Love your iPod - iPod protection

Summary:I've owned an Apple iPod nano now for over a month now and I'm immensely impressed by the design and the features it offers. Being a huge fan of Audible and audio books in general, a small, easy to use, 8GB capacity flash-based player is what I've been dreaming of for some time. The nano fits my needs very well. However, the design of the nano leads me to believe that it's not the kind of player that's going to take rough handling all that well.

I've owned an Apple iPod nano now for over a month now and I'm immensely impressed by the design and the features it offers.  Being a huge fan of Audible and audio books in general, a small, easy to use, 8GB capacity flash-based player is what I've been dreaming of for some time.  The nano fits my needs very well.  However, the design of the nano leads me to believe that it's not the kind of player that's going to take rough handling all that well. 

As much as I like my nano, I'm certain that it's certainly not going to like being bounced off the floor like my old Creative MuVo did (that hit the dirt several times without suffering any real damage - apart from developing a curious rattle).  Depending on your lifestyle, I can see users wanting to protect their investment from three different levels of abuse:

  • Very minor cosmetic damage - Small scuffs and scratches
  • Larger-scale damage - Deep scratches, dents, knocks
  • Large scale abuse - Drops, immersion, high humidity

How much abuse you subject your iPod to will determine how much protection it needs.  In this post I'll be looking at three different kinds of iPod protection systems:

  • invisibleSHIELD full body shield
  • Matias Armor hard aluminum case
  • OtterBox for iPod nano

Each of these items have their own strengths and weaknesses and which you choose will depend on how much protection you want your iPod to have.

invisibleSHIELD

The invisibleSHIELD is the least obtrusive way to protect your iPod nano.  The invisibleSHIELD is an ultra-thin plastic film that fits over the iPod, protecting it from scratches and scuffs.  The film was initially designed for the military to protect the leading edges of helicopter blades. 

The kit comes with one invisibleSHIELD pre-cut for the device you want to protect, a squeegee, a bottle of SHIELDspray application solution and full instructions.  Fitting the invisibleSHIELD takes a few minutes and once it's on, it's pretty much invisible.  If you want to remove the invisibleSHIELD  then it's just a matter of peeling it off - it doesn't leave any residue of any sort on the iPod.

invisibleSHIELD

Invisible!

invisibleSHIELD

Pretty tought stuff

Pros:

  • Very lightweight
  • Invisible
  • You can still access the ports
  • You can still use the Clickwheel
  • Can be removed without leaving any residue

Cons:

  • Doesn't protect the iPod from drops/bending
  • Doesn't make the iPod waterproof
  • Allows dirt and dust to enter the iPod's ports
  • Cannot be reused
  • Quite expensive

Price (for iPod nano 2nd gen version): $24.95
Website: http://www.shieldzone.com/

Matias Armor

The Matias Armor aircraft-grade aluminum case for the iPod nano which offers your iPod much greater level of protection than the invisibleSHIELD does but it adds extra bulk.  Not much, but enough to make a difference if bulk and weight are critical to you.

The design that Matias chose for the case is a clamshell design.  There's a hinge on the right-hand side of the case and a secure clasp on the left.  The inside of the case is lined with soft neoprene to prevent the case from inflicting damage on your iPod.

The Matias Armor can also be fitted with an optional Armor Clip belt clip which can be fixed to the case.  This clip is very impressive and is rated for weights of over 100 times the weight of your iPod and case.  The patented release mechanism is designed to protect your iPod from false releases, while at the same time allowing easy removal with just one hand.

Matias Armor

Matias Armor

Pros:

  • Aluminum shell is light weight yet offers good impact protection
  • You can still access the ports
  • The hard plastic screen protector offers the screen excellent protection from damage
  • Armor Clip is very secure

Cons:

  • Doesn't make the iPod waterproof
  • Allows dirt and dust to enter the iPod's ports
  • Does not protect Clickwheel

Price (for iPod nano 2nd gen version): $29.95/$34.95 (depending on color)  Armor Clip costs $14.95
Website: http://matias.ca/

OtterBox for the iPod nano

If you want the ultimate protection for your iPod, you want an OtterBox.  Period.  The OtterBox for the iPod nano offers the highest level of protection for you iPod possible.  There's almost no environment that's off-limits for your iPod when it's it an OtterBox (short of scuba diving depths and fire).  The design incorporates shock-absorbing foam which acts as a vibration dampener in the event that your iPod is knocked or dropped. 

The OtterBox for the iPod nano is waterproof to 1 meter/3 feet, dustproof, dirtproof, sandproof, and drop-proof yet it still allows you to use the Clickwheel, thanks to a flexible membrane on the front.  Also, unlike the other protecting mechanisms I've looked at, the OtterBox protects the ports from damage.  However, it does put the docking port off limits while the iPod is in the OtterBox, which means that you can't charge or fill the iPod with music while it's inside the OtterBox. 

The OtterBox comes complete with an external headphone jack that you can use with headphones/earphones that use a standard 3.5mm/1/8" mini stereo jack plug which means.

The OtterBox also comes fitted with a very strong, secure belt hook which also doubles as a cable management system.

OtterBox for iPod

Pros:

  • Very rugged
  • Protects the iPod against damage from the elements (dirt, dust, sand, moisture)
  • Waterproof
  • Still allows access to earphone port
  • Integral belt clip

Cons

  • Bulky
  • Cannot access the dock port

Price (for iPod nano 2nd gen version): $39.95/
Website: http://www.otterbox.com/

My Favorite

I'm going to finish up by telling you which of these protection mechanisms is my favorite.  It's the OtterBox.  As I've said before, I'm pretty harsh on bits of technology and I have confidence that the OtterBox will do a good job of protect my nano.  Yes, it adds some bulk to the iPod but not too much, and the clip and lanyard more than makes up for the extra bulk.

While the OtterBox is the most expansive of the protection mechanisms (although you need to factor in that it comes complete with a belt clip, which costs extra on the Matias Armor), it's well engineered.  Style is secondary to function, but style isn't going to protect your iPod. 

The engineers and designers at Otter have put a lot of effort into getting the OtterBox for the iPod just right.  The screen protector on the OtterBox is nice and clear and free from distortion, making the screen a joy to use.  The Clickwheel protector doesn't impede the use of the Clickwheel - although I will admit the Clickwheel is more responsive when the iPod is out of the OtterBox.  Short of putting the nano in a safe, I can't find a better way to protect it.

Topics: Apple

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.