Company: Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO)
Model: Action Jacket
Compatible: iPod shuffle (aluminum)
DLO Action Jacket for iPod shuffle
Pros: A second-generation iPod shuffle armband and case combination capable of holding a shuffle upside down or rightside up on your arm while you run. Choice of black or white color options; case is detachable and can be used without armband.
Cons: Neither case nor armband is especially impressive; neoprene case looks a bit awkward on the shuffle and doesn’t offer headphone port or rear clip protection. Not recommended for use in rainy or heavy sweat conditions.
Which would you rather have: a second-generation iPod shuffle armband with close to zero protection for the iPod, or one with some protection that doesn’t look all that great? That’s the choice facing buyers of Griffin’s Tempo Armband for iPod shuffle ($15) and DLO’s Action Jacket for iPod shuffle ($20), which have both appeared in stores over the last few months. Both armbands are acceptable, but neither’s a truly great accessory.
Of the two designs, Griffin’s Tempo is better looking, and arguably the more impressively engineered. Though it does nothing more than mount your shuffle on a washable elastic band by using a plastic clip that lets the shuffle’s own metal clip slide in, recess, and slide off when you’re ready, the gray and white band is well-made, and the clipping surface works well. You can mount the shuffle sideways in two orientations - the headphone port facing outwards makes the most sense for many headphones - and the looping, metal O-ringed armband can be adjusted to fit the size of your bicep. But Tempo provides zero protection for your shuffle’s front, sides, or bottom: except for its back, the shuffle’s fully exposed.
On the surface, Action Jacket is comparatively more fully featured. Sold in white or black versions, it comes with both an armband and a small neoprene case for the second-generation iPod shuffle - the first one we’ve seen. The case actually protects the majority of the shuffle’s body - everything except for its headphone port and rear clip - and even has a clear plastic shield on front for the shuffle’s Control Pad. Silver ink circles the Pad and provides DLO and bottom switch markings. As with prior Action Jackets, you can detach the encased shuffle fully from the armband and carry it around in your pocket with the case on, something that can’t be said for the Tempo design.
But neither DLO’s armband nor the case is especially great. On a positive note, the armband uses soft elastic and Velcro that won’t hurt your arm, but the simple plastic O-ring and rubber DLO logo feel a bit cheaper than Griffin’s competing parts. Similarly, while we give credit to DLO for including a case and the resultant protection for your shuffle, the neoprene doesn’t look or feel all that hot on the tiniest iPod. Bunched-up corners, an uneasy alignment with the Control Pad, and exposure of the shuffle’s weakest point - the headphone port - place the case a few steps behind where we’d hoped it would be in protection and appearance. You can turn the case upside down on the armband if you prefer; that’s your only mounting option.
Ultimately, the issue of iPod shuffle protection - particularly on an armband - is one that is open to debate. Some people view the shuffle as nearly disposable given its price, while others would hate to see the device stop working because of exposure to rain or sweat, concerns raised by some runners and workout enthusiasts. As the shuffle isn’t waterproof, armbands and cases are the only practical options for protection, and to the extent that neither of these armbands completely protects the shuffle, they’re better suited to some users than others.
If you’re not worried about running in the rain, or sweating on and possibly shorting out your shuffle, then you could possibly do without any protection at all, and Griffin’s design would be an adequate, less expensive option. Those worried about possibly scraping their shuffles will find DLO’s design a better fit; even if it’s not quite ideal in appearance or rear protectiveness, to the extent that the neoprene and plastic do cover the shuffle, they’ll shield it that much from sweat and rain. We think both offerings are good enough to rate our general recommendation, but neither is quite up to the best standards of armbands we’ve tested in the past. For that reason, if you’re looking for more complete protection and even better looks, you’ll have to wait for something else.