Review: Marware Sport Grip for iPod shuffle
Pros: Silicone rubber adds attractive colored accents to the iPod shuffle’s sides, top and bottom, with cool-looking carabiner and optional detachable lanyard necklace.
Cons: Very limited protection for the iPod shuffle’s back and front; doesn’t “safeguard” as indicated on original packaging, and shouldn’t be considered a case. Necklace clasp broke on detachment from Sport Grip, an issue Marware promises to address in immediate future.
Updated April 12, 2005
We like different iPod accessories for different situations, and Marware’s Sport Grip ($8.95/each) offers a very specific type of appeal: it’s flip, and it’s cheap. iPod shuffle owners seeking protectiveness can stop reading right now, but those looking for something simple and fun should continue on.
[Editor’s Note: Following publication of our review, the manufacturer of Sport Grip decided to alter its packaging and web site to remove references to the Sport Grip as a “case” that “safeguards your shuffle regardless of how you wear it”, and we have agreed to re-evaluate the product in light of its new marketing as an iPod shuffle clip rather than a case. We have accordingly moved Sport Grip into the Clips - iPod shuffle category on our site and out of Cases - iPod shuffle. However, since the product will first appear in stores with its initial packaging as a “case,” an additional Editor’s Note on grading appears at the close of this review.]
Made from silicone rubber, Sport Grips come in ten colors (the rainbow plus white, gray, and black) and can be purchased individually or in three-packs. Single Sport Grips include a small metal ring called the “attachment ring” and a spring-loaded hook called a carabiner, while three-packs also include a single silicone rubber and metal lanyard necklace. The concept is simple: a Sport Grip wraps around the sides, top and bottom of an iPod shuffle, adding rubberized ribs only to the sides and a mounting hole at the shuffle’s bottom. You can connect the attachment ring as a bridge to the carabiner hook or a zipper, or detach the attachment ring and pop the lanyard into place.
The Sport Grip isn’t an iPod shuffle “case;” it’s a fashion accessory, and Marware itself actually goes so far as to disclaim Sport Grip’s protective utility. It’s “not designed for key ring use,” as the box notes, and “your shuffle may become damaged,” as the company’s web site explains. When inside the Sport Grip, your shuffle’s front and back are as exposed as a person wearing only socks and a hat, and keys (or anything else hard that’s placed in your pocket) would be certain to tear up its gloss in a matter of seconds.
As a decorative and not protective accessory, Sport Grip is a fun idea. The Grip holds the USB cap-equipped shuffle inside without a problem, and permits adquate connection of Apple’s and most third-party earphones. Popping the shuffle in and out for syncing is predictably easy, with Sport Grip typically holding the USB cap in place as you remove the rest of the shuffle’s body, and of course access to the shuffle’s controls is unlimited.
While inexpensive, the carabiner works well to attach the Grip to a bag or belt loop, and looks quite good, besides. Similarly, Marware’s optional silicone lanyard is a generally nice addition: it’s close to the same size and color as Apple’s fabric shuffle pack-in, but stretches a bit to accommodate a bit of tugging - something that a competing product called the Sport Rope doesn’t do. Better yet, and unlike Apple’s lanyard, Marware includes a metal screw-open clasp that permits attachment and detachment at your will. On the down side, it’s not the best such screw system we’ve seen - the clasp actually broke when we pulled the lanyard out of the Sport Grip. Marware says that it’s been diligently working on a solution to this, and we should expect that properly built lanyards will be appearing in stores soon.
Now that the Sport Grip is being marketed as an accessory clip system rather than a case, we don’t have a problem giving its single-pack version our recommendation - we like its look, the carabiner, and the price. Therefore, our revised rating below applies only to the Sport Grip as an individually sold ($8.95) clip accessory, and not as a “case” or protective device, which it’s not. As a three-pack with the lanyard, we’re still going to have to wait and see how the company’s improved lanyard holds up before rendering a final opinion.
[Editor’s Note 2: For those who see the Sport Grip in its original packaging as an iPod shuffle “case,” we note that the product doesn’t stand up well at all in protectiveness against virtually any of the iPod shuffle cases we’ve tested. It’s attractive, but offers only the slightest safeguarding of the front or back of the iPod’s body against scratches or other damage. Judged by the box’s original claims and our case review standards, it falls short of the cases we’ve tested, and would only rate a “so-so” C+ by our metrics.]