Review: TuneBuckle Full Moon (Mod Silver) for iPod nano
Pros: A well-made chrome belt buckle that can hold your iPod nano at waist level, providing access to its headphone port and Click Wheel while protecting the rest of its face, Hold switch and Dock Connector port. Includes your choice of white or black leather belts, sold in sizes appropriate to most users.
Cons: Price tag is high. No access to nano’s screen, turning nano into an iPod shuffle. Chrome shows fingerprints and grime very visibly, detracting from belt’s practicality unless you can avoid touching or otherwise dirtying it. Red stitching of belts will appeal more to some users than others.
Late last year, a new trend in accessories became apparent: numerous companies were working on clothes with iPod integration, essentially ways to wear and interact with your iPod rather than pocketing or otherwise hiding it away. Though we’re aware that this category is nichey by definition - some people will reject the idea of iPod clothes outright, while other people will like them, or only specific articles of clothing - our reviews are intended to spotlight and credit the better ideas we’ve seen in this emerging accessory category while it grows and evolves.
As one of the genre’s pioneers, Atlanta, Georgia-based Tunebuckle has produced three different belt buckles designed for use with the iPod nano, all of which work in one simple way. You pop the nano into the open back of the buckle, wrap the belt around your waist, and plug your headphones into the nano’s exposed headphone port. Each of the three buckles is made from chromed aluminum, and sold with either a black or white belt, both with subtle red stitching.
TuneBuckle’s Full Moon is a compromise between the company’s most and least protective designs: it covers your nano’s entire face, save its Click Wheel, so that you can change tracks or volume while you’re walking. You have no access to the nano’s screen, so if you need or want that, TuneBuckle’s The Classic (iLounge rating: B) offers full nano face protection; by comparison, the company’s Full Metal Jacket (not yet reviewed) covers its entire face, providing access only to its headphone port.
As with The Original, Full Moon uses a nice chrome body that’s not easy to scratch, though it does show fingerprints and small pinpoint-sized dings easily. Its branding is simple - a TuneBuckle logo on the bottom, oddly, and patent notice on the top - neither visible to most viewers, unlike the Full Metal Jacket, which shows the TuneBuckle logo quite conspicuously on its face. Enough space is provided around the nano’s headphone port that any pair of headphones can be attached, and both the nano’s Dock Connector and Hold switches are covered at all times while locked in. Despite the buckle’s open back, we’ve experienced no accidental nano pop-outs in our testing, and you can feel fairly confident that only an intentionally hard press on nano’s Click Wheel will remove it from the mount.
As a belt - 1.5” in width, and available in five sizes to fit various waistlines - Full Moon is comfortable, not hard on the eyes, and a single peg makes the belt very simple to adjust to your size. The leather looks and feels well made. However, unlike The Classic, which we found to be visually almost as neutral as the iPod inside, Full Moon’s mirrored face and fingerprint susceptibility will endear it more to some users than others: our feeling is that brushed or otherwise non-gloss metal would probably be a better idea for such a wide, potentially reflective buckle. It’s worth only a brief note that while sticker-covered iPods fit inside Full Moon, the only visible part will obviously be the stickered Click Wheel, so there’s little ability to customize this belt’s look once purchased.
Like The Original, Full Moon could be improved. While it adds very significant protection for the iPod’s face, you lose all access to the screen in the process, something that may bother some users. Ideally, you’d have access to both screen and Click Wheel rather than just the latter; your nano becomes a shuffle once inserted here. Different types of metal options, particularly those without as much shine and fingerprint susceptibility, would make this much more appealing to many people. Additional belt colors, including those without red stitching, would also please potential users, and finally, this version’s $70 price tag strikes us as quite high given the compromises it requires you to make.
Though we understand that all wearable iPod accessories - armbands included - are niche products to some extent, we felt comfortable recommending TuneBuckle’s Original design to our readers since it provided a generally neutral visual design and didn’t compromise access to the nano’s most important features. By contrast, Full Moon strikes us as a tougher belt buckle to love - more expensive, more of a usability compromise, and because of its shiny chrome face, less easy to wear around, particularly once you get fingerprints all over it. We were on the edge of B- and C+ ratings here, but ultimately tipped over to the C+ side because of the chrome grime factor, which is basically unavoidable and detracts too much from the product’s ultimate purpose. While we wouldn’t actively dissuade anyone from buying Full Moon, especially given that it’s well-made and does protect your nano quite well, we think that further refinements will make subsequent versions more worthwhile.