Whether or not you took the plunge and upgraded to a new Apple Watch Series 8 or SE, you can partake of something more affordable if you own any model of the wearable — Apple’s new lower-end Apple Watch bands. I picked up the new Apple Midnight Sport Loop for my Apple Watch Series 6.
I like the new band. But I found it interesting to compare it to third-party versions of similar quality that go for a lot less money.
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Apple Midnight Sport Loop review
I bought the woven nylon-and-Velcro Apple Midnight Sport Loop (41mm) for $49. By Apple standards, that’s not a lot of money. It’s the company’s lowest price point for bands. But by cheap-as-hell-third-party-Apple-Watch-band standards, it is kind of a lot of money. After all, you can buy decent leather, stainless steel, nylon and other styles for as little as $10 to $15.
I have plenty of cheap Apple Watch bands. They include a few nylon examples, two of which sport woven nylon and Velcro for the “sport loop” effect of blended colors and easy adjustability.
But first things first. I found the packaging annoying while unboxing the band. After getting through the exterior box, I had to wrestle with the Apple packaging to extract the band, almost like it was protecting an actual Apple Watch rather than just a nylon band.
A good fit with the Apple Watch 6
Once past the packaging, I was relieved to find the 41mm band fit my 40mm Apple Watch 6 just fine. Perfectly, actually. The connectors lock in to fit seamlessly. My concern was that Apple made the band for the 41mm Apple Watch Series 7 and 8, so there might be a slight mismatch with my older model.
Apple said the 41mm band works with 38mm, 40mm and 41mm Apple Watches. And the 45mm band fits 42mm, 44mm, 45mm and 49mm models. My watch was just a millimeter off. Hard to say if the fit would seem so perfect with a 3mm or 4mm difference.
Just one wrist-size choice on 41mm version
The other measure of how an Apple Watch band fits — length as it compares to the circumference of your wrist — left a little bit to be desired.
The 41mm Sport Loops comes in just one length to fit 130mm to 200mm wrists. The 45mm version comes in two sizes, either 145mm to 220mm or 170mm to 245mm wrists.
So, after scowling at the packaging, I noticed how short the band seemed. It turned out there were two additional reasons for that.
One is that the GZ Gzhisy sport loops I had become used to are designed as one-size-fits-all, so they’re longer. They fit whether your Apple Watch is the smallest (38mm) or biggest (49mm), and whether your wrist is like a ballerina’s or an NFL linebacker’s.
One strip of nylon versus two strips
The second difference is that the GZ Gzhisy Sport Loop and others like it are made of two separate nylon pieces with Velcro on the underside, held together with a plastic piece. The Apple Sport Loop is one strip of nylon folded at one connector to the watch.
So, after the fold at the connector, the Apple band offered just a couple of inches of band to fasten down via Velcro. Pulled tight, it reached to the center of the underside of my wrist, but just barely, and that was a bit too tight.
But the fit is OK. The jury is still out on whether I actually prefer the longer ones or I just got used to them like I’ll get used to Apple’s shorter band. I’m also more accustomed to how to put on the third-party bands made with two strips of nylon rather than one.
Apple’s design is simpler, but that’s not necessarily better until it is (like if the hard plastic piece holding my other sports bands together breaks).
Excellent look and feel
One area where the Apple band enjoys some superiority? Aesthetics. Both the look and the feel of the band bring more quality than the third-party sport loops I have. All are light and flexible, but Apple’s has a finer feel to it.
The new Apple Sport Loop comes in five colors: elderberry, storm blue, midnight, starlight and (product) red. But each of them is actually multicolored, with opposing colors on the edges and four sets of two woven lines in different colors in between.
That’s a sophisticated look for a band that’s made of plastic, essentially.
Apple’s version is also a little softer on both sides than the other ones. And one of the great things about nylon straps, especially woven ones, is that they allow moisture to escape for easy breathability. No worries about slimy leather on a hot and humid day.
So, whether you shell out three or four times as much money for Apple’s product or get a cheaper version comes down to personal choice. Odds are you can find something good for less, but you may prefer not scouring miles of internet for every possible choice of woven nylon sport band.
Apple’s new Sport Loop bands go for $49 at Apple or Amazon (where you can find a large selection of third-party nylon sport loops for $10 to $15). Apple’s version comes in elderberry, midnight, (product) red, storm blue, starlight and Pride Edition color choices, and in 41mm or 45mm sizes meant to fit the range of Apple Watch models.