It’s not difficult to make a good iPod armband. But certain companies are decidedly better than others, especially when dealing with the iPod nano, as the most recent crop of armband accessories demonstrates. Today, we look briefly at new options from Capdase, CoverCase, Nike, and Speck; this review covers Nike’s Sport Armband for the third-generation iPod nano ($29).
What a difference a little bit of extra time and thought can make. Nike has had some ups and downs with its iPod Sport Armbands, but the latest version—specific to the video-ready iPod nano—is dramatically improved from the prior Nike+ Sport Armband, which shipped without any ability to see the nano’s screen. The new version includes clear plastic screen and control access, nearly complete body protection, Nike + iPod Sport Kit compatibility, and a simplified Velcro system.
It’s interesting to see how Nike and Apple differed in their approaches to nano armband design. Unlike Apple, which uses a 17” long band with an inch of doubled-over fabric in its iPod nano Armband, Nike went with a smaller 14” band with fabric that can double over as little as half an inch, or as much as two inches, depending on the arm that’s inside. Nike’s now one-size-fits-all armband is unquestionably not as well-suited to users with larger arms, and is a little more challenging to wrap around any arm at first—one of the design’s only major issues—but feels very snug on a small- to medium-sized arm.
Most of the armbands’ other characteristics are a little bit different from one another, but not hugely better in one design that the other. The black and red, Dri-Fit-like thin, stretchable fabric provides more surface area for an attractive, reflective gray dot pattern that helps improve the armband’s (and wearer’s) visibility at night—Apple’s light gray Armband does a great job of standing out on its own. Similarly, Apple’s front plastic protector, dual-coated with glossy and matte surfaces, is a little nicer than Nike’s all glossy one, but both feature tactile Action button covers that let you know where your finger is without looking down at the nano.
Where the two designs differ most is in their approach to support for the Nike + iPod Sport Kit: Apple uses a simple Velcro tab to cover the nano’s bottom with or without the Kit attached, while Nike instead has a little pocket for the Receiver attachment, covering it completely rather than partially. You can also use a nano without the Receiver attached, without any problem. Both cases do have rear slits for nano insertion, however, which means that moisture from inside your arm can get inside; the Apple version is better here if you’re not using the Kit, and the Nike one does better if you are.
Since they’re both priced the same and have different assets, we consider Apple’s and Nike’s iPod nano armbands to be peers overall, rather than one being decidedly superior to the other. We’d pick the Apple version first if you’re using the nano alone, and the Nike version if you’re using the Sport Kit, but either one—and other top competing options we’ve previously reviewed—will satisfy any user except for ones requiring guaranteed splashproof protection. In those cases, look to Otter Products’ more expensive Defender for iPod nano and optional armband attachment instead.
Company and Price
Model: Sport Armband for iPod nano
Compatible: iPod nano (video)