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 these offerings, the most significantly redesigned is Griffin’s series of AeroSport Armbands, which sell for $30 a piece and come with four parts: a thin neoprene and clear plastic case, a detachable belt clip, a detachable headphone cord wrap, and a washable armband. Though other companies were pioneers of this multi-component approach to armbands, envisioning that users might want to have a case that could be used without the armband, Griffin is now one of few companies offering this combination; it has done away with its earlier unibody Streamline designs, which we had mixed feelings about.
The good news with the AeroSport Armbands: they perform as expected with today’s iPod nano, iPod classic, and iPod touch models. However, subtle changes to the Click Wheels of the fourth-generation nano—sensitivity tweaks found in software version 1.0.2—and 120GB classic account for differences between these updated models and their predecessors in working with the clear plastic face covers of the AeroSport cases. All 4G nanos work properly with the AeroSport, but updated nanos are more sensitive, while 80GB and 160GB iPod classics don’t respond properly under the clear plastic, but 120GB classics do. The touchscreen controls of the iPod touch 2G work just fine even when coated.
Griffin’s approach to iPod protection inside of these cases isn’t fantastic, but it’s roughly par given what competitors are doing these days. The iPod nano case has big openings in both the top and bottom, while the classic one has three big openings at the top and one at the bottom, and the iPod touch version has two at the top, one at the side, and one at the bottom. On a positive note, you can connect accessories such as the Nike + iPod receiver to any of these iPods while they’re inside AeroSport, but since neither the classic nor the touch needs this accessory—nor, during workouts, any other save headphones—all of these openings seem unnecessary for an armband, providing more points for moisture to intrude on the iPod inside. Why include them? Because you might want access to ports or controls when you’re using the case by itself. You’ll need to decide whether your workouts are likely to be wet enough to care.
All three of the AeroSports come with the same armband: one side is fabric, the other a Velcro-like material that enables you to resize the band to fit small- or medium-sized arms. It’s not as breathable or long as some of the best armbands we’ve seen—in fact, at 14.5” in length, it’s one of the shortest out there, and may be a challenge for users with large-sized biceps. It stretches to a little over 15” if tugged, but we’d recommend it only for small-armed men and women. On the other hand, it’s washable, and contains a miniature pocket for the headphone cord manager. Like the belt clip, this manager does what it’s supposed to do, but isn’t anything fancy; it looks to have been included as a response to Belkin’s release of headphone-managing armbands last year.
Overall, the AeroSports are good but not great multi-piece armbands for the latest iPod nano, iPod classic, and iPod touch models; they wouldn’t be our first picks because of their lackluster approach to back-of-iPod coverage, but their versatility justifies their price tags. We prefer them overall in comfort and design to their Streamline predecessors, however, users concerned about sweat intrusion, breathability, or armband length might find other options to be smarter picks for their iPods.
Company and Price
Company: Griffin Technology
Compatible: iPod nano 4G, iPod classic, iPod touch 2G