Review: XtremeMac Sportwrap LED for iPhone 5 + iPod touch 5G
iPods -- and even iPhones -- have become essential workout partners for many athletes over the past decade. Numerous accessories have been released to let users easily wear Apple's pocket devices, most notably including armbands. Today, we're looking at three recently released armbands for the iPhone 5, the last of which also supports the fifth-generation iPod touch: Belkin's Ease-Fit Armband ($20), Incase's Sports Armband ($40), and XtremeMac's Sportwrap LED ($80). Despite the considerable price differences, their basic features are the same; Sportwrap LED is the only one with a truly unique feature.
By comparison with the $20 Ease-Fit and $40 Sports Armband, there’s no question that $80 is a lot to spend on an iPhone armband, and apart from submersible waterproof versions, we can’t recall any competitor even coming close in the past. Sportwrap LED tries to justify its asking price with a novel feature or two that may be worth the extra dollars for some people. Like the others in this category, the accessory straps around your bicep, and the band is secured with Velcro. Rather than just including a slot for inserting your iPhone or iPod touch, the entire back panel of the main compartment can be detached and reattached, also using Velcro. The newest versions of each device fit snugly, in either orientation, within a raised, shaped clear plastic holder; their screens press right against the protector. This makes using touch controls easier with Sportwrap LED than with either Ease-Fit Armband or Sports Armband. There are openings for the headphone port at all four corners, enabling you to turn either device upside down. From end to end, the armband is about 19” long, making it the best option in this group for muscular folks.
While the iPhone and iPod touch compatibility is nice, what really sets Sportwrap LED apart from the others can be guessed from its name: on either side of the pocket are a pair of LEDs, red on the left, white on the right. Although it’s not entirely intuitive at first, requiring three button presses to turn the LED system on, these lights can be activated to either flash in an alternating pattern or stay lit up. For those who run or walk at night, this is a potentially huge safety feature. It’s activated by pressing a semi-hidden button between the two red lights three times for flashing, and a fourth for steady. Immediately to the left of the button is a Micro-USB port under a rubber flap. A USB cable is included for recharging the lights in the armband, and since XtremeMac doesn’t say just how long a single charge lasts, recharging after each use is the safest thing to do.
Of the three armbands here, Belkin’s Ease-Fit Armband is easily the best value but it comes with a caveat; users with large arms won’t be able to use it comfortably or at all. Still, it’s a well-constructed armband, and the most affordable of the bunch. If the stated diameter is enough to fit you, we’d strongly recommend it, given the design and price. Sports Armband is also quite nice, and has a couple of added features that merit a general recommendation—that said, it’s a little too expensive, given how much of the same experience you’d get from Ease-Fit for half the price. We’d suggest Sports Armband for users with larger but not huge arms. Finally, there’s Sportwrap LED. The high price restricts its appeal quite a bit; most users will be fine off with either of the other options, and could use the spare $40 or $60 to buy a new reflective shirt to run in. Yet users who frequently find themselves walking or running at night might find the illuminating feature worthwhile. As such, it earns a limited recommendation.