Although many vendors have announced cases for the iPod nano, Belkin appears to be the first company to actually make them available — we’ve got production units of the company’s Folio, Flip, and Carabineer cases in hand and Belkin says they should be available at retail “soon.”
Whereas the company’s Flip and Folio Cases (reviewed elsewhere on this site) provide significant protection via relatively bulky designs (compared to the nano, that is), the Carabineer Case takes the opposite approach: less protection in a svelte package.
Once you slide your nano into the Carabineer Case, most of its body is protected from scratches; however, the screen, Click Wheel, and part of the iPod’s sides and bottom remain exposed. In the case of an accidental drop, the bottom corners are the only areas that are at risk for coming in contact with the ground, but the other areas are vulnerable to bumps and scratches during everyday use. (There’s also a small circular opening in the back of the case that lets the iPod nano’s logo show.) In other words, if you’re looking for the ultimate in protection, look elsewhere; the Carabineer protects mainly the scratch-prone chrome and white (or black) surfaces of your nano.
The Carabineer Case’s latch mechanism is different than any we’ve seen before in an iPod case. At the bottom of the case, where you insert your iPod, there is a small, metal “U” clip on the front edge and a nylon loop (with a small metal snap) on the back edge; you slide the loop through the clip to secure your iPod in the case. If you want to use the included carabineer clip to attach the case to a bag or belt loop, you connect the clip to the nylon loop; the weight of the iPod and case are sufficient to keep the latch closed. If you’re not using the carabineer, you simply pull the loop around to the back of the case and snap it in place; used this way, the loop and U-clip act like a belt. Although it’s difficult to explain this loop/clip latch, it’s fairly simply to use, and in my testing it never unlatched accidentally. And unlike the other two nano cases from Belkin, you can access the nano’s dock connector port without removing the nano from the case — you just undo the latch and plug in your dock cable.
The Carabineer is a stylish case that doesn’t add much bulk to your iPod nano; I also like the carabineer/latch design. The downside is that the case doesn’t offer a lot of protection. Whether or not that’s a good tradeoff is up to you.