Pacific Rim Technologies’ Gel Shield is the first of what’s sure to be a healthy number of silicone “skin” cases for the iPod shuffle. Available in lime, sky blue, white, juicy pink, and charcoal, the case fits the iPod shuffle like a glove, barely adding bulk while providing protection from scratches, minor bumps, and water/sweat. (Note that protection from the latter is limited to the surface of the case; unlike Apple’s Sport Case, the Gel Shield is not sealed.)
It’s fairly easy to put your iPod shuffle in the Gel Shield, requiring just a few mild tugs and stretches. On the other hand, taking it off is a bit more difficult — this is a case designed to be left on. Raised buttons on the front of the case match up perfectly with the iPod shuffle’s front controls; the Gel Shield’s buttons even have raised forward/back/play/pause/volume symbols to provide tactile cues. You can use most third-party headphones with the Gel Sheild, as the hole around the headphone jack is a big larger than the jack itself. (The case is also thin enough that even most larger headphone plugs work with it.)
The company has also found a way to retain access to the shuffle’s rear Off/On/shuffle switch. Although the switch is covered for protection, the silicon over the switch is thinner than the rest of the case — thin enough that it stretches easily, allowing you to use the switch through the skin. In fact, the silicone also provides an improved grip for the Off/On/shuffle switch, making the switch easier to use with the case on than off! Apple’s own Sport Case makes this switch unaccessible, so we welcome Pacific Rim’s clever workaround. Our only concern is that we wonder how this thinner part of the case will hold up in the long run as it’s stretched over and over by the use of the switch.
The Gel Shield also provides a matching silicon cover for the iPod shuffle’s USB cap; however, no such accessory is included for use with the shuffle’s lanyard cap, and the Gel Shield also doesn’t provide a belt clip or loop. In other words, this is a case to be used by those who carry their shuffles in pockets or bags (or who don’t mind if the lanyard cap isn’t protected). But for that purpose, it’s a great little accessory.