Whereas OtterBox’s Armor series of cases are aimed at those want protection from overall rough conditions, H2O Audio’s line of iPod accessories are designed specifically for in-water use; the iN3 Waterproof Case for the iPod nano 3rd Gen (; $80) is rated as waterproof down to 10 feet. Like the OtterBox Armor, the iN3 uses a two-piece clamshell design with a stationary headphone plug that fits into your nano’s headphone jack and passes the audio signal to its own headphone jack on the exterior of the case. When you close the case, a silicone T-seal locks out water and other substances; the iN3’s clasp includes a locking mechanism that prevents the clasp from being opened unless you purposely hold a spring-loaded switch in the Unlock position. Like the Armor case, the iN3 adds considerable bulk; unlike the Armor case, there are no rubber bumpers inside the iN3 for additional shock protection.
In order to increase the iN3’s level of protection, H2O Audio uses a solid-plastic enclosure–no membranes here. The iN3’s plastic is crystal-clear everywhere, which makes the case quite attractive, although it also means that scratches are more noticeable with the iN3 than with a case, such as the Armor, that uses a textured surface. In lieu of a membrane over the iPod’s Click Wheel, H2O uses a mechanical, rotating dial with a middle button and four buttons around the edges corresponding to the Click Wheel’s five buttons. When you spin the metal dial with your finger, a metal piece on the inside of the case “touches” the Click Wheel. The biggest advantage of this mechanism is that it works even when the case is underwater (or wet out of the water). On the other hand, sometimes I had to press fairly firmly on the dial to get the expected response.
The iN3 package also includes a number of accessories. A neoprene, elastic band lets you wear your iN3-encased nano on your arm, and a plastic belt clip can be installed using two included screws. You also get a replacement T-seal.
If you want a case specifically for water sports, the iN3 is tough to beat. For an amphibiously-active lifestyle that includes rough-and-tumble land sports, the Armor offers a bit more shock protection (and costs quite a bit less).