In Praise of the Knock-Off Nylon Sport Loop

Originally published at: In Praise of the Knock-Off Nylon Sport Loop - TidBITS

Adam Engst dips his toes into the sketchy world of knock-off Apple Watch bands but finds that Apple is charging ten times as much for seemingly identical nylon Sport Loop bands.

I bought a knockoff Milanese Loop for my original (“series 0”) Apple Watch, and experienced the same issues as Adam. Also, over time, it began showing serious signs of wear, with some of the black coating rubbing off, revealing the shiny metal beneath. When I got my series 4 Apple Watch, I splurged for a genuine Apple Milanese Loop. The Apple band is noticeably thicker and heavier than the knockoff, though not so heavy as to be annoying when I wear it. And its magnet is much more effective; it doesn’t slip and loosen over the course of the day. Nor has the band ever snagged my arm hair. It also has yet to show any signs of wear.

True, it is expensive, but I got a well-made, comfortable, durable band for the money.

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The wife and I have the official Apple Milanese loops and they get discolored from dirt and scratches on the side where it overlaps and magnetically connects. While you can clean them you can never get rid of the scratches on the band. I went back to the sport band which is more comfortable anyway. Yes, the bands are way overpriced especially the base models.

I have upgraded my Apple Watch when each even series came out (0->2->4->6). The 2, 4, and 6 watches have all been the large aluminum gold case versions. For the Apple Watch 2, I got (either with the watch or as a secondary purchase) the brown sports band and have been using it until recently. I found that using the long version of the band at the 2nd hole was slightly too tight, while the 3rd hole was very slightly loose. So, until recently, that was what I used. However, the looseness caused the Blood Oxygen sensor to often fail. Ii’ve now switched to the ‘pink’ Sports Loop that came with the Apple Watch 4. The infinite adjustability of the band now allows me to wear the watch at a tightness that has eliminated the failure of the Blood Oxygen sensor.

Apple currently doesn’t have a sports loop with a brown , gold, or tan emphasis. I may investigate 3rd party loops.

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I hesitated to buy an Apple Watch for years precisely because the bands are very expensive. Then, while upgrading my phone, I asked the fashionably attired young fellow at the SoftBank shop who had convinced me to upgrade my phone if he liked his Apple Watch. He replied without hesitation, “Now that I’ve found inexpensive bands, yes.” A tight-fisted (when it comes to bands, anyway) soulmate.

Fast forward a couple of years and I have a nice collection of bands, and have only had one failure (refunded). I don’t know if my source is a good option for the America-based TidBITers… AliExpress.

My philosophy with AliExpress is to always expect to be disappointed, so my policy is to never spend more than $15 (including shipping) and to always use a self-expiring virtual credit card.

In addition to a variety of bands (some last well, some not-so-well), I’ve bought silicon remote control covers, silicon baking mats, a keyboard case for my daughter’s Keychron keyboard and a handful of other low-risk products.

Shopping on AliExpress is more like a frenzied Hong Kong market than a stroll through a suburban Seattle Nordstrom. If you seek slight retail adventure… have a look and see for yourself.

P.S. Shipping can take days, weeks, or months. It reminds me a bit of the original Netflix — you will get something to watch someday, but when and what exactly from your list it will be remains a mystery. An “order it and forget it”‘ attitude helps. I have a note in my diary to check my AliExpress purchase history about once a month to see what might be arriving soon.

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On my Apple Watch 5 I use the Sports Loop it came with, although I have a Apple Milanese Loop in reserve (from previous Apple Watches) in case I ever want to switch.

But when I got my Garmin Fenix 5+, I immediately got rid of the band it came with and bought a 3rd party band from Amazon. That band is very similar to the sports loop, and has worked very well. (A quick check has shown that the band I bought has also disappeared from Amazon in the almost 2 years since I bought it, although there is a very similar sports loop band available for the 5+ from a different company.) Much less costly than official Garmin replacement bands.

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I found that the official Apple Sport Loop ends up suffering the same issues as the knock-offs in that, eventually, the velcro fails. In fact, it seems that the time to failure is about the same for both. I bought the official Apple band with a series 3 and it lasted a little over a year. I bought a 3rd party band to go on the series 4 and it lasted slightly longer, maybe 13 months. I’m on my second 3rd party band and just over a year on it and time to replace.

I went with the 3rd party ones as they had a “true” black compared to the mostly brown Apple “black”. Over time the 3rd party bands have browned as well.

I keep looking for a true black band, but have yet to find one. If anyone has a suggestion, I’d be interested.

Thanks.

Cheers,
Jon

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Adam, I got the Milanese band with the original Apple Watch years ago and although I love the way it looks and how comfortable it is to wear, after using it every day for a little over a year, I was refastening it/tightening it very frequently during the day. Apparently, even Apple’s own brand has problems with the magnet fastener over time.

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I’ve gotten multiple knockoff bands for my Series 3, from random sellers on Amazon and never had a bad one. Costs were mostly in the 10-15 range, which meant that I would have been comfortable dumping them if I didn’t like it or it didn’t work.

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I have to agree with Adam that the knock-off nylon sports loops are the way to go. You can’t depend on the colors matching the images you see on-line, reds are mostly shades of magenta, but they work well and both I with my Series 4 and my wife and her with her Series 6 have been pleased with our $6 Chinese bands. No, we won’t spend 10 times as much so we can say they are Designed in Cupertino.

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I too have bought a Faux milanese loop (black) for my 2nd gen watch. It looks great, has a nice, soft feel and the price was app. $5.00 U$. Downside: these, and as far as I can tell, all knock-offs, have “universal” attachments to the watch; in order to accommodate the different generations and models, the bar that slides into the watch may well be shorter than the item customized for your particular model (in my case the black ‘Niki’ silicon sport band). This does not affect the functionality of the band, but if you look closely, you can tell. The magnet on mine a plenti strong; however, it does affect the function of the campus app and, in my case, if the band happens to be close to my hearing aid, it sets off a switch that signals that you are using a line-phone or an over-the-ears headphone (magnetic lock). There maybe other magnet related effects in other situations.

I have bought several bands from Epic Watchbands https://www.epicwatchbands.com and have been very happy with all but their version of the Milanese Loop (the magnet wasn’t strong enough and it kept falling off). Their prices are totally affordable, highly recommend. They also have a nice silicone AirPods case cover, as well as other random accessories.

I bought my Series 2 with an Apple Milanese band. I had the same problems that you experienced with the knock-off, namely needing to readjust the fit several times a day and snagging it enough to come loose.

When I upgraded to a Series 6, I went with a Velcro sport loop and love it. It never needs adjusting, doesn’t become dislodged with a small snag or rub against some furniture.

Oddly, I tried the sport loop for a day, went back to the Milanese for a week or so as I believed it was a “better” band, then went back to the sport loop and haven’t strayed.

First of all, I had a good laugh at

“I decided to introduce Tonya to the wonders of the Sport Loop with a pretty purple band for a Valentine’s Day present (hey, it wasn’t a chainsaw!) and match it with a new red one for myself.”

So Adam gave himself a Valentine’s Day present at the same time??? Granted it’s almost a “his and hers” which is kinda cute :slight_smile: Not to mention far better than a… chainsaw.

More seriously, Adam’s article and everyone else’s input just solved a mystery for me! A year ago January after my very elderly mother took a fall in a CVS, I gave her a cellular AW 5 not only for fall detection but also the direct dial to 911 and texts to emergency contacts complete with location — should she ever fall again.

I knew at the time she’d never go for the sports band that came with it. Not only for the less-than-perfect fit, but also the material that doesn’t breathe.

Having purchased various knock-off bands for myself previously, I carefully chose a knock-off Milanese loop from Amazon that matched her “aluminum gold” sports AW perfectly. It was also the lightest of all the watchbands I had tried, the perfect combination for my mom.

Thus she was a very happy camper from the get-go, until a few months ago when she said it was too loose, and she could no longer fasten it on her small wrist.

I was actually alarmed, thinking that she must have lost weight especially since the pandemic lockdown, not a good sign for someone of her age…

Fortunately I had some knock-off nylon sport loop bands lying around, and thought that might be a solution.

I took them over and let my mom try them, sure enough they fit — even though the end of the loop practically comes right up to the watch face on her small wrist. :cold_sweat:

I then ordered one (from eBay) in a very pretty black with red trim, which goes perfectly with her red iPhone wallet case. :cold_sweat: again!

But now thanks to Adam’s article and the input from the rest of you, I just realized that my mom had not lost weight (she sure doesn’t look it), whereas the culprit was actually the magnet on the (knock-off) Milanese loop that had lost its… attraction. :cold_sweat: #3

Got a knock off sport band $11 when I got my gen 4 watch still works well. Seller has disappeared from Amazon…

I hadn’t worn a watch in years until I got my Series 4 watch. My first favorite thing about it was the silicone band. It was so much easier to put on than the old belt style watch clasps. If I had a need for metal or fancier, I might buy a knockoff. I’ve had this for quite a while now, and still on the original band, which doesn’t even look worn. I hadn’t even considered replacing it. Probably just get a new watch at this point.

My knock off sports band broke after a year+. When I was putting it on. Close to where it attaches to the watch.

I had bought a few, so used a different one.

Hence, nowadays when I’m putting on or taking the watch off, I avoid doing so over concrete or tile floor. Which I think is a reasonable anyway, in case of butter fingers.

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Apple publishes detail specs for watchbands to be compatible with Apple Watch:

https://developer.apple.com/accessories/Accessory-Design-Guidelines.pdf (see p. 62)

Interesting. Are you sure you got the right size for your watch? All the bands come in two sizes, for the 38/40mm watches and for the 42/44mm watches. All the knock-off bands I have were ordered for and fit the 38/40mm watches that we have perfectly.

Yeah, I was going for the his-and-hers approach.

Phew! Glad to hear it was just the band!

Well, that’s sensible! Companies are going to do it anyway, so at least this way they have a better chance of making something that customers will like as part of the overall Apple experience.

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Not remotely my experience. All of mine have fit perfectly in that regard.

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