Ruggedize Your iPod

I recently got my hands on a wonderful little interactive case for my 20GB Apple iPod. It's called the Otterbox, and it's the creation of Otter Products. This is the best case I've found for my device, thanks to a remarkably responsive front fascia and particularly smart headphone-input functionality.

The waterproof case comes in several incarnations, including varieties specific to the 20GB, 30/40/60GB, iPod mini, and the recent iPod shuffle. This is an extremely rugged case, and although I didn't risk, say, tossing it out a moving car, it's obvious that it's built for wear-and-tear. I carried it around with me for a week, through several workouts and a vigorous hike, and the iPod never so much as stuttered. There's a nice rubber lining inside the case that cradles the iPod lovingly and securely.

One aspect of the Otterbox that I particularly value is that it contains its own headphone jack. You insert the iPod into the case, securing it tightly in the Otterbox's confines, and you plug your headphones into the case itself. I had been experiencing minor motion-related problems with the iPod's headphone jack (my iPod would pause at certain movements of the headphone jack), and this case solved those problems once and for all. And for you swimmers, the jack and case are waterproof, meaning that if you have waterproof headphones, you can take your iPod for a swim.

I've always felt that the iPod is a vulnerable device--slippery and small. Outfitted in an Otterbox, I no longer feel that way. This is a strong, safe-feeling case. The drawback is that it makes the iPod a heavier device. You definitely notice the bulk. Slung from your hip, it feels like two or three iPods, rather than one. However, I quickly got used to the weight, and now I use the case as a permanent fixture, taking out the iPod only to update it and charge it.

Perhaps best of all is the Otterbox's clear-membrane fascia, which fits neatly over the iPod's scroolwheel. User interaction is smooth and hiccup-free, allowing the same kind of easy interaction that you get without the case. The case also includes a belt clip, offering hands-free carrying. You can also get an armband for $14.95.

Which brings me to cost. As much as I've come to love this case, the pricing is a bit steep. Ranging from $29.95 to $49.95, my 20GB model is at the top end of that scale. For more information about the Otterbox, see the company's Web site, or call 1-888-695-8820.

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