Phone Armband Comparison and Review – or – “How is a phone armband like a car?”

This is post 3 of 4 discussing why and how you should carry your phone while you run.  The previous two posts, if you missed them, presented the reasons you should carry your phone (safety, motivation, etc), and compared three heavy duty cases that can take whatever you can dish out on a run.  This post will compare three armbands that I have used to carry my phone and hopefully help you decide on an armband that will best suit your needs.

Just a couple of details about these armbands before I dive into the comparison. First, you will note that these armbands are rather expensive (at least I think they are).  I did not put an emphasis on finding an inexpensive armband because I take my phone with me each time I run and I need to know that I made the best purchase to protect my most expensive piece of running gear.  I am training for two ultra marathons this year and the last thing I want to be thinking about while I train is whether or not my armband is going to hold up while I run.  Second, I’m a bit of a car nut in addition to being a runner, and I compared each of these cases to a different type of vehicle to help you get a picture of what these cases are like.  If that doesn’t translate while you are reading this comparison, please leave a comment.  I’d be happy to discuss these armbands or any other running gear you’d like.  With that, let’s get to it.

The zippy little convertibleAmphipod Armpod, $24.95, www.amphipod.com

ArmpodThe Amphipod Armpod is by far the smallest and least intrusive of the cases I am comparing here.  It uses one of the more creative methods to secure your phone to the armband that I’ve seen.  It has a small bungee cord that is designed to fit over the four corners of your phone and hold it in place.  The cord can be tightened to make sure your phone is secure, and this feature allows the Armpod to be used with any phone except the very biggest (Samsung Galaxy Note series).  The drawback here though is that I am never truly confident that this armband has a secure enough hold on my phone, and I am continually checking to make sure the bungee is as tight as possible.

The Armpod has a detachable armband that allows it to be secured to an Amphipod race belt.  A nice feature, but the drawback is that the fabric used for the armband seems to have been an afterthought and it is a bit lacking.  It isn’t very comfortable, and it should be longer.  If, unlike me you are able to “sell tickets to the gun show”, or if your arms are regularly mistaken for pythons, this armband will definitely be too small for you.

The Armpod also comes with a “detachable moisture protective hood”.  This phrase should instead be written as, “a little piece of neoprene that you can try to fit over your phone to fool yourself into thinking it is protected from the elements, but you will surrender your ability to use any functions on your phone while this silly thing is in place – assuming you didn’t lose it immediately after opening the box”.  Enough said there.

Lest I sound like I am down on Amphipod, I genuinely like the Amphipod brand.  I think they come up with some really innovative running gear.  I use their Airstretch belt for my hydration and it is by far my favorite running belt.

This armband is like a zippy little convertible because it is lightweight, it has no frills, it does the basic job of carrying your phone, but it doesn’t guarantee you any protection should your phone need any.

Armpod Pros:

-  Able to carry all but the largest phones

-  Provides excellent access to your phone and all buttons and controls

-  Detachable armband allows the Armpod to be attached to an Amphipod race belt

-  Price

Armpod Cons:

-  No realistic weather/splash protection for your phone

-  While the bungee securing the phone to the armband is a great idea, I question it’s ability to keep my phone safe when I run.

-  The armband itself should be a bit longer.

The $200K supercarLifeproof Armband for Fre, $49.99, www.lifeproof.com

Lifeproof ArmbandThe Lifeproof armband for Fre is the simplest armband in this review, but it is also the most elegant.  When I bought my first Lifeproof case while I was using an iPhone 4, I avoided the armband because I thought it was too expensive for something as simple as an armband that didn’t have any pockets to carry keys or gels.  After upgrading to the iPhone 5, I was able to take a closer look at the armband and I decided to buy it right away.  Upon opening the box, you will notice that the armband is incredibly long and seems as though it wasn’t completely assembled at the factory.  This is intentional.  Lifeproof provides you with instructions for sizing the armband to give a custom fit that goes beyond just the velcro that secures the it to your arm.  By cutting the armband to length the Lifeproof armband will be able to securely hug your arm with silicone dots that do not slip when you sweat.  By using silicone rather than just simple neoprene to secure their armband, Lifeproof allows the material for their armband to be very thin and breathable.

The cradle for the Lifeproof case is the best feature of this armband.  Your phone is secured at 5 points (each corner and at the top center) to ensure it stays put in the armband.  This is an infinitely more secure fit than the Armpod mentioned above.  At the top of the case is a clip that holds your phone in place.  This clip is the only moving part of the armband and is the entry/exit point for your phone.  Lifeproof went above and beyond with this seemingly simple clip though because rather than being just a mere clip, it is spring loaded to prevent your phone from accidentally becoming dislodged.  They also went above and beyond with the design of this clip because only one hand is needed to insert or remove your phone from the armband.  To provide backup for the spring loaded clip, Lifeproof incorporated a safety button for the clip that locks it in place.  When the lock is engaged, there is no possible way your phone can get out of this carrier in one piece.  Because there is such a secure locking mechanism in their armband, all of you triathletes out there can use your Lifeproof case and armband while you swim, provided you have waterproof earphones.

For comfort on long runs Lifeproof added a thick foam cushion to the back of their armband.  I wore this armband over the weekend during a 4 hour event and felt no discomfort at all.

The Lifeproof armband for Fre is like a $200K supercar because it is light, agile, and made from the best possible materials.  This armband is like a $200K supercar also because it does only one thing, carry your phone.  It carries your phone very, very well, but that’s all it does.  I can’t stash a key, ID, or a gel anywhere on this armband.  Not a problem for a 1 or 2 hour run, but for anything longer than that, I need to have something else to carry my other running essentials.  Lastly, this armband is like a $200K supercar because it is very exclusive.  It will only work if you have a Lifeproof case for your iPhone.  At the time of writing, Lifeproof has cases for the Samsung Galaxy SIII and SIV, but no armband yet.  Please note, if buying this armband, you must pay close attention to make sure you get the correct size, either for your iPhone 4/4S or iPhone 5/5C/5S.

Lifeproof Pros:

-  Secure carrier for your phone that firmly locks it in place (this assumes you are carrying your iPhone in the Lifeproof case)

-  One handed entry/exit from the armband

-  Well designed “one size fits all” neoprene stays put on your arm

-  Thick slab of foam and neoprene keeps the armband comfortable during even the longest runs

Lifeproof Cons:

-  Price – this is an expensive armband.

-  No way for this armband to carry/secure anything else – gels, keys, etc.

-  Can be used with Lifeproof cases only

The super-charged, high-end, full-sized sport-utility vehicleArmpocket i30, $39.95, www.armpocket.com

i30_black_5_1I’ve been running with an Armpocket armband for a couple of years now and I personally think they give the most bang for your buck when it comes to an armband.  They are on the higher end of the price scale, but there is no question that you get quite a bit more for your money.  First, they truly offer a pocket, not just a carrier for your phone.  I used Armpockets while training for and running ultra marathons and never lacked the ability to carry anything I needed to carry.  There is enough room in the i30 for my iPhone, keys, nutrition, ID, credit card, and a travel size sunscreen.

Armpocket builds all of their models with the same comfortable velcro strap and generous pocket with memory foam backing for comfort during a long run.  I have been genuinely surprised while running with it during the summer because their armbands do not seem to trap any heat.

By having a pocket on my arm that can hold so much, I was originally concerned that it would be heavy and bulky.  Quite the opposite is true.  Because the strap is so comfortable and the pocket is backed with memory foam, I do not notice any significant weight when wearing the Armpocket.

Because armbands are all that Armpocket creates and sells, they have done an excellent job making sure their products are made from the best possible materials and function as well as any armband can.

The Armpocket i30 is like a super-charged, high-end sport-utility vehicle because it is light and able to move with me easily.  It carries all I need while on a run without any problem, and it carries it all while protecting it from the weather and any sports drink I might spill.

Armpocket Pros:

-  Can carry your phone while inside a case regardless of which phone/case you have

-  Carries phone, ID, credit card/cash, 1-2 keys, and a couple of gels with ease

-  Comfortable neoprene strap with memory foam cushion on the back of the pocket

-  Weather protection with full access to touchscreen functions

Armpocket Cons:

-  Difficult to completely rinse the interior when cleaning

-  Rather large (but if you need to carry a lot, this is the best way to do it)

I hope this comparison gives you more practical information to make the best decision for protecting your technology while carrying all you need during your run, bike, swim, etc.  Right now, I currently switch between the Armpocket and the Lifeproof armbands.  Because I am a complete Lifeproof fanboy, I probably won’t use the Amphipod too much any more, but their strength is in their hydration belts and safety gear.  More on those items in future posts.

Do you have any experience with these or any other armbands that perform as well as those in this comparison?  Leave a comment and let us know.  I’d love to know if there is something better out there to try.  If you have any questions about these or any other armbands, please leave a comment.  I’d be more than happy to discuss.

Respect the Run!

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailJonathan Keeth is a proud father of two and the husband to a beautiful and longsuffering wife who tolerates his obsession with running shoes and gear. Jonathan is the author of odyssey100.com where he blogs about his two great goals, training for his first 100 mile race and losing 100 lbs so he never has to register for a race in the hippo class again.  Follow him on Twitter: @odysy100

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2 Responses to Phone Armband Comparison and Review – or – “How is a phone armband like a car?”

  1. txa1265 says:

    Another great round-up! I am terrible about running with my phone in the mornings, but good about it on weekends or afternoons. That is stupid I know …

    But I have a Magellan Echo – it connects to MapMyRun (and other apps) via Bluetooth and acts as a display/controller. That means I have to carry my phone – seems like a good idea!

  2. Paula Kiger (Big Green Pen) says:

    Jonathan, thank you for this review. My armband quandary is one of my biggest ones as a runner!! Anything that relies on Velcro runs into a problem eventually b/c the Velcro wears out. I solved that (kind of) by moving to a Belkin that has more of a buckle/snap closed (?) mechanism. BUT the phone slides in from the top and is held in by a little flap that closes with (wait for it!) VELCRO. I worry that velcro’s gonna wear out and then out will come the phone! I had an old “Old Navy” one that was very basic but the phone just slid in to the top, which was a very elegant design.

    Guess nothing’s perfect; I enjoyed your review!

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