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Summary:

Belkin’s SportCommand for iPod (RRP of $79.99)is one of those products that, though definitely not revolutionary, makes you wonder why it hasn’t been done before. Essentially, it’s little more than a remote control for your iPod (with dock connector), in the vein of Griffin’s Airclick, or […]

Belkin’s SportCommand for iPod (RRP of $79.99)is one of those products that, though definitely not revolutionary, makes you wonder why it hasn’t been done before. Essentially, it’s little more than a remote control for your iPod (with dock connector), in the vein of Griffin’s Airclick, or similar offerings found pretty much anywhere.

What makes this Belkin offering unique though is the way that Belkin has customised the normal iPod remote control into something that can be used when active in the outdoors. Belkin’s promo material clearly shows the intended market – essentially Skiiers, Snowboarders, or anyone else intending to get a bit more active with their iPod.

SportCommand Remote


The SportCommand box contains the Remote (with battery, thankfully), a dongle that plugs into the dock connector port of the iPod, a small carabiner and a couple of velcro armbands/straps to get you going. First, the piece that will get the most use – the remote itself – is not your typical piece of apple gadget lust that we all love. It’s functional and actually quite flexible, with large squidgy buttons clearly showing their function with an orange print. I do wonder as to the durability of the printing, but clearly only time can tell. The buttons are easy to use with fat fingered gloved hands, or when stabbing at them at times you can’t look at the remote. The layout has been designed to make most sense when the remote is attached to your arm with the included armbands, so the controls are on a diagonal. This is a nice touch that would really make a difference when out on the hill, hopefully meaning that you know which button does what when using gloved hands, without looking at the remote. The remote is also the piece that sits open to the elements – so Belkin have made the fabric water resistant (not waterproof), which in my thoroughly technical testing under the kitchen tap seemed to be the case.

SportCommand Remote Button Pressed with Gloved Finger

Below the controls sits what hopefully is a relatively waterproof unit that houses the battery and transmitter to the iPod. Inside this is a small LED which glows green when a control has been transmitted to the iPod. For those concerned about battery usage, the SportCommand turns itself off after 30 seconds of inactivity – but there’s no hold switch, which would have been useful to prevent battery wastage when packed in your luggage or chucked in a backpack. The first press of the remote is used to wake the transmitter up, the second then sends a command to the iPod – so many commands out on the hill will take a double press to actually get the required response from the iPod. Also, as it stands, the only way to stop anything waking the Remote up and using battery up is to take the battery out. This isn’t too hard, but a minor inconvenience.

The rear of the remote has two large metal loops to loop the armband through and has a nice, huge surface area of velcro to securely attach the ends of armband to. There is also a small loop for the included carabiner. This loop/carabiner seems a bit gimmicky, but thinking about it, it’s ideal for keeping the remote at the top of a backpack or camelbak which often have small clips for keeping keys attached to. The armband is a kind of neoprene affair, with the required amount of velcro and some rather large Belkin branding, which irks me a bit. I’d much rather it was plain, thanks.

Finally, there is the receiver dongle that plugs into the iPod. I can’t quite decide why Belkin thought it would be a good idea for a large portion of this to stick out at right angles to the iPod itself, however it is flexible so can be positioned and then held by your iPod’s case, tape or similar to the back of the iPod to keep it a little more slimline. The flexibility of the stem is a neat touch – it makes me much less wary about leaving the iPod with this attached in my backpack or inside pocket, and adds only minimal bulk. I think the flexibility of the receiver is probably the reason why Belkin chose the 90 degree angle – making something that curved around the back of the iPod at all times would mean some more rigid plastic at the base, which when pulled upon could tug at the dock connector port unnecessarily.

SportCommand Receiver attached to iPod Video

The SportCommand is a simple product, and should work well when used out on the mountain, in the hills or even in town if you like using your iPod inside a pack or inside pocket. Of course it is not possible to combine more than two dock connector devices at once – not Belkin’s fault, but it rules out using this remote with the Nike+iPod sport kit, or listening to FM radio while using the remote (which requires the Apple branded remote for receiving FM signals). If someone could figure out a way of using multiple accessories through one port, they would be onto a winner product.

I look forward to testing this thoroughly in the mountains over Christmas- but in the meantime I think it would work well for people wishing to use their iPod in the outdoors, leaving it in a pack or pocket while controlling it externally. Of course you still have to get sound from the iPod into your ears, so where-ever you may wish to chuck it you still have to have a headphone cord running out of the iPod up to your head. That reduces the options for stowing your iPod just anywhere, but thats to be expected. In all, I’d recommend it, as I don’t know of any other options on the market. It hits the major features that you would need in such a product, and any design flaws (without extensive in snow testing) seem to be minimal. A great gift for the iPod-loving skiier or snowboarder this Christmas.

If you want to check out more pictures, I suggest you head on over to this flickr photoset, and I’ll update this review with real world testing come January.

  1. I knew I’d seen it before… Griffin’s TuneFlex “features a pass-through dock connector for use in conjunction with other iPod devices.” I look forward to seeing other products like this.

    Thanks for your review. I think I’ll hold off on the initial release version of SportCommand and hope for an improved version 2.

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  2. Ah – so products with a pass through connector do exist. It would have been nice of Belkin to add one on, but I can live without it :)

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  3. Well I like the idea but how do you use the screen or see what your doing ? Right now I have a waterproof case made by H20 Audio … its a little bulkier then this belkin I guess but I can see what I am doing with it. I got it at http://www.DryPodsOnline as they were one of the only places that had the G2 Nano cases …

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  4. That is of course another problem. Apple are fairly clear I think that iPod’s should not be subject to cold temperatures (it’s somewhere in their documentation) as the LCD screens go bad (which has happened to me). So, setting off a playlist just for the job and doing any changes that require interaction with the iPod itself in the Gondola should be OK for me. However, for other outdoors use, it may not be ideal.

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  5. [...] Via The Apple Blog, I received an SportCommand from Belkin for review. You can find the review here, and here’s a flickr photoset of this cool little wintersports accessory, and some pictures from it to get you interested: [...]

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  6. [...] Keith Mason from The Apple Blog has written an extensive review of this gadget. Read it here. [...]

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  7. I give the SportCommand a D- for misrepresentation. Saw all the advertising that involved being on the slopes boarding and skiing and said that’s exactly what I’m looking for ! Well guess what, the product can’t handle temperatures below 0C/32F ! I’ve taken the product to the slopes for 2 days where the temperature was just barely below freezing , both days the remote failed to function after 30 minutes of being outside ! So can you only use the sportcommand for snowboarding in summer ???
    And this is not a defect in my unit , 2 of my boarding buddies are having the same problem… as well as seeing posts on the web about the same issue.

    Another problem I have is with the receiver unit that is attached to the IPOD. The receiver unit continues to drain the IPOD battery even when the IPOD is turned off ! Three nights I have left the reciever unit attached to the IPOD and each morning the battery is totally discharged…. even thought the unit was off !!

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  8. Greg is right. This remote doesn’t work in temps below freezing. Completely useless for winter sports. I was greatly disappointed when I brought this snowboarding and it stopped working after my first run.

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  9. Jeff Hamilton Sunday, January 11, 2009

    I have the same problem with the item— It was 37F today and it stopped working after about 5 minutes on the slopes… Stated on teh box “perfect for snowboarding…”—not perfect if you want to board with snow! DO NOT BUY!!!

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  10. Perfect for my use, I set up marine speakers in my bathroom above my hot tub, can works perfectly, was able to set up mini digital t amp in linen closet where I connect ipod. Great water resistant sound in my bathroom on the cheap. Speakers were Pioneer marine 6.5 inch triaxials.

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