It’s time for Cupertino to sell Apple Watch without a band

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It’s time to sell Apple Watch without a band
Wouldn’t this be great? Too bad it’s only a dream.
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

People around the world are receiving their new Apple Watch Series 7, and every single one of them includes a band whether the buyer wants it or not. Over successive versions, many Watch wearers have built a collection of bands and don’t need another. But Apple doesn’t give them a choice when it comes to buying a new Watch.

At a time when Apple says it’s trying to fight waste, it really should offer the Apple Watch without requiring a new band.

Every new Apple Watch doesn’t need a new band

Apple Watches have increased in size over the years, but bands are forward-compatible. As Wikipedia puts it, “Bands designed for the 38 mm and 42 mm cases are completely compatible with the 40 mm and 44 mm cases respectively as well as the 41 mm and 45 mm cases.”

So if you have a band you love for your Apple Watch Series 3, there’s a good chance the one that came with your new Series 7 is going to get tossed into a drawer.

That’s not to say Apple’s bands are lousy — they’re fine. But a watch is as much fashion as it is function, and there are better-looking ones available elsewhere. To use myself as an example, I have a metal band from Juuk that I love. When the time comes to replace my current Apple Watch, I’m going to keep the Juuk band. I have no need for a new one from Apple and resent being forced to pay for one.

I’m sure I’m not alone. We’re being forced to buy an add-on we don’t want. It is required upselling and no one likes that. Those who want a new band with their Watch should be able to bundle one, but those who don’t shouldn‘t have it shoved on them.

But what about hand-me-downs?

When someone upgrades to a new Apple Watch, most people pass their old version on to a family member or perhaps a friend. The band doesn’t have to go along, especially if it’s one that doesn’t fit the recipient’s personal style. They will need a band, of course, and maybe that person could take the new band that Apple forces buyers to get with each new Watch.

But that requires coordination for you to pick a band they will like. It would be a lot easier if Apple would just sell its wearable without a band.

Style before function

Speaking of making things easier on buyers, I’ve heard plenty of complaints that Apple makes shoppers wade through a couple of dozen options of Apple Watch casing and band colors and styles before they can choose the screen size.

The Apple Watch Studio feature, available online or in the Apple Store app, makes it easier to find a band/case setup you like rather than relying on Cupertino’s precooked combos. But still, the dizzying array of band options can make the task tedious, especially if you’re trying to put together a preorder at the crack of dawn. 9Especially when they run into the Solo Loop options, which come in nine sizes and thus require a wrist measurement.)

All in all, people find the emphasis on picking a band confusing — they think they’ve missed something.

Yes, Apple Watch is a mix of function and fashion, but function comes first to most people. And that’s not the way Apple presents the device. This is about marketing, something Apple is expert at. Obviously. And putting the band first implies that it’s really important.

This brings us back to required upselling. Apple forces us all to buy a new band with each Apple Watch because it increases the company’s profit margin. And we’re less likely to complain if Apple can convince us that the band is really important.

But plenty of people still don’t want an extra band, and being forced to get one is wasteful. Apple says it stopped bundling a charger and headphones with each new iPhone as a way to reduce e-waste. Well, unwanted bands are equally wasteful. Even the amount of paper used to package a new Apple Watch could be slashed by eliminating the mandatory band purchase. Not to mention that unwanted bands are a waste of money for Apple Watch buyers.

Apple needs to put its money where its mouth is. Stop forcing people to buy an add-on they don’t need, even if it cuts Apple Watch profits slightly.