The armband market is more varied than it may appear at first glance. Despite the proliferation of options such as Uniea’s U-Motion ($25) that are built around a simple pocket made from neoprene, there are also more advanced models, including SwitchEasy’s Move ($40); both are made to fit the iPhone 5 and 5s. That’s not to say that one design is always going to be better than the other, but rather that there are many different styles, ranging from the basic to the complex. Here we examine both models, each of which is slim, and offers a rather stark contrast to Armpocket’s Nighthawk.
U-Motion is a good example of what we’re used to seeing when it comes to iPhone armbands—a cosmetically neutral holder made primarily from neoprene with a clear plastic face and an adjustable band in the back. Ringed with a reflective gray material on front, U-Motion has a few distinctive design touches, two positive, one neutral, and one negative.
The most positive element is the almost hidden cord manager found on the left side of the iPhone compartment. Two pieces of Velcro hide a firm reinforced tab with dimpled sides, capable of wrapping headphone cords for storage when not in use. If you don’t have a need for the tab, it remains completely inconspicuous rather than sticking out of the case, a nice feature. Additionally, although U-Motion is billed as made for the iPhone 5s—and works, apart from a lack of Touch ID support—it’s actually able to be used with the iPhone 5 and 5c without issues. The rear compartment is large enough to handle any of the devices, with a headphone port hole properly located at the bottom corner. While the holder will resist sweat, it won’t completely keep it out due to the use of an open slit for iPhone insertion.
Neutral is U-Motion’s armband, which is sized for small- to medium-sized arms, but not big biceps. The band is around 14.5” long from end to end, but actually has only 13” of length when the Velcro is clasped at the end. Most women and many men will be fine with the length, but particularly brawny users need not apply.
Less positive is U-Motion’s screen protector, which bucks the trend of complete transparency in favor of a heavily frosted surface. While this protector feels fine, responds properly to big touches, and looks as if it could withstand common scratches, it blurs the screen enough that small iOS 7 text becomes hard to read unless you really press it down. This won’t be a huge issue for runners who aren’t trying to read their devices on the go, but it detracts somewhat from the usability.
Then there’s Move, SwitchEasy’s most recent athletic accessory. It combines a case that looks very similar to the fantastic Numbers, permanently attached to a mounting base, with two different sizes of armbands and a tough-through front cover. One is 15.5” long, and the other 9”, which makes it more suitable for the forearm. Also included in the package are two screen films, tools for application, and swappable Home Button covers.
The important thing to understand with Move is that although it looks like a case, it actually requires you to remove any case you might be using, and install your iPhone into the TPU protector. Although it may appear otherwise, the holder doesn’t come off; it’s permanently fused with the band. Most of the elements are just what we’d look for in a full-time case, though. The Sleep/Wake and volume buttons are covered without any sort of negative interference, and the headphone port can be plugged with a flip-out cover. Both the speaker and microphone holes are exposed through matching openings in the TPU case, but the Lightning port is completely covered. Because Move made to be used while running, SwitchEasy went with the assumption that you won’t be charging the phone, and would rather have one less place where sweat can get in. As for the screen protector, it’s clear, rests right against the display, and allows for uninhibited control. The earpiece is covered, though, so don’t expect to hold the phone up to your ear for calls while encased.
Both Uniea and SwitchEasy are offering good iPhone armbands here, although Move actually moves the category forward while U-Motion is more of a me-too design. Uniea’s armband works well as a simple solution for slipping your phone in and out, and at its $25 asking price merits a B rating. By comparison, Move is worthy of our strong general recommendation. We really like the look and feel, not to mention how protective it is; it’s an atypically interesting armband, with thoughtfulness we’d expect from SwitchEasy. The only real issue is the price; it costs twice as much as an entry-level armband without offering a huge difference in terms of experience. If you’re willing to pay $40 for it, you’ll like what Move offers.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPhone 5/5s