Don’t Be Fooled: Cheap Third-Party Apple Watch Bands Are Terrible

So you spent a few hundred dollars on an Apple Watch, but spending another $50 on a new band just seems excessive. There are third-party versions designed to look and feel nearly the same as the real thing, but are a quarter of the cost. Unfortunately, “nearly the same” isn’t really all that accurate.

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I understand the allure. Genuine Apple Watch bands sold by Apple are really freakin’ expensive. Their cheapest bands are $50, which accounts for almost 20% of the cost of the watch itself. Granted, your Apple Watch already comes with a band, but the whole thing is nearly reminiscent of the printer ink market—some bands are just as expensive as the watch itself.

For instance, if you want a band that actually feels like a real watch band, prices get absolutely insane: the Leather Loop, Classic Buckle, and Milanese Loop bands are priced at $150. There’s even the Link Bracelet, which costs a whopping $450.

With that said, it’s no wonder more and more Apple Watch owners are going the third-party route. Granted, $50 isn’t terrible for a watch band, but if you want anything other than a sport band or a woven nylon band, you’ll pay at least half of what your Apple Watch is worth in the first place. Unfortunately, third-party Apple Watch bands mostly suck.

Those cheap $10-$15 Apple Watch Sport bands on Amazon, eBay, and Aliexpress look nearly identical to the real thing. So if it’s just looks you’re going after, then it’s a great deal. But if you’re going for looks and comfort, you’ll probably be disappointed.

These two bands look identical, but one is genuine and the other is third-party.

Third-party sport bands are usually made out of silicone, whereas the genuine Apple Watch Sport bands are made out of fluoroelastomer. It’s similar to silicone, but much more resistant to different factors, like heat, moisture, and oils.

Silicone isn’t quite as resilient, so it doesn’t work as well as a watch band material compared to fluoroelastomer. The cheap third-party sport band pictured below was after only about two to three months of use. Already it has some pretty big signs of wear and tear, with the thin outer layer beginning to rub off. This has made the band much more uncomfortable to wear, as that nice outer coating is mostly gone, and the sticky rubber-like layer is showing through.

Furthermore, I’ve bought several third-party Leather Loop bands off of eBay and very few of them were even close to the real thing. One of the bands actually felt like real leather, but the ends would slowly come apart after a few months of use. The rest of the bands just felt like cheap plastic—nothing even close to a leather look and feel.

So what can you do if you want a genuine Apple Watch band, but don’t want to fork over the premium price to own one? Surprisingly, you can buy used genuine bands on eBay for pretty cheap.

I own a genuine Leather Loop band and a genuine Sport band, which are valued at $200 total if I bought them brand new from Apple. However, I scoured eBay for used bands and I ended up buying a Sport band for $19 and a Leather Loop band for $50, saving me around $130 overall. Granted, the Leather Loop band that I bought has seen better days, but it still functions great and nothing is coming apart on it (and it’s really comfortable). The Sport band was nearly brand new with no signs of wear and tear at all. You just need to make sure the products are really genuine—buy from a seller with a good reputation, and (ideally) a return policy if it turns out to be crap.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from continuing to buy the cheap third-party bands, and sometimes that’s really the only option for frugal folks. However, just keep in mind that the quality and comfort of those bands don’t even come close to the real thing.

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