Belkin Sport-Fit Pro Armband for iPhone 7 Plus: Comfortable, but barely usable

The Belkin Sport-Fit Pro Armband for iPhone 7 Plus. 

The Belkin Sport-Fit Pro Armband for iPhone 7 Plus. 

A while back I did a review of an armband for an Apple Watch...and when I mean armband, I mean something that's meant to be strapped to your upper arm. I thought it was a little odd -- I mean, first there's the fact that Apple Watches have a wristband, and second, an Apple Watch is kind of worthless unless there's an iPhone nearby (at least until Apple adds a cellular modem to it). Belkin's Sport-Fit Pro Armband (US$39.95) is a better idea, in theory giving sports-minded Apple fans a way to carry the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus while engaging in all sorts of athletic activity. As you'll find in this review, this accessory has a serious issue that makes use of your iPhone 7 or 7 Plus in a normal manner almost impossible.

Design

The design of the Sport-Fit Pro Armband is actually pretty simple; it's a large neoprene shock-absorbing "wallet" for the iPhone with a flexible clear plastic window on the front. On the sides of the iPhone "wallet" are a pair of polycarbonate loops that hold a neoprene and Velcro® strap that's easily adjustable to just about any arm diameter.

Unlike earlier versions of this armband, the iPhone 7 / 7 Plus version only comes in one color - black. 

Function

Testing the armband, I was interested to see if it was comfortable, stayed tightly attached to my arm, and gave me full access to the iPhone 7 Plus. 

To start with, the armband is comfortable enough for most uses. It does tend to get a bit sweaty when the weather is warm, which means that it's a good thing this is hand washable. It's not super comfortable, but when you think about the something the size of an iPhone 7 Plus strapped to your arm, it's as good as it gets...

What's next? Strapping a MacBook Pro to your arm? Photo ©2017, Steven Sande

What's next? Strapping a MacBook Pro to your arm? Photo ©2017, Steven Sande

Did it stay attached to my arm? Yes. I secured the armband fairly tightly with the Velcro and the iPhone stayed put, even when I was doing yard work. 

Now here's the problem with the Sport-Fit Pro Armband... it doesn't work at all with the Home button on the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus. I'm not talking about just Touch ID -- I mean that you cannot unlock the device, even with a passcode. You know how an iPhone displays the "Press home to unlock" message? You can press the iPhone's home button all day if you want and you're not going to get the ability to enter a passcode or use Touch ID, or even return to the home screen from an app.

This is a seriously bad omission from the design of something that's supposed to work with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Since the devices are already waterproof, making a small circular opening in the plastic "window" wouldn't have compromised waterproofness at all and it would have made the Armband useful. As it is, it's a great way to carry the iPhone as long as you have AirPods and an Apple Watch to actually listen to music or interface with your fitness apps. 

I'm betting that Belkin took the lazy way out with this product and just re-boxed leftovers from the iPhone 6/6s/Plus era as iPhone 7-compatible, as there's a small opening for plugging in earbuds...in the position where the old audio jack used to be. Fortunately Belkin did manage to put a small port on the bottom back of the armband to plug in Lightning earbuds.

Conclusion

Although it's as comfortable as it should be and stays in place while doing work or exercising, the lack of ability to "have full access to the haptic sensor in your iPhone" seriously compromises the usability of this product. Those things you see in the marketing video above aren't possible unless you unlock your iPhone and set it to never go to sleep before you put it into the armband. 

Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★