At a Glance
Jacket with iPod integration.
(The following review is an excerpt from a Playlist article on iPod apparel; you can read the full article at the link below.)
A number of new jackets and shirts are using “fabric” iPod-control buttons: thin controls built into the fabric itself. The first such product we saw debuted last fall: Kenpo’s $139 Kenpo Jacket for iPod MKT-07. A fleece-lined, cool-weather jacket, the black MKT-07 is water-resistant and a bit on the baggy side in terms of style. You get two non-zippered pockets on the inside along with two zippered hand pockets outside. A Velcro-flap interior pocket has two pouches: one for your iPod and the other for the jacket’s iPod dock-connector plug. Unlike JanSport’s recent iPod jackets, the Kenpo jacket doesn’t include a headphone jack; you plug your headphones directly into your iPod. (Although you do get a cable loop to keep your headphone cables from dangling loosely.)
The Kenpo jacket’s iPod controls are located on the left sleeve just above the wrist; top to bottom, the buttons are Volume Up, Volume Down, Back, Play/Pause, and Forward. The buttons are easy to use, requiring very little force to activate. However, I do have two complaints about them. The first is that the buttons’ subtle labels are the same black color as the jacket itself, with only a slightly different texture. This design means the buttons don’t stand out from the jacket, but it also means that at night or in dark environments the buttons are nearly impossible to find on the sleeve. Dark gray would be a good compromise.
My second complaint is that after approximately seven seconds, the controls are automatically locked; to unlock them, you have to press and hold the Forward button for approximately three seconds before pressing the desired button. Although I understand the need for such a lock — without it, you’d frequently press buttons accidentally — the current approach can be quite frustrating: If you want to skip tracks and then sample a few seconds of the next song to decide if you want to listen to it, the controls usually lock before you make a decision, forcing you to unlock the controls each time. A better approach, in my opinion, would be to keep the controls unlocked until the user specifically locks them (say, by pressing the forward button for several seconds).
One other issue with the Kenpo jacket is that its stock iPod connector plug fits only the headphone/remote jack on 3G, 4G, photo/color, and mini iPods. If you’ve got an iPod nano or iPod (with video), you have to send the stock connector back to Kenpo to trade it for a dock-connector plug.–Dan Frakes