Wheel controls are clearly marked, and a raised nub in the center makes it easy to find the selection button. You can get at the headphone jack, hold switch, and dock-connector port at the bottom of the case, and SwitchEasy even includes a removable dust cover for the last.
Best of all, the Silicon Biscuit includes a hard-plastic screen protector that you slip into the silicone. And the whole package is just $10--a tough price to beat. About the only negative thing about the case is that it's easy to potentially misplace the dock-connector port's dust cover when you're not using it. Otherwise, the Silicon Biscuit is one of the best values in the category.