When Apple released the iPod shuffle at January’s Macworld Conference and Expo, they also announced their own line of iPod shuffle accessories: a dock base, an armband, an AC adapter, a battery pack, and a “Sport Case.” After a long wait—the case for most of these accessories—we finally received our Sport Case, and it’s an impressive product.
The Sport Case is basically a clear, hard plastic case that seals shut to protect your iPod from the elements. (These elements include sweat, thus making the Sport Case a useful addition to your workout gear.) The case opens clamshell-style; when you insert your iPod shuffle into the case and close it, two switches lock the case closed. You can tell if the case is locked—and, thus “sealed”—by the two green dots that appear (one on each switch). A set of push-through rubber controls match the iPod shuffle’s playback buttons perfectly, allowing you to control your music, and a rubber ring surrounds the headphone jack to keep dust and moisture out.
The Sport Case does increase the size of your iPod shuffle, but not excessively so. Whereas the iPod shuffle is 3.3 x 0.98 x 0.33 inches by itself, in the case it’s approximately 4.0 x 1.25 x 0.56 inches and not significantly heavier.
If you’ve seen the Sport Case on the Apple website, you’ll notice that nowhere does Apple claim that it’s waterproof; in fact, they never even use the term “water-resistant.” The company simply states that the Sport Case “keeps your iPod shuffle safely protected from the elements.” This is likely because the Sport Case doesn’t really provide a water-tight seal. However, we tested the Sport Case’s water resistance by submerging it in about 6 inches of water for half an hour, and the inside of the case—and thus the iPod shuffle—came out dry as a bone. (Since water pressure increases with depth, we don’t recommend taking your iPod shuffle swimming or scuba diving, but it should be fine for activities where you may occasionally get wet.)
One other advantage of the Sport Case’s water-resistant seal is that it provides your iPod shuffle with some decent shock protection—the orange rubber ring that seals the case shut cradles the shuffle in place, thus protecting it from hard impacts. And the fact that it’s made of hard plastic, rather than the thin rubber products recently announced by a number of vendors, means that it should keep your iPod shuffle from being accidentally crushed if you take a bad tumble on your bike.
One possible drawback to such a form-fitting case is that because the recessed headphone jack and seal is designed for Apple’s own earbuds, it doesn’t accommodate many third-party headphones. However, Apple has wisely accounted for this potential shortcoming by including with the Sport Case a 4.5-inch cable adapter (shown in the first image, above); one end plugs into the Sport Case’s headphone jack, and the other provides a standard headphone jack.
On the other hand, the Sport Case does have a couple quirks. Unlike the standard iPod shuffle lanyard cap, which can be removed and replaced with a small cap that covers the shuffle’s USB connector, the Sport Case’s lanyard is permanently attached. You also can’t access the shuffle’s Off/Play/Shuffle switch on the rear; however, if you’re using the Sport Case in an active environment, the latter may not be an issue; you’re more likely to turn your shuffle on/off at the beginning/end of your activities anyway.
Although we wish it offered an option to swap the lanyard for a belt clip, Apple’s Sport Case is an attractive “active” case that protects your iPod shuffle both from the elements and from the everyday risks of scratches, bumps, and drops. We expect similar products from other vendors in the future, but for right now the Sport Case is the only game in town, and it’s a good one.