OtterBox’s other case for the 3G nano, the iPod Nano 3rd Gen Defender Case (; $30), is part of the company’s new Defender line of water-resistant cases. (We previously reviewed the iPhone version.) Instead of the bulky, water-tight design of the Armor series, the Defender line uses a slimmer, water-resistant design that consists of a hard-plastic internal shell covered in a silicone external “skin.” Your 3G iPod nano fits between the two pieces–front and back–of the clear-plastic shell, which snap together when closed. You then stretch the black-silicone skin over the shell to provide a layer of shock protection (and to ensure the pieces of the rigid shell don’t separate).
Like the Armor, the Defender leaves the nano’s Hold switch inaccessible. The iPod’s screen and Click Wheel are visible and usable through openings in the case, protected by a thin, clear-polycarbonate sheet. This sheet is considerably thinner than the membrane used on the Armor case, making it much easier to use the nano’s Click Wheel. My only complaint about the sheet is that the inside surface is easily-scratched: I saw a slight blemish on the inner surface over my iPod’s screen, and when I tried to brush it off, my fingernail left an even worse mark. (The outside of the sheet is quite resistant to scratching.)
Although the Defender leaves the nano’s headphone jack and dock-connector port accessible, separate silicone flaps can be fastened over these openings when not in use. (Note that although you can connect Apple’s USB dock cable when your nano is in the Defender, you can’t use other dock-connector accessories.) One thing that worried me a bit about the case is that these flaps are connected to a very thin strip of silicone that stretches across the bottom-front of the case. Pulling on the flaps, removing the skin from the shell, and placing the shell in the skin all stretch this thin strip. The strip didn’t break during my testing, but it didn’t look like it could take a lot of repeated stress. Thankfully, OtterBox provides a lifetime warranty.
If you don’t need the true waterproof protection of the Armor case, the Defender offers slightly less shock protection, along with less protection against dust, dirt, and water, in a much-less-bulky package.–Dan Frakes