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Soft, flexible and cloth-esque, the SportCommand has suitably massive buttons for prodding at with glove-covered hands. We found that, wearing our winter gloves, operation was as expected. It's water resistant, but not water proof. However, unless you enjoy your sports underwater, you're going to be fine out in the snow or rain with this on. The white segment on the front is the battery / receiver unit, and this is, allegedly, more waterproof. We plunged it into water and found no ill effects, so must assume this to be the case. Unlike Apple's own product, you can twist the front off and get at the battery, replacing it as you need to. Belkin doesn't give a shelf-life for the product, but we'd expect to get a good year or so out of it before you need to think about changing the battery.
In the box you get a couple of Velcro loops - a small one that will keep it attached to smaller arms, and a second loop, which attaches to the first, to enable you to strap it around coated arms or legs. These hook in through metal loops on the back of the SportCommand and have super-secure Velcro - once you've attached it, this thing isn't going anywhere. You also get a carabina for you to attach this to a belt or loop or some description. This looks a little lame, but will get the job done.
In practice, the SportCommand works just as you would expect. However, one has to question its point, on some level. You can't do any complex navigation with it, meaning you have to set up a playlist of some sort to start with. Couldn't you just set the volume on the iPod before you put it away, and avoid putting tracks you didn't like in the playlist, meaning you didn't have to skip? Since the iPod is the thing with the headphone connection, you have to make sure you have headphones with a cable long enough to run through to your backpack or wherever it is you decide to stow your iPod away, which can get awkward.
Then we come to value. £46 is simply too much for this product - heck, that's not far off the cost of an iPod Shuffle, which can attach to your clothing and give you the same degree of control over your music, and which is verging on the disposable given the price differential. We all know that extreme sports gear is expensive, and I suspect that Belkin is thinking that this should be no different. But, when competing with products that simply mount your iPod on your arm, or even the possibility of just hitting play and tossing your iPod in your backpack, it's really hard to justify this kind of price for the SportCommand.
Overall, the SportCommand is clearly a product that does what it says on the tin. If you immediately look at this and think - "Yes, finally!" - then you won't be disappointed. However, it's hard not to suggest that anyone hitting the slopes doesn't save a few quid by cutting back on a a couple of beers and spend the extra on an iPod Shuffle instead.
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