This review was originally posted on Technoodling.net, and looks much cooler on their bad-ass black template.
Any technology geek worth his weight in Wired Magazine back issues knows this: The holiest of Holy Grails is the ability to seamlessly integrate the various doodads in one’s arsenal of gadgetry with the day-to-day minutiae of everyday living.
Some devices, such as Apple’s exquisitely-designed, exquisitely-tiny 6th generation iPod nano, need incredibly little effort to achieve this goal. At roughly 1.5-inches and just a hair over 20 grams – roughly the weight of two sachets of ketchup at your neighborhood Jollibee – this sleek anodized aluminum beauty was made to just go with you.
HEX (http://shophex.com), a recent entrant into Apple’s bustling accessory ecosystem with the vision of bringing “glamour to gadgets and substance to style,” believes they can take the iPod nano’s sublime “go-ability” to more joyous – and hopefully even more stylish – heights with its devastatingly cool new offering, the HEX Original watch band, which, as the name suggests, takes your iPod nano off of its precarious perch clipped onto one’s shirt or pants, and places it smack-dab on one’s wrist as a fully-functional watch.
First things first – if you’re a watch enthusiast who favors the muted elegance of “real” complicated timepieces, then the HEX Original is not a product for you. Molded out of a single piece of premium silicone, it screams with the kitschy “toy watch” aesthetic favoured by today’s hipster crowd. And while available in such discreet colorways as black, white, gray, and even a translucent clear option, the real joy in the HEX lies in color-keying it with one’s iPod nano through its tastier palette options – sky blue, tangerine orange, lime green, racing red, or tulip pink.
I personally tend towards more youthful, sporty watches, so I have no issues with using my HEX-garbed iPod nano as a primary watch. People with more conservative tastes may feel otherwise however, and may want to explore using more subdued options from other designers – or even an ordinary nylon watch strap, if they so wish.
It’s as easy as pie to pop one’s iPod into the HEX Original. It literally took me 8 seconds to do it the first time, and I found it to be a perfectly snug fit. They weren’t kidding when they described the watch band as having a “pop-in, pop-out” design. Those are the only four words you’ll ever have to keep in mind as you load it up with your nano.
The silicone sleeve itself sat flush against the nano’s screen, giving me confidence that my diminutive iPod would be well-protected even in the event of a light rainshower or a minor sandstorm – although the manufacturer is very firm in stating that it does not waterproof one’s iPod nano. Scuba divers be warned.
Practically the entire accessibility of one’s iPod nano is preserved, as the HEX is moulded with buttons that line up perfectly with the volume and power buttons on one’s iPod, with no drop in responsiveness. It also orients the iPod’s audio jack in a way that lets you discreetly snake your earphones directly up your shirt or jacket sleeve and out your collar for undercover music-listening pleasure – although lefties will want to wear the watch band with the clasp inverted if they wish to retain the same functionality on their opposite hand.
I did appreciate a thoughtful little touch that HEX invested on this accessory. When not in use, the hole punched out for the audio jack is covered by a silicone flap that seals seamlessly into the body of the watch strap and is held in place by a 1-centimeter nub that actually plugs into the jack, protecting it from infiltration by dust and moisture.
The one thing you do sacrifice however is the accessibility of your iPod’s proprietary 30-pin port, as the HEX’s design leaves it completely obscured. It was a minor inconvenience having to pop my iPod out of the strap every night when I wanted to charge it or update its contents, but given that this isn’t a particularly difficult or time-consuming task, it was an inconvenience I just learned to accept.
To be honest, I did have initial concerns with the build quality of the HEX Original. My first impression as I was taking it out of its box was that it felt very flimsy and light. I had been hoping it would feel sturdier, more substantial. In its virgin form, the watch band felt rather cheap.
The manufacturer however makes it a point to demonstrate the quality and toughness of the premium silicone that they use via a video demonstration. And it’s a convincing argument; as someone who tends to smoke with my arm hanging out of the car’s window as I race down the Skyway on my way to work, I never felt that my iPod nano was in danger of accidentally popping out and smashing against the freeway due to a less-than-perfectly-tailored fit.
Real World Practicality
Ultimately, I needed to road-test the HEX Original watch band under the most strenuous real-world conditions. One thing popped to mind: a three-day span at the gym, to see how it delivered on such practical considerations as comfort, durability, flexibility, non-intrusiveness, and overall “cool factor.”
(This is a product, after all, that includes being “too cool for school” as one of the key attributes on its feature page.)
My initial concern was that unlike traditional iPod arm straps that allow you to tuck it high up on your bicep, relatively out-of-the-way as you flail and stretch away on the treadmill or the bench press, the HEX would be constrictive, blocking the range of motion on my wrists as I sweated it out on the weights section.
This fear turned out to be unfounded. The HEX proved to be completely unobtrusive, although I did have to wear the strap one hole looser so I could slide it slightly higher up my wrist. I hardly felt as if it was there and, with some creative maneuvering of my earphones’ wire up my jersey, found that I could swing my limbs in any direction without having to be wary of disengaging the buds from my ears, or snagging the wire on some equipment. It was a joy being able to take a quick glance at my iPod on my wrist to check the time, or my progress on the nano’s built-in pedometer, instead of having to fumble in my pocket, or contort my neck in awkward positions to view it clipped onto my shirt front. The HEX Original places the iPod nano where it feels most natural and useful – perched on one’s wrist, instantly accessible, instantly controllable.
I even had a couple of fellow gym-goers walk up to me and inquire about my wrist-mounted iPod. The HEX Original watch band is unapologetically eye-catching yet innately practical.
Silicone is, of course, a non-breathable material, unlike other traditional materials that offer a bit more comfort, like neoprene. The obvious drawback was that my wrist felt gummier and sweatier as I progressed through my workout. At the end of my session, I had to take off the watch band to let my wrist “breathe.”
The upside to this is that the HEX Original is easily rinsable in soap and water without fear of spoiling its aesthetics, unlike neoprene armbands that seem to inevitably stretch or fray along their seams after multiple washings, not to mention absorb the stench of sweat and grime on a seemingly permanent basis. Athletes will love this accessory; I could imagine it being used in practically any non-aquatic, non-contact sport, with almost no trade-offs in performance or comfort.
HEX has truly come up with a joyful product that unleashes the 6th generation iPod nano’s potential for fun, while elevating its practicality and functionality to new levels. The vibrantly-colored range of HEX Original watch bands are undeniably cool, and despite a kitschy design aesthetic that may not appeal to all users, are dripping with more personality than most other third-party iPod nano accessories.
The company says they are committed to “bringing glamour to gadgets, and substance to style.” As far as I’m concerned, they have scored a solid slam dunk. Fun, function, fashion, and form – these are things that the HEX Original watch band promises, and even more strongly delivers.
What’s next? Maybe even world peace…
PhP1,200 at Digital Walker or Digital Hub.
- Genuinely “too cool for school” toy watch kitschy aesthetics, although it may be polarizing depending on one’s tastes.
- Thoughtful engineering that preserves almost the entire functionality of one’s iPod nano, although lefties may need to exercise a bit of creativity.
- “Pop in, pop out” design makes it completely painless to mount and dismount one’s iPod nano, yet keeps it firmly in place.
- Build quality may seem flimsy and cheap upon first feel.
- Premium silicone construction, while tough and resilient, may become progressively more uncomfortable on a humid day.
- 30-pin port is not accessible when iPod is placed in the watch band.