Review: H2O Audio iS2 Waterproof Housing for iPod shuffle (2nd Gen)
Though demand for iPod shuffle-specific accessories has been very limited by comparison with other iPods, certain types of add-ons make a lot of sense. One of them is H2O Audio's new iS2 Waterproof Housing for iPod shuffle ($40), which is designed to let you safely submerge and swim with the second-generation iPod shuffle, assuming that you also use the company's separately-sold $40 Waterproof Headphones.
The concept behind iS2 is simple: provide a watertight enclosure that keeps the cheap, screenless shuffle dry even when it’s taken up to 10 feet under water. To accomplish this, H2O Audio has created a smaller, second-generation iPod shuffle-sized version of the same waterproof case it developed for its just-a-little-too-late first-generation Waterproof Housing for iPod shuffle: it uses a hard plastic frame and belt clip to hold the shuffle, a tight-fitting silicone rubber cover as a water shield, a bottle of sealing lubrication fluid (“Super O-Lube”) to prevent water from getting in, and a neoprene armband.
You drop the shuffle into the shell, then the lubricated hard shell into the rubber cover. Together, these parts provide pass-through access to the iPod shuffle’s headphone port and face controls for volume, track switching, and playing/pausing. Since Apple went with tiny bottom-mounted switches for the shuffle’s power and random/ordered playback controls, you’ll need to position them properly before closing the case, then dry off the case and remove the shuffle to turn it off. In our view, though H2O could have added bottom control access, the cost to do so probably wouldn’t have been worthwhile; iS2 does as much as it should do in this regard.
And despite its comparatively low-tech approach to shuffle waterproofing—H2O has been the most aggressive developer of sophisticated waterproof iPod cases—it still does a pretty good job. We experienced zero leakage in our repeated, extended shuffle submersion tests, and found the shuffle inside to be completely dry when it was removed. That said, it’s apparent that iS2’s sealing system is based on a more passive pressure- and sealant-based airlock than H2O’s iPod nano and video waterproof cases, and that you’ll need to follow the instructions regarding proper use of the Super O-Lube to keep water from coming in. Once again, H2O made a tough call here to keep the price down, but it’s one that we’re comfortable with given the low cost of the shuffle itself.
Wearing iS2 is easy. H2O includes an armband to let you wear the shuffle that way, as well as the aforementioned rear belt clip and a fabric “Sport Lanyard” loop that isn’t quite wrist-sized, but can be attached to a belt or carabiner hook if you’re already wearing one. Between these three options, you can wear the iS2 while swimming in the water or running in the rain as you prefer. The company also sells a shuffle-specific swimbelt and a more sophisticated armband separately, if you want them; thankfully, they’re not necessary to enjoy the benefits of the case.
All that’s virtually required yet missing from the iS2 package is a pair of H2O’s Waterproof Headphones, which you’ll need to seal the pass-through waterproof headphone port for safe shuffle listening under water. Admittedly, the iS2’s still useful without them if you want to use other water-safe earbuds for jogging in the rain, but for most people, they’ll be sort of a hidden, mandatory expense, bringing the total cost of waterproofing up to $80—roughly the cost of the shuffle itself. Thankfully, the headphones are reusable with all of H2O’s other cases, and in any case, iS2’s a lot cheaper than replacing your shuffle every time it gets wet and stops working. Overall, we consider it to be a low-tech but good way to give the second-generation shuffle its sea legs, and worthy of our general recommendation.