You probably know the design I’m talking about, right? A black vinyl body with a little key image above a small stash pocket, and an “A” and “B” right below the spaces for the strap. A clear plastic screen where the phone goes. A stretchy neoprene back, and a several inches of velcro to fasten it around your upper arm. The design is the same, even if the brand name changes.
And the brand names of these running armbands certainly do vary, ranging from what sounds like some sort of exotic fish – Moko – to what I assume is a porn site – GFKing – all the way up to what I imagine is the kind of crystal I’d use to charge my laser blaster at the Dawn of the End Times – Trianium. Another one I’ll throw in is Portholic, which must be the adjectival form of “porthole,” which Webster’s tells me is “a small exterior window of a ship or craft.” Go figure. (Update: there is also Sportholic. I assume this is the adjectival form of “sporthole).”
Some other gems include Newild, Maxboost, Tribe, Minisuit, Deego, Senbor, IXCC, i2 Gear, and Insten. Every single one is merely a rebadged version of the same fundamental, and mediocre design. The prices range from $4.99 to $15.99. Many of these have dozens, or even hundreds of reviews – most of them positive, likely because they were written within the first week of ownership.
And yet, the case is awful. After a few months, the elastic armband stretches. The stitching that affixed the velcro to the strap starts to come loose. The cheap glue that helps the screen protector adhere to the body of the case starts to wear away. Why do people keep buying – and positively reviewing – these dumb cases? Maybe they’re too generous? Maybe they have low standards? Maybe it’s Maybelline?
Whatever it is, and I doubt it’s the last option, these stupid cases have dented runners wallets, and it’s time for folks to know some of the better cases out there. So I went deep and personally reviewed two cases that I think are actually worth spending a few bucks on.
The Tuneband Go checks many of the boxes a runner with a phone would want: it’s quick to slip your phone in and out, it’s secure, and the velcro actually stays affixed to the elastic, unlike aforementioned crap cases. The metal clips that hold your phone to the plastic backing take a little getting used to, but it becomes second nature after one or two uses. Perhaps most importantly, I didn’t need to remove my phone from its standard Spigen case in order to use it with the Tuneband Go.
The Tuneband Go fits most larger-sized Android and iOS devices, and so you’re not out $20 when you decide to jump from a Samsung device to the upcoming iPhone. The Go has a sister case – just called the Tuneband – which is recommended by The Wirecutter. However, we have two kvetches: (a) it’s device specific, so if you decide to upgrade from an iPhone 6S to an iPhone 7, you’ll need to purchase a new armband. (b) The Tuneband can’t be used with whatever case your device currently has, meaning that you’ll need to pry off your Otterbox case before using the Tuneband. In contrast, the Tuneband Go accommodates most – though not all – cases, so there’s less transition time before you hit the road.
I’ve been running with the Tuneband Go for nearly a year, and I’ve been pleased with its build quality, utility, and versatility.
At $17, the TuneBelt is a really great option. Like the Tuneband, I’ve used it for about a year, and it’s held up remarkably well. Unlike all the previous, bad options, the TuneBelt’s clear plastic screen cover has remained glued on, the elastic armband has remained stretchy, and the velcro remains attached.
The neoprene case itself has just a little bit of heft to it, which I felt protected my iPhone from more colder temps and rain. The Wirecutter noted that the TuneBelt caused chafing between the strap and the side of a runner’s chest, but I haven’t found that to be the case (hah!).
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