We could debate the merits of wearing an iPod nano (s aapl) as a watch until the cows come home, but chances are the downsides won’t dissuade the dedicated Apple enthusiast anyway, so what say we just get right to the business of finding the perfect watchband accessory?
I’m narrowing my focus to only two contenders for the title of top iPod nano watchband, reason being that the others I’ve tried didn’t come close in terms of quality and performance. It also helps that both the iWatchz (don’t ask me how to pronounce that) Q Collection and the Minimal TikTok are roughly the same price ($24.95 and $34.95 respectively) and share similar design principles (as you can see in the gallery below).
The iWatchz Q Collection is one of two nano wristbands currently available through Apple retail, and it can also be found at Best Buy (s bby) locations. The TikTok, on the other hand, is a Kickstarter-funded project currently only available for pre-order directly from LunaTik.com. Based on physical appearance alone, you’d be forgiven for thinking the two are virtually the same, but you’d also be very wrong.
Design and Build
Both these nano straps share a fairly similar design. There’s a notched silicone band attached to a plastic holder for your nano. The Q’s nano clip is made of a thin piece of hard plastic, while the TikTok features a thicker and slightly more flexible hard plastic mount to keep your iPod in place.
But once you get a look at both close up, the differences are instantly apparent. The iWatchz Q has all the hallmarks of a mass-produced product, with poorly finished surfaces on the hard plastic parts that feel rough enough to potentially scratch skin. One reviewer at the Apple Store online even noted that he’d used a Dremel tool to correct this oversight himself at home, and checking other units in-store at both Apple and Best Buy, I found the problem to be far from a one-off.
The TikTok, on the other hand, tells the story of its design chops in the attention paid to fit and finish. Minimal founder Scott Wilson isn’t new to the watch game, having worked with Nike (s nke) on its time pieces, and he had a hand in the redesign of the Xbox 360 (s msft) and its Kinect peripheral. While the TikTok is a little more understated than the new look for Microsoft’s console, the differences in craftsmanship between nano straps are easy to spot even for the casual observer.
Both products strive to integrate the nano fully, making the accessory and iPod together look like a watch first and media player second (if at all). The TikTok is slightly bulkier, while the Q does a very good job at approaching maximum minimalism with its “just the basics approach.” The Q also offers many color options besides the black version I tested, while the TikTok is available only in black.
Comfort and Usability
Looking at early nano watchband designs, my main concern was that I wouldn’t find one that fit comfortably enough for all-day use. Both iWatchz and Minimal seem to have anticipated this worry, as the silicone band surfaces and lightweight plastic materials used in each make them quite easy on the wrist.
If either of the two gets the edge, it’s the Q, since it’s slightly lighter overall and really feels almost like you’re not wearing anything at all. Neither design provides cause for complaint in this regard, though. Women and those with slender risks might want to test out any iPod nano watchbands in-store prior to committing a purchase, however, since the nano itself takes up considerable space on the wrist. If you try the Q and find it works well, the TikTok will pose no problems either.
Both watchbands are also easy to use, though this time it’s the TikTok that gains the upper hand. The Q has a two-band system for securing excess strap once you’ve fastened it on your wrist at the desired size, but this can lead to some awkward fumbling, and it tends to get stuck a bit on the strap itself since both surfaces are rubberized. The TikTok uses an innovative and highly customizable hard plastic peg adjustment system that makes right-sizing and securing excess band a piece of cake.
Both provide access to all ports/buttons, so you can actually use the iPod as an iPod while you’re wearing it, though I’ve found that doing so feels clunky at best no matter what strap you’re using. Getting the nano in and out is not difficult with either band, though here too, the additional attention to detail paid in the TikTok’s design process is evident. Snapping the nano in and out of the TikTok makes the accessory feel like it was designed in-house at Apple itself.
Is wearing the iPod nano a good idea? Some say not, but I have no problem pressing a button to see the time. It’s not like the nano is the only watch that requires this (see most of Tokyoflash’s line, for instance). And people say the battery is an issue, but I’ve gotten at least a week out of nano, when using it exclusively as a watch.
Whether or not it’s a good idea, if you’re going to wear a nano as a watch, do it with the TikTok. The TikTok is the only watch I’ve been complemented on by strangers (and I have a fairly large watch collection). It feels great, isn’t that expensive, and it’s an example of drool-worthy industrial design that you can carry with you anywhere. At first glance, the Q may look like a worthy competitor, but after prolonged wear and a close look, the TikTok’s emphasis on good design easily carries the day.
Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):
- 5 Companies That Ruled Mobile in 2010
- 5 Connected Consumer Companies to Watch in 2011
- 5 Connected Consumer Companies That Ruled 2010