It’s not easy to produce a leather case of high quality for a small handheld device, at least that’s always been my assumption from the various crudely made, ill-fitting and badly designed cases that I’ve seen for small cellphones. Usually these cases are bulky and awkward to use, negating the very qualities which make a small handheld desirable.
Mad Catz defies that tradition with their new case for the iPod Nano, a device smaller than most cellphones, which I would not normally have even considered putting in a leather case. Their Nano case is a clever design which combines a straightforward sleeve with a simple protective cover to produce a case which is both compact and sturdy, and clearly the product of some real thought and testing.
The basic component of the case is the sleeve you slide the Nano into, which has a plastic screen cover and an open area for the control pad. It also has openings at top and bottom for headphone and charger connections. It’s lighter and thinner than you might expect, because it combines a stiff backing piece with softer, lightweight leather to cover the front of the Nano. The back piece protects the Nano from bending and the front holds it in place without making it bulky.
The real innovation in the design is the second piece of the case, which is the removable protective cover. This snaps on to the back of the case at the bottom of the Nano, wraps over the front and then a flap goes over the top and is held in place with a magnetic clasp. The cover has the obligatory belt clip on the outside.
This design is clever in a couple of ways. In too many designs the belt clip would be on the stiffer backing piece of the main case so that when you removed the cover you’d have to bend over to see the ipod clipped to your belt. With the clip on the cover instead you can flip the iPod down while it’s still attached to your belt and access it really easily.
For me the most attractive feature – and this may seem a bit weird – is the magnetic clasp that holds the cover closed. In most cases I would have expected this role to be filled by Velcro, so that every time you wanted to open the case you had to yank or twist or rip to get it open and then you’d have to line it up right and press down to close it. Velcro is basically a pain in the butt. But the magnetic clasp is dreamy – like something from an expensive woman’s purse. All you have to do is give it a flick of the thumb to open it, and it literally closes itself if you get it close to the right position. A great boon when it’s down by your waist and you don’t want to have to fumble around with it. It’s also a lot of fun to flick with your thumb, popping it open and then watching the magnet close itself again over and over. Great for those of us with a bit of ADD.
At first glance $29.95 may seem like a lot to pay for a case for something as small as an iPod Nano, but given the quality of the product and what you paid for your Nano, it’s probably about right. This case is so nice that it made me wish I actually had a Nano to use it with rather than getting to test it out on my daughter’s Nano and then having to give them both back to her with nothing to show for my hard work except a byline and a memory. Sadly Mad Catz doesn’ t make an equivalent for my iPod Mini, though they do make a lot of other interesting devices I’m taking a look at.