Cheap Knock-Off Apple Watch Sport Bands. Are they any good?
Sometimes in order to save money, yet still have the ‘best in class’ products, people will buy an expensive device, and garnish it with inexpensive accessories. This is especially true for the iPhone consumer, where we buy an expensive phone and slap it in a cheap rubber case and use dollar-store charging cable in order to save some money. Unsurprisingly, this trend has continued with the Apple Watch – fans quickly become attracted to new bands and start to look for inexpensive options. So, much like a superhero, except focused more on discount tech than on crime, the Knock-Off Nerd is here to save the day and let you know what you need to know about knock-off sport bands before you pull out your credit card.
With the Apple Watch, the most personal device you will own, the desire to customize it in order to reflect who you are and what you value is very easy to understand. This desire immediately however is confronted by the cruel reality of cost – in fact, let’s do a little math (Canadian prices, eh):
Apple Watch 42mm Sport: $519.00 +tax
Each additional Apple Watch sport band: $69.00 +tax
Number of sport band colour options: Currently 16 available, 5 at launch time
Total cost of you bought all original 5 bands: $345.00 ($1,104 for all 16!) +tax
The smile on the CEO of Apple’s face at the end of your shopping spree: Priceless!
And we didn’t even mention the $599 Link Bracelet. Is it any wonder why the knock-off market is thriving?
For this discussion, keep in mind that we are focused only on sport bands however the market is ripe with cheap knock-off leather bands, Milanese loops and now Hermes cuffs just to name a few. Expect me to review these in the near future, but for now we are focused exclusively on the sport bands. Even with this limited scope, some bands require a special adaptive device to connect to the watch, while others have mimicked (stolen) Apple’s patented connector. Regardless of connective mechanism, some bands use the official sport band ‘pin-and-tuck closure’ while others experiment with their own band colours and styles. This becomes very important to understand as we dig into this market.
Adapter to connect to Apple watch
Make sure you read the fine print when buying knock-off watch bands. For instance, I bought this black Apple watch sport band which looked identical to the Apple branded one in the advert, however when I got it home, I noticed one small problem – It doesn’t connect to an Apple Watch without a special adapter, which of course is sold separately, because !@#$ me apparently.
Black is the new… never mind – Where the Hell is my connector!?
So I took the bait and bought the adapter, which is actually not a bad idea for any Apple watch owner to do since it allows ANY existing ‘normal’ traditional watch band (22mm) to be used on the Apple watch. This is of particular value to those that want to use their Apple watch but also have a sentimental watch they want to keep using. With this adapter, one can simply remove the bands from the beloved watch and pop it in their Apple Watch in order to take advantage of its features while maintaining that sentimentality.
A typical 3rd party adapter and connection method
The problem with these adapters though is that while they are available in all the key colours to match your watch (black, silver, gold and rose gold), they are only made from stainless steel – no aluminum version. These look great on the Apple watch ‘standard’ steel edition, but stand out like a fart in church when used on the Apple Watch aluminum ‘sport’ model. Technically the steel adapter will work on the aluminum model but there is a small risk of galvanic corrosion as well as the fact it looks terrible, which is the real problem as far as this humble, but fashionable, nerd is concerned.
Dear God, I think I’m going to be sick…Get that thing away from me!
Luckily, there exists more reputable companies that offer an aluminum based adapter, but we are no longer in cheap knock-off territory here. These aluminum adapters are sold by legitimate 3rd parties that have received Apple’s blessing and this particular one is priced at $35.99 (as opposed to $10), which mind you is still a great deal and worth the investment.
My main concern with the knock-off adapters was the potential for them to break off and cause me to lose my watch. I am happy to report that my watch is safe and sound on my wrist as I type this, although I am still unconvinced of the adapter quality, despite having no issues with it what-so-ever. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel better with the aforementioned $35.99 adapter in terms of both quality and style.
Of course since the knock-off market have the same embarrassingly low standards as the hot-dog vendor at a parking lot carnival, some adapters are built more like a traditional watch pin, which I personally have always had bad luck with and will avoid like the plague if I can help it.
Sport bands that mimic the authentic connector and do not need an adapter
If you are looking for an authentic Apple experience from a Chinese knock-off that does not require an adapter, the closest you are going to get is with the iWatch sport bands. They are generally priced between $15 to $20 each and are available in all the same 5 original colours as the Apple original. They are sturdily made with little to no risk of tearing and also come with the same official ‘pin-and-tuck closure’ as well. In fact when placed side by side, it’s hard to tell the difference between a real and knock-off:
The 2 in the middle are Apple originals while the 2 on the end are knock-offs
Unlike the originals however, these knock-offs only include the ‘long’ band and not the ‘medium’ one, although that should be fine for most people even if they have small wrists. The iWatch band packaging also replicates the official packaging and unboxing experience, without being deceptive as to their authenticity. In summary – I loved them so much I bought 1 of every colour!
This box seems like a reasonable size for the product
The only real difference with these iWatch band clones is that they are made of different material as the official Apple branded ones. The clones are a little more ‘rubberish’ (although only slightly) and tend to attract dirt and cat hair, which I never noticed with my original one, but it is easy to brush off and I wouldn’t make a federal case about it.
There was also another small problem, just a nit-pick really, and hardly worth mentioning…
Apparently it was made from a proprietary blend of napalm and rubber. Still… can’t beat that price…
To be fair this rash went away the next day and I haven’t had it since, despite using these knock-off bands exclusively for a few weeks now, but that first day (the day I took the picture) was a little rough. I am not generally allergy prone and so this was very surprising, maybe I should have washed it before using it but honestly, the rash wasn’t nearly as bad as the photo suggests. Despite this temporary annoyance, I still highly recommend the iWatch band and will likely buy more when new colours become available.
Some more reputable companies such as Casetify have an impressive sport watch band collection, but again – that’s a little too fancy-shmansy for this website.
Although not technically a watch strap, these knock-off bumper accessories are akin to the iPhone bumper cases in that they provide some base protection from scratches and scuffs. They range in design esthetics from the more barbaric:
Courtesy of the ‘bottom of the barrel’
To the more subtle,
Girls love a man with a nice watch, but they really love a man if he is safety conscious too.
The bumpers above come in a variety of colours, however transparent versions are also available should you prefer. The good news with these bumpers is that they are thin, functional, fun and do not impede the watch functionality or sensors. The bad news is that I personally grew tired of the look of them after only a few days, but your experience may differ.
I hope this look at the sport watch band knock-off market helps you on your journey to find that perfect Apple Watch accessory. If you are still interested in grabbing a knock-off band then AliExpress and eBay are great places to start your adventure. I also recommend that you immediately take a look at the Watch Shoppe and grab yourself a good solid adapter. This will infinitely expand your watch band possibilities, be them knock-offs or official.
Don’t forget to please like and share this post, as that helps spread the word of the nerd immensely. I’d love to know what you think, would you buy a knock-off band? If so, what one would you want? Let me know in the comments below and happy shopping!