I posted a review of the Finis SwiMP3 v2 Waterproof MP3 player a few weeks ago, along with my comments that while I could see it working for some people, it didn’t work for me because the volume I needed just wasn’t there. I listen to audiobooks, and I could only pick up every other word, if that. For music it would have been fine, but for listening to books it just didn’t work and couldn’t as the product it was.
Now that I’ve tried H2O Audio’s waterproof case for the iPod Shuffle (2nd generation) (update: they don’t make this case anymore, but if here’s a different waterproof case for the 2G iPod Shuffle, there’s no doubt about it–this is a far superior product to the Finis waterproof mp3 player. There’s just no contest. First, let’s go over the anecdotal evidence:
1. I can hear. My #1 priority for a waterproof mp3 player is that I can hear and understand audiobooks while swimming, despite the bubbles, my own breathing, etc. With the H2O Audio mp3 player there was absolutely no problem hearing and understanding. I could hear every word clearly, and that was without the volume turned up all the way. With the Finis mp3 player I had the volume turned up all the way and I still couldn’t understand what I was listening to. The only room for improvement I saw was that as I adjusted the earbuds I would sometimes get a crackle, and sometimes one earbud would be quieter than the other until I wiggled it around. Grade: A (only slight improvement possible)
2. Comfort. Nothing is as comfortable as nothing, right? I mean, if you’re going to listen to music or audiobooks while you’re swimming then it’s not going to be as convenient or as comfortable as swimming without a waterproof mp3 player. But this comes pretty close. Once you’re wearing it you’ll notice the player stuck to the back of your head, but it’s the type of thing you don’t notice much once you start swimming, if at all. I’m sure if they put a tiny bit of padding so that it’s not just hard plastic pressing against your head it would be slightly more comfortable, but only slightly. By contrast, I found the Finis player quite uncomfortable, although bearable if it weren’t for the other issues. Grade: A
3. Convenience. I found the Finis player a bit challenging to put on my goggles and then deal with, but the H2O Audio player has been 10 times easier. The box (see small picture in the Amazon ad on the right) clips onto the back of your goggles (it was a little hard for me to get on, but no biggie). When you strap on your goggles you have to pay a little more attention to make sure the earbuds don’t end up tickling your eyes or wrapped around a goggle strap, but nothing too bad.
And getting your iPod in and out of the waterproof case is a piece of cake. There’s a small latch that you open, there’s an earphone plug inside, you plug in your iPod, make sure it’s turned on (so you don’t have to open it when you’re already in the pool and all wet in order to turn it on and risk ruining it), close the box and the latch, and you’re ready to go. The case seems deceptively simple and I was a little worried about it really being waterproof, and about the latch staying shut, but I’ve used it twice now without any signs of leakage, so my fears are being assuaged. It’s all as safe and easy as can be. The only small, small issue I’ve had is that sometimes when I go to shut the case the iPod isn’t settled quite right, and so it won’t shut and I have to open it and make sure the iPod is sitting right. However, thank goodness it doesn’t latch when the case isn’t fully shut or then we’d really have a problem. Grade: A
4. Added benefits. For one, the earbuds also act as earplugs, and I very much prefer to swim with earplugs so that I don’t have to deal with water in my ears. And the player comes with multiple sizes of earbuds, which is good because I found out that I need to use a smaller one in my left ear in order to get the right fit so that the earbud doesn’t fall out. And the fact that it’s not a proprietary mp3 player like the Finis, but rather uses your existing iPod is great because that means I can listen to my iPod on the way to the gym, switch it to the waterproof case for swimming, switch it back for running, and then switch it back for my hot tub time (yes, I wore my goggles on my head in the hot tub, just so I could listen to my iPod while I did my stretching–you got a problem with that?). And…drum roll please…you can buy the H2o Audio waterproof iPod case and a 2nd generation iPod Shuffle for about the same price as the Finish player (which only holds 256 MB of audio, vs. 1-2 GB for the iPod Shuffle).
So when you add it all up, there’s just no doubt in my mind which player is superior.
Room for improvement. To sum up, here are the things that could be marginally improved on the H20 Audio waterproof iPod case:
1. The clip. If it were a little easier to clip on to the goggle straps that would be nice. I found it difficult to get the strap in there, perhaps because I don’t have longer fingernails. I’m not sure how the clip could be changed, and obviously I don’t want the clip to be changed so that the player falls off the goggle straps, but I think there’s probably a way to make it easier to clip on without making it easy to come off.
2. Buttons. The pad on the case pushes the buttons on your iPod inside the case, but the pad on the case is hard to push. You have to push until it clicks, and I was surprised how hard I had to press in order for this to happen. It’s not a huge problem, but I don’t see why it needs to be that hard to push the buttons.
3. Comfort. Perhaps some small padding on the part of the case that touches your head would make the case even less noticeable.
4. Profile. The case feels thick, which affects comfort and makes the player more noticeable. I would like to think they could develop a lower profile case, and perhaps a more hydrodynamic case, so that the push of the water against it would be less noticeable.
However, again, in saying there’s room for improvement, there isn’t much room. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being “very important to improve” and 1 being “not at all important to improve” I’d put all four of these items at a 1.1. I love the product and it works perfectly for what I need it for.