Pros: Quality iPod shuffle-matching armband that holds the shuffle and your arm securely; though simplistic, the design has proven better aesthetically in one previous generation (iPod mini) than most competitors.
Cons: No protection for the iPod shuffle when mounted, a bit pricey for such simple components.
Released third in Apple Computer’s series of first-party iPod shuffle accessories is the one most prominently advertised: the iPod shuffle Armband ($29) is a light gray version of Apple’s black neoprene, Velcro, metal and white glossy plastic iPod mini Armband launched one year ago. Conceptually, the two Armband offerings are identical: you wrap the neoprene band around your arm, using a metal loop to double one of its sides back against the other, and fasten those sides together with strips of Velcro. The iPod is held in place with a plastic clip.
The shuffle Armband differs in three primary ways from the mini Armband: it is thinner, lighter, and uses a different style of plastic iPod clip. For the first two reasons, the new Armband – along with the shuffle that goes inside – is even easier to exercise with than before, and – headphone cord aside – is less noticeable no matter what you’re doing.
Like its lanyard cap, Apple’s new plastic Armband clip takes advantage of the iPod shuffle’s USB 2.0 plug, which snaps into place in the clip’s base. Since Apple’s clips use ball bearings that lock into the USB plug, you can turn the shuffle upside down in the Armband without worrying about anything falling out. Admittedly, there’s less reason to do this with the screenless shuffle than there was with the iPod mini, but if you want the headphone port to be upside down, it can be. The clip’s hard plastic backing plate runs across the shuffle’s back up to its power switch, which can be toggled through all three positions even when fully mounted.
In addition to its small size, light weight, and easy shuffle mounting, the new Armband is arguably even more stylish than its predecessor, looking almost like a fashion accessory rather than an exercise aid.
This is partially due to the simplicity of the iPod shuffle and the sophistication of Apple’s choice of complementary gray neoprene rather than contrasting black. But it’s also a statement about most of the competing armband accessories other companies have released for iPods: Apple’s don’t look anywhere near as bulky or goofy as the worst of them, and work almost as well as the best of them.
We use the word “almost” for only one reason. Companies such as Speck have released almost identical armbands that accommodate encased iPods, which Apple’s shuffle and mini Armbands do not. Other companies have released neoprene iPod armband sacks, as well.