As we predicted when we reviewed Pacific Rim Technologies’ Gel Shield, cases for the iPod shuffle are sprouting up all over. The first leather case we’ve seen comes from PodsPlus, and while it’s a quality case, it also illustrates the challenges of developing “luxury” cases for a low-cost player.
Rather than being an all-over protective case like the Gel Shield, the PodsPlus Leather Case exposes all connectors and controls; it will protect against mild bumps and some scratches, but it’s as much a stylish accessory as a safe one. The player’s USB connector is hidden behind a leather flap that fastens closed via a loop in the front of the case (much like a belt) — you can connect your shuffle to your computer without removing the case. (PodsPlus offers a similar case with the flap closing in the back instead of the front, the appropriately named Leather Case with Back Side Flip.) You can also use the iPod shuffle’s lanyard attachment with the PodsPlus case; the lanyard cable is not restricted by the case flap.
Although we like the PodsPlus Leather Case — it looks rather nice on the shuffle, especially when used with the lanyard — it suffers from one significant drawback that’s sure to afflict many stylish iPod shuffle cases: the price. Although $20 has traditionally been a fairly low price for an iPod case, with the iPod shuffle priced at only $99 or $149, that $20 amounts to as much as 20% of the price of the player itself. (We have the same criticism for many of Apple’s own $29 shuffle accessories.) That’s not to say that PodsPlus is overcharging for their leather cases — after all, it doesn’t cost that much less to make a leather case for the shuffle than it does for an iPod mini. The PodsPlus Leather Case simply demonstrates that the cost of style for the shuffle is going to be disproportionally higher than for a larger iPod.–Dan Frakes