We’ve long liked A-1’s iKeychain (a.k.a., KeychainPod) for the iPod shuffle, a metal case that provides good protection in a stylish design. A-1 recently released an iPod nano version of the iKeychain, and it’s just as attractive, if slightly less protective since the iPod nano has a screen that must remain accessible.
Available in a number of attractive finishes, including chrome, black, maroon, blue, and gold — as well as several “hand-made multi-color” designs — the Nano iKeychain is made of machined aluminum, resulting in a case that is among the most protective on the market in terms of bumps and crushing. On the other hand, because the case leaves the nano’s screen and Click Wheel exposed for easy access, they’re vulnerable to scratches and bumps; however, these areas are recessed slightly, so it would take a near-direct hit to cause damage.
[UPDATE, DECEMBER 2004: A-1 has begun including an iPod nano Face Protector with every iKeychain. This thin, clear plastic protector slips into the front of the the iKeychain and protects the nano’s screen and Click Wheel from scratches. The review sample we received was just slightly too big, which resulted in a wavy screen surface, but after a quick adjustment (using scissors), it fit perfectly.]
Like the shuffle version, the Nano iKeychain is constructed of two pieces — front and back — that fit tightly together via several tiny magnets. You place your iPod in one half of the case and then put the other half on; the two halves 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 nano from the iKeychain in order to connect it to your computer or charge it. (Unfortunately, you also need to open the case to access the nano’s Hold switch.)
Overall, the fit and finish of the iKeychain are impressive. The edges of the openings for the screen and Click Wheel are attractively bezeled, as are all of the case’s edges; the corners are similarly rounded. The two halves of the case fit together perfectly. My only complaint is that the inside of the case has no bumpers or other form of protection for your iPod; when in the case, your iPod’s acrylic face and chrome back rest directly on the iKeychain’s metal surfaces. Although the iKeychain fits the nano snugly, there’s just enough room for the iPod to move around slightly, which could result in small scratches. I say “could” because I personally haven’t yet seen any such scratches; however, the idea of metal-on-metal makes me uncomfortable enough that I’d like to see A-1 add ever-so-thin fabric or rubber pieces on the inside of the case to further protect your iPod.
(Note: When in the iKeychain, your iPod nano’s headphone jack is recessed approximately 1/8″ from the outside of the case. A-1 has wisely made the case’s headphone jack hole fairly large — nearly 3/8″ in diameter — to accommodate even bulky headphone plugs. However, if your favorite headphones have an especially big plug, or one that won’t fit in a recessed jack, the iKeychain may not be for you. That said, Shure and Ultimate Ears plugs — which don’t work well with every case — are compatible with the iKeychain.)
The bottom of the iKeychain provides a hole for a keychain ring or lanyard; our review samples included a standard keychain ring, which can be attached to a carabiner, lanyard, or larger keyring. However, as with the shuffle version, I don’t recommend actually using a nano-holding iKeychain as a keychain, as your keys will surely scratch your nano’s screen and Click Wheel. Instead, I recommend using it as a standard carrying case or attaching it to your bag or belt via a carabiner or other clip.
The iKeychain for iPod nano is one of the most solid cases I’ve used, and one of the most stylish cases, for any iPod, that I’ve seen. With a tiny bit of internal padding to keep the nano from moving, and perhaps a thin plastic cover for the screen, it would be nearly perfect.–Dan Frakes