[Note: Since this review was published, the name of the KeychainPod has been changed to iKeychain.]
The KeychainPod.com KeychainPod is the first of a number of recently released aluminum cases for the iPod shuffle that we’ve received for review. Available in “polished aluminum” (silver), blue, red (actually more maroon), and silver, the KeychainPod is made of machined aluminum to provide a case that is the most protective we’ve seen in terms of bumps and crushing. Because the case leaves the shuffle’s front and back controls exposed for easy access, they’re vulnerable to scratches and bumps; however, the KeychainPod is relatively thick (compared to the silicone cases we’ve seen), so these areas are recessed enough that the chances of serious damage are less than with a silicone case, which offers no impact protection at all.
The KeychainPod is constructed of two pieces — front and back — that fit tightly together via four tiny magnets, one in each corner. You place your iPod shuffle, sans USB cap, in the front half of the case, then place the other half on; it will snap together automatically, thanks to the magnets. In my testing, the magnets were strong enough to keep the case from coming apart unintentionally, while still letting you open the case easily. The latter is important, as you need to remove your shuffle from the KeychainPod in order to connect it to your computer.
The fit and finish of the KeychainPod are impressive. The edges of the five openings in the case — for the front controls, front indicator light, rear off/on/shuffle switch, battery indicator button, and headphone jack — are all attractively bezeled, as are all of the case’s edges; there are no sharp edges or opportunities for cuts. The two halves of the case fit together perfectly.I have only two complaints about the design. First, the hole for the battery indicator button is quite small — you basically need to squeeze your fingernail into the slot to press the button; however, given that most users won’t need to access this button very often, I don’t see this as a major issue. On the other hand, the biggest drawback of the KeychainPod is that although the hole for the shuffle’s headphone jack accomodates Apple’s stock earbuds perfectly, it’s too small, and the jack itself too deep, for many third-party headphone miniplugs. Specifically, those with L-shaped plugs or with straight plugs significantly thicker than Apple’s won’t fit. (Apple’s iPod shuffle Sport Case has the same problem, but includes a 4.5-inch cable adapter; one end plugs into the Sport Case’s headphone jack, and the other provides a standard headphone jack. I ended up using this cable with the KeychainPod when I wanted to listen via third-party headphones.)
The bottom of the case provides a hole for a keychain ring or lanyard; our review samples included a standard keychain ring, but the KeychainPod.com site states that customers will receive a matching carabiner. Besides letting you attach your KeychainPod to a belt loop or bag, the keychain ring or carabiner also serve to keep the two halves of the case together when you open it up. (On a related note, the fact that the KeychainPod is comprised of two detachable halves also has an unintended, but fun, benefit: If you own several KeychainPods, you can mix and match the halves. I’m a fan of the silver and red together; red/gold, red/blue, and blue/silver are also good combinations.)
One note about colors: based on the samples we received, I recommend the “polished aluminum” (silver) color — although it’s shinier than the other colors, which have an attractive matte finish, the engraved text and KeychainPod.com logo are much more subtle on the silver version. (On the blue, gold, and red versions, the engravings go through the outer anodized surface, exposing the silver aluminum underneath.)
UPDATE 8/10/05: KeychainPod.com has provided Playlist with a new version of the KeychainPod that has a larger headphone jack hole. This larger hold accommodates a greater variety of headphone plugs than the original version. However, because the case is quite thick at the top, some L-shaped headphone plugs still do not fit.–Dan Frakes