Year after year, iPod armbands from major developers have remained virtually unchanged, but 2008 is different: for the first time in many moons, most of the latest armbands for iPod nano and iPod touch models have actually diverged from their predecessors. Today, we’re looking at a total of nine new armbands from four companies: Belkin, DLO, Griffin, and Incase. Each company has a fourth-generation iPod nano armband and a second-generation iPod touch armband; Griffin also has a 120GB iPod classic version. They run between $20 and $35, a fairly significant price spread given that they all do pretty much the same thing.
Of all of the armbands in today’s roundup, Belkin’s new Sport Armbands for iPod nano 4G ($20) and iPod touch 2G ($25) are the best values for the dollar. Attractively and generally thoughtfully designed, they update last year’s same-named products, which included miniature pockets for gym keys and soft, adjustable Velcro armbands. As with Incase’s Sports Armbands, you can’t remove the iPod pouch portions from the armbands, but you’re not paying the sort of price that might make you expect such a feature, either.
The front of each armband has an interesting mix of vinyl and clear plastic, framing the iPod with reflective material while providing full use of its screen and controls. The back of each armband is a mix of neoprene and rubber, the latter used for a brand new cash pocket that’s nestled behind the iPod. Belkin’s larger iPod touch version of the case is also capable of holding a credit or ID card. Additionally, there are now two places to thread the armband depending on how tight you want it to be on your bicep; one of the positions obscures the gym key slot on the armband’s right side. Each armband measures 17 inches before being doubled over, which is as long as any of the options reviewed today.
Like all of its peers in the roundup, Belkin hasn’t sealed as much of either iPod off from moisture intrusion as it could have. Each case has a full-width hole for iPod insertion, and holes on the bottom for both headphones and Dock Connector accessories. Obviously, the iPod touch doesn’t need such an accessory hole, but the nano’s hole works with the Nike + iPod Sport Kit Receiver; they’re both compatible with oversized headphones, as well. In our view, providing one dual-purpose insertion and port hole for each iPod would have been a better idea—neither device’s top really needs to be fully accessible inside an armband—but virtually all of the armbands we’ve seen so far for these iPods, except Apple’s, make the same protectiveness mistake.
Overall, these Sport Armbands provide an excellent value relative to their peers; the iPod nano version falls $10 under Apple’s price and offers only slightly diminished protection, while the iPod touch version is a little less expensive than the competitors we look at today. Both are worthy of our high recommendation, but with the same caveat: if you need a case that’s more completely sealed against moisture intrusion, or offers a more breathable armband, you might want to consider other options.
Company and Price
Model: Sport Armband
Compatible: iPod nano (4G), iPod touch (2G)