Apple’s own range of Apple Watch straps are all quite expensive, but out of them all, the seems excessively so. It’s $100 for a piece of stretchy fabric that goes around your wrist, which is twice the price of the really quite similar Sport Loop strap. The trouble is, it just looks so comfortable and hassle-free that I was willing to pay up to get one.
Bargain hunters will have noticed a few alternatives to the, and almost all cost a lot less than Apple’s version. The thing is, if Apple charges $100 and a company you’ve never heard of charges a tenth of that price for something that looks effectively very similar, it’s almost certainly going to be terrible, right? Well, I found out.
The Braided Solo Loop band looks excellent and is an ideal option for everyday casual wear. Soft and stretchy, it won’t catch your arm hair or your clothes, and it’s light and airy enough to be worn overnight. If it gets wet, it dries in moments, which I was a little concerned about before getting one. And it takes seconds to remove and put back on. It’s as easy to live with as the excellent Sport Loop, but with a lot more style and visual appeal. But at twice the price of the Sport Loop, it’s a serious investment.
When you go to buy one, you’ll discover the process is not the same as any other strap you’d buy for the Apple Watch, because it’s not one-size-fits-all. This is where the Braided Solo Loop’s main downside is found. You have to measure your wrist and then select the correct size based on a chart presented to you on the Apple website at checkout. It’s a little daunting as the sizing covers quite a wide range. When mine arrived — a size 7, based on the recommendation from Apple — I found it to not be quite as snug as I’d really want. It’s by no means loose, but it does dangle about a bit. It makes me wonder what a size 6 Braided Solo Loop band would be like, but I’m not about to spend another $100 to satisfy my curiosity.
The loose fit is perfectly acceptable for normal wear, but not for exercise, as the Watch doesn’t stay in good contact with your skin and therefore cannot take a reliable heart rate reading. I have started to swap straps before working out, which is a bit of a pain. I forgive this because having a collection of straps and bands for the Apple Watch is part of the appeal, and I far prefer a strap being too loose than so tight it makes my hand turn blue.
However, I also understand that for many, spending $100 on a new Watch band with the risk that it may not have a satisfactory fit, and then having to swap to another for specific activities, will not be appealing. That’s what sent me to Amazon, with a mission to find a cheaper alternative.
Search Amazon for “braided Apple Watch band” and you get hundreds of options in a dizzying array of colors and designs. Not all are identical in design to the Apple version, but they’re all close enough, and almost none of them cost more than about $15. I chose one made by Veesimi, a company I’ve never heard of, and at the time of writing,in a special half-price deal. That leaves $92 in my pocket compared to buying Apple’s version.
The Veesimi band is like a hybrid of the Braided Solo Loop and the Sport Loop. It’s made of a braided, stretchy material, but has a buckle to adjust the fit instead of being a fixed length. It’s also a uniform shape like the Sport Loop, rather than flaring out at the ends to blend into the Watch’s case as Apple’s Braided Solo Loop does. It’s attached to metal hardware, and although I ordered a black version, it’s more gray in color.
Adding a buckle to adjust the size of the band removes the chance of it not fitting correctly, as it can be tightened up for use when exercising, while retaining the everyday wearability that attracted me to the Braided Solo Loop in the first place. While the material does eventually work itself loose with vigorous movement, it’s better than pulling the strap halfway up your arm to maintain skin contact, as you have to do with the Apple Braided Solo Loop.
It seems to be decently made, too. I’ve worn it for a week, and it looks the same as it did when I started, with no sign of fraying where the hardware meets the strap, which seems to be an issue with this kind of strap based on some Amazon reviews. It’s securely attached to the hardware at one end, and because the material wraps around a bar at the opposite end, it doesn’t appear likely to break in a hurry. However, this may change over time, but for $8, does anyone expect it to become a family heirloom?
The option of saving $92 on any purchase is tempting, but do these two products vary so wildly in quality, design, and style that you’re merely settling for a vastly inferior product? No, it doesn’t seem so. While I wouldn’t pay $100 for the Veesimi band, the official Braided Solo Loop’s high price is tough to swallow.
What are the obvious differences? The weave on the Apple band is tighter, the material used is thicker, and it does feel stronger. When you pull the material apart laterally, you can quickly see through the Veesimi band, but not on the Apple band. It’s also far harder to do this on the Braided Solo Loop than on the Veesimi, highlighting the difference in construction and materials. It’s also clear that over time, the cheaper band will lose its shape due to this additional stretchability, while I doubt the same will happen to the stronger and tighter Braided Solo Loop.
When you hold both straps, the fabric material is obviously different. Even after just a short time in water, the Veesimi strap is more wrinkled and misshapen than the Braided Solo Loop, therefore it may look considerably worse when it comes time to give the straps a proper wash. It’s like buying an unbranded $10 T-shirt compared to a $60 branded T-shirt. You’d expect the more expensive version to be made of higher-quality cotton, and retain its shape for longer after a few washes. It’s the same here, and the difference may even be seen after regular wear on your wrist too.
But when it costs just $8, it’s not a bad deal even if it lasts for six months. The other big difference comes down to design. The Veesimi band isn’t shapely at all — it’s just one line of fabric and doesn’t add anything to the look of the Apple Watch. Like the Sport Loop, to my eyes, it never looks quite wide enough when it meets the case.
This is where the Braided Solo Loop really wins, as the material widens as it reaches the case, blending the band into the Watch. Cleverly, the hardware isn’t as wide as the fabric, so it hides inside the slot on the case, giving the appearance the Braided Solo Loop is part of the case itself, rather than an addition. It looks fantastic, resulting in the Apple Watch paired with the Braided Solo Loop looking like a coherent package, not just a strap attached to a case like the Veesimi.
If you want a stretchy band for your Apple Watch, and enjoy swapping bands for a new look on a regular basis, the Veesimi or one of the many others on Amazon will be fine. It gives you that Braided Solo Loop experience for a tenth of the price, and will almost certainly last until you’re bored with it and you move on to the next strap. At just $8, it’s a ridiculously good value, and even at its full $16 price, it’s worth picking up.
For longevity, the more stylish and more sturdily constructed Apple Braided Solo Loop is probably the wiser investment, and if it’s going to be your only strap, the Braided Solo Loop is definitely the one to buy. Based on the materials and construction, I expect it to easily last the amount of time you keep your Apple Watch. Choose your color wisely and be prepared to give it regular washes though, as the material is prone to dye transfer from your clothes, and will get dirty quickly depending on how you wear it and the kind of environment it’s in.
What I will say is, if you’re going for the Apple Braided Solo Loop band, go to an Apple Store to try one on, or if you’re buying online, get two in different sizes with the aim of returning one after trying them on. I took a risk by basing my decision only on Apple’s sizing, simply because I’m nowhere near an actual Apple retail store, and slightly regret I not hedging my bets by ordering a size 6 and a size 7.
Can you buy a decent alternative to the $100 Apple Braided Solo Loop strap for a tenth of the price? I was quite prepared to laugh and say absolutely not when I first ordered the two straps, but now, I’m quite happy to say that, yes, if you don’t mind the thought of it potentially not lasting for years, you can.
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