UPDATE: THIS PRODUCT FELL APART AFTER A WEEK OF USE AND IS NO LONGER RECOMMENDED. IT IS ALSO NOT AVAILABLE TO BUY FROM AMAZON ANYMORE.
To use the real product name the title of this review should be ‘Braided Silicone Solo Loop strap band compatible with Apple watch Series 6/5/4/3/2/1/SE – 38mm/40mm/42mm/44mm – Small/Medium/Large – Black, Blue, Brown, Charcoal, Grey, Pink, Red, Green, White.’, but I will stick with the shortened version.
This strap, which is available on Amazon costs just £7.29 which compares well to the official Apple offering which is £99. You could buy 13 of these loops for the same price as the Apple version, but if it does not work owning 13 of them will not offer any advantages.
There is barely any packaging of note with this loop and all you get is a flimsy box. This does not matter to me because it’s not like I would keep such an object, but it is an indication of the overall attention to detail employed here.
Unlike the Apple version, which comes in 9 different sizes, the variations are somewhat limited. In fact when I checked the Apple site I noticed that you could input bigger measurements, for example 20cm = size 12, and so I suspect the options are wider than initially shown on the product page.
For this loop, you are offered the following-
In contrast for this loop you get the following choices-
Watch Size 38 or 40 mm
Large = 160mm (stretches to 204mm)
Medium = 150mm (stretches to 187mm)
Small = 135mm (stretches to 155mm)
Watch Size 42 or 44 mm
Large = 170mm (stretches to 214mm)
Medium = 160mm (stretches to 197mm)
Small = 150mm (stretches to 170mm)
That seems vague to me and up to a 37mm stretch appears hard to consider for such a cheap offering.
I went ahead anyway, with the large size. My wrist is 185mm so it’s close to the middle of the range.
What does it feel like?
On the first wear it felt really off stretching a band over my hand and then onto my wrist. The sense that it has already been stretched out of shape is present, but it did return to form quickly. I noticed that the watch felt too heavy and that there was not much support for the weight (it may be better with the aluminium Apple Watch which is lighter) and there was a sense of looseness in the feel.
However, it then appeared to shrink. I am not making that up, over a few hours I couldn’t even feel my watch on my wrist because the loop is just so comfortable. The Apple Watch was staying in place while I could not feel anything holding it in place, if that makes sense.
At first I could not fathom why this design is a good idea. I kind of get it because it is so different from anything else available today and there are some expandable metal brands still on sale with some watches, but it is not going to offer anything in terms of visual appeal or fashion. Initially it felt like a gimmick to me, an attempt to do something different and to keep the Apple Watch gravy train running, but there really is something in the way it wears. It is completely invisible to the wearer and that is impressive indeed.
The question of whether the official one is worth £99 is not even a question to me. It isn’t. Then again maybe it is. The problem is that we do not know how the strap will survive over time and if it will lose shape with prolonged wear- the logical answer is that it will, but I guess that Apple must have done something here to prevent that from happening. I also suspect that the makers of the homage loops, like the one I am reviewing today, will not have done that so I am expecting limited longevity.
To conclude, for the price this band is easily worth the money and it will at the very least give you the opportunity to try out the loop system to see if it works for you. The one caveat is that the fit at the lugs could be better- it appears to sit about 1mm too big which is a little odd.
On a related note I do wonder for how longer Apple can keep the expensive strap industry going. Some of the straps cost upwards of £300 and even the sport bands are £49 each. There is no doubt that the quality is there, but I do not discern a huge gap when compared to third party offerings. For example I bought 3 sport bands from Amazon for £12 and they work perfectly. There is a slight difference in the build quality, but no way near enough to justify spending so much more on the Apple band.
I also wonder if there are people in Apple now stuck wondering how they will ever move away from the system that has worked so well so far. There is little doubt that the clever strap mechanism is way ahead of what has come previously in the watch industry, but how will Apple ever change the form of the watch without making all of those expensive watch band purchases redundant overnight? If you think moving to lightning was tricky, this would be a ‘big’ problem for some Apple Watch owners.
Apple seems to have taken the notion of expensive straps from the luxury watch industry, but I don’t think it works for a smartwatch. For starters the competition simply makes copies and undercuts them and most people will not entertain the notion of paying so much. It feels like a misplaced thought that it can be replicated. For example, my son owns a Tudor Black Bay 58 (retail £2,600) and if he wanted to buy the official stainless steel bracelet he would have to go to an authorised dealer and enquire. £600 and many weeks of waiting later he may have one which offers a glimpse of how that industry works. The bracelet is approx 25% the cost of the watch and Apple seems to be doing the same with straps like the braided loop (£99 / £429), but a rubber loop is not a stainless steel bracelet and that feels ridiculous to me. The Tudor situation is also ridiculous, but Apple has somehow topped them.