I love my iPod to a somewhat unhealthy degree. Any gadget that gives me the ability to overpower the sounds of overly noisy sorority girls on the university transit bus, that lets me drown out screaming children in public places with the touch of a button, that bestows upon me the power to create mini movie soundtracks for mundane everyday activities…well, you get the idea. Like I said, I love my iPod. What’s that annoying-talk-to-me-too-much guy in class? Oh I’m sorry I didn’t hear you, I was rocking my face off.
So needless to say, I appreciate the need for protecting this glorious electronic device. Despite my unhealthy attachment to my iPod, I’ve been pretty rough on it over the years. It’s scratched beyond belief and has been through plenty of abuse after being haphazardly tossed into countless bags and purses. So I was interested to see what kind of protection an OtterBox case had to offer.
Otterbox.com produces products that offer rugged protection for your iPods, PDAs, laptops and even cigars. The Otterbox cases are supposed to guard valuables from damage that can be caused by traveling as well as daily wear-and-tear.
I tested the new OtterBox 2nd generation iPod nano case, which fits all 2, 4 and 8GB models and comes with a price tag of $39.95. The case is clear thick plastic, with a thin membrane covering the click wheel. The case comes with a belt clip that also serves as cable management for your headphones cord and an external headphones plug so the entire iPod can be completely encased.
Inside, the iPod is surrounded by rubber bumpers, which help with shock protection, in case of the occasional drop or bump. A rubber gasket inside the case forms a seal tighter than Brad Pitt’s abs in Fight Club. The seal makes the OtterBox case dust-proof, dirt-proof, sand-proof and even water-proof up to a depth of three feet according to the website. I was a bit skeptical of this last part, so a friend and I conducted a few highly complex and scientific tests to ascertain the validity of OtterBox’s claims.
Scientific test #1: Water-proof. Call me cynical, but I wasn’t about to put my iPod in the case and dunk it underwater with blind faith in the manufacturers. So with our incredibly advanced technology, we folded up a piece of paper and stuck it inside the case. I ran it under water, and then left it completely submerged in the sink for a good 15 or 20 minutes. I returned to find the paper completely dry and unharmed. Score one for the OtterBox!
Scientific test #2: Shock-proof. Again, I was not about to put my iPod in the case and drop it from a great height. But we did test the durability of the case, to see how it would hold up to a fall. Again, with highly advanced techniques that boggle the mind, we conducted several experiments in which I dropped the case from a second story balcony onto the underlying concrete walkway. I have to say, I was pretty impressed. Not only did the OtterBox not shatter into a million plastic pieces, it emerged from the three or four drops with almost unnoticeable damage. A few small scratches where the corner connected with the concrete were the only signs of any injury.
Now, as far as how well an iPod would fare in the case after one of these drops, I don’t know. But as far as protecting from short falls, such as slipping out of a pocket or a purse, the OtterBox provides more shock protection than almost all other cases available.
Okay, so lets review the pros of the OtterBox case. It provides excellent protection against dust, dirt, shock, scratches, sand and water. It is crush-proof and durable, and its water-proof design allows your iPod to go places where you wouldn’t expect. You can swim, kayak and go to the beach with your iPod without worrying about damaging it, allowing people with very active lifestyles to enjoy their hobbies and their favorite music.
There are a few cons to the OtterBox. My first problem was the fact that I have an extremely old iPod, and I was disappointed although not really surprised to find that there was no case for my generation of iPod. I know, I got it four years, it doesn’t even have a color display, it still has the four buttons across the top and there are probably only a handful of people in the country who still use this version. But it still works great, and I was a bit saddened to find that my poor old iPod was too out of date for a rugged waterproof case. I had to borrow my dad’s nano for this review–embarrassing I know. Even my dad has a nicer iPod than I do.
But that wasn’t too big of a deal, and probably won’t affect most consumers. The only other minor complaints I might mention are there is no access to the hold switch, so it is easy to accidentally turn the song you are listening to way up or down. But when it comes to actually pressing the click wheel, the membrane is thick enough that it requires a bit of pressure to press the buttons.
The most obvious and common complaint about the OtterBox is that it adds quite a bit of bulk to your iPod. The nano is incredibly small and sleek, but put it in the OtterBox case and it is about three times thicker, about an inch longer and a half an inch wider. For users who value the convenient size of their iPod, this might be a slight deterrent. Especially if like me, you don’t have any really active hobbies that would justify the need for such a hardy case, or such a high price.
However, overall the OtterBox is a great deal for protecting your iPod from harsh environments, or just a clumsy owner. And not only does it shelter your iPod, but it also allows you to take your music with you on all your outdoor adventures. What’s that annoying kayak tour guide? Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. I was rocking my face off.