Review: Apple Computer iPod nano Armband (Second-Generation)
Pros: A quality iPod nano armband that holds a first- or second-generation nano comfortably on your arm; perforated neoprene traps less heat and moisture than many earlier iPod armbands. Protects 1/2 or 2/3 of the iPod nano’s body, including its Click Wheel.
Cons: Significant parts of iPod nano are left exposed, including top third and bottom sides. Not for people who want to view nano’s screen upside down; looser on newer nanos than older ones. Available in only one color, down from five in previous version. Many better options available at the same price.
One year ago, Apple Computer released the original iPod nano Armband (iLounge rating: B), a bandage-like fabric sleeve that came in five colors, each offering only partial coverage of the scratch-attractive nano. Now the company has released an updated version of the iPod nano Armband ($29) with the same name and same price that works with both the second-generation, aluminum iPod nano and its predecessor. Though the new Armband is very similar to what came before, there are several major reasons for our lower rating this time around.
Like the first version of the iPod nano Armband, this one is made from a soft fabric that appears to be vulcanized neoprene, and uses circular Velcro pads to hold itself and your nano in a loop around your bicep. The most distinctive visual feature of the Armband continues to be its significantly perforated armstrap, which like Incase’s earlier Neoprene Wristband for iPod shuffle uses an array of holes that trap less moisture and heat than would a complete fabric strap. Because of these holes, the Armband looks like a giant bandage on your arm, save for the conspicuous presence of the iPod in its center. Looks aside, it’s very comfortable and breathable, and large enough to fit all but a heavyweight’s arms.
The armband doubles over itself with an equally thin metal O-ring found immediately to the right of the nano, and is held in place by a “male” oval of Velcro and one or two of nine total white “female” Velcro circles on the band. As with its predecessor model, we had no problems getting the Velcro to hold in place, and found the Armband’s fit and finish to be up to Apple’s typically high accessory standards. The iPod name is subtly embossed at the visible edge of the armband, its classiest touch. Unlike the first iPod nano version, Apple has cut back the number of color options from five to one, keeping only a single gray version on the assumption that your colored nano doesn’t need to clash with variously colored armbands - unfortunately, if you’re using an older iPod nano and want the color, you’ll have to hunt around for an old Apple Armband or another option. A light gray (near-white) ring around the nano’s Click Wheel is its only distinctive accent.
As before, the second-generation nano Armband offers only mediocre protectivity. What coverage it provides is merely from unreinforced fabric - gone is the plastic once found in the company’s iPod mini Armbands - and there’s not enough of the fabric to cover even the whole nano. A single pad wraps around parts of the nano’s back, bottom and front, interrupted only by one hole for the device’s Click Wheel controls, and a groove at the bottom that lets you attach headphones. Presumably to protect the Click Wheel from moisture, Apple covers the central hole with an integrated frosted plastic surface that’s thin enough to keep the nano easy to use; a small amount of pressure is needed when using the slightly thinner aluminum nanos, while the slightly thicker first-generation ones need little to no pressure. It’s worth another note that - unlike more versatile case designs from companies such as Marware - the iPod nano Armband does not allow you to use the Nike + iPod Sport Kit or any other Dock Connector accessory while inside.
Our major criticism of the first-generation version of this product continues to apply here: Apple just leaves the rest of the iPod - its top, screen, and both top and bottom sides - exposed to the elements. Because of the open-bodied design, this is one of the only iPod nano bands out there that will let you fully coat the nano in sweat when you’re working out, and the slight looseness with the thinner 2G nano means that the case is a little less suitable to be worn upside-down with the nano’s screen facing upright, if you prefer to wear it that way.
The original iPod nano Armband appeared at a time when there weren’t any other options, which was a major reason for that product’s flat B recommendation at the time. One year later, a lot has changed. There are thankfully now many other armbands out there that do better than Apple’s design on both protectiveness and functionality, and the iPod nano Armband isn’t as tight on current iPod nanos or as colorful as it was back then - all reasons this offering has fallen from our recommended rating level down to the “okay” level. We know that Apple’s capable of nailing designs that are equally protective, attractive, and comfortable; the January 2005 iPod shuffle Sport Case (iLounge rating: A) is the best evidence of that so far. The second-generation iPod nano Armband doesn’t come close; for the $29 price, you can do much better in all regards than with this design. We’d only suggest you consider it if you’re comfortable with its appearance, don’t expect to get your new iPod wet during exercise, and don’t mind wearing the armband upright.