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A women swinging a shopping bag with an Apple Watch around her wrist A women swinging a shopping bag with an Apple Watch around her wrist

Knock-Offs vs. Brands:
Finding The Right Apple Watch Band

Are Knock-Off Apple Watch Bands Worth Your Money?

The Apple Watch is one of the most exciting innovations in smart technology across the last few years: finally, a smart display that is as easily accessible as a traditional watch -- and unlike a smartphone or tablet, it can be a fashionable accessory as well. That's where the watch band comes in, and watch bands offer many different looks and styles to adapt to your situation. Going out for the night? Hitting the gym? Heading to the office? A good set of Apple Watch bands seamlessly adapt to your wardrobe and activity.

The question is: which ones to buy? As you begin to browse Amazon and other online sellers, you may notice the usual brand-name products but you'll also find numerous unknown quantities selling for really cheap -- cheap, as in a fraction of the price of a standard product. These are typically knock-off bands, imported on the cheap from overseas.

It's tempting to save money and buy these knock-offs. Who can argue with such a cost savings? Here's the problem: it may be a lower price upfront, but it may cost you more in grief and a replacement in the long run. Let's take a closer look.

Where Can You Get Watch Bands

Apple Watch bands are sold in many different online outlets, from the expected (Apple, Amazon) to the bargain-hunter outlets (eBay, Amazon's marketplace). You can also find them in stores at the Apple Store or tech retailers like Best Buy. When going through official outlets such as the Apple Store or established manufacturers sold through Amazon, there's a certain threshold of quality to expect -- that quality comes with the higher price tag.

However, there are places for bargains to be found for sure. Sometimes these are inventory closeouts of established brands. Other times, the source can be a little less scrupulous; these knock-off Apple watch bands are usually found on eBay and Amazon for very cheap -- in some cases, less than a dollar, though they charge larger-than-standard shipping fee and profit off of that. These bands can be very tempting to get because of their price, and heck, if one breaks, just order another one.

What to Look For

Now that you know where to shop, it's time to consider what you specifically need to look for. If you actually have the ability to try on bands in store (or if you see knock-off bands, probably at an open-air market of some sort), here are a few things to look for:

1. Fit
Brand-name Apple watch bands are manufactured to quality-control guidelines. Thus, you can feel confident that things are going to fit. This means more than just them looking better. The fit around your wrist should match up much more to your expectations -- not too snug, not too loose. Equally important is that the watch band should fit the watch itself, as cheap knock off brands may be loose on this aspect. Bad fit in either way may at best be uncomfortable, at worst threaten to damage your Apple watch. In short, fit matters.

2. Quality
Quality means that a product stands the test of time. There's no degradation of the band as it gets put on and taken off, the fit of the actual watch remains solid and safe with no parts gradually loosening. Quality is peace of mind, both day to day and long term.

3. Manufacturing & Materials
Most people know when something feels like it's been manufactured well with quality materials. There's a steadiness, an appropriate weight, and a tightness to something that’s made well. When it's made well, you'll never feel like it's falling apart. This is one of the biggest issues with knock-off merchandise, Apple Watch bands and otherwise.

What Happens with Bad Bands

Let's pretend that you decided to give a knock-off Apple Watch band a try. The price is right, after all, so you pay a fraction of a brand price on eBay and try it out. Unfortunately, knock-off experiences are often the same across the board. To spare you the grief of going through it, here's what you may find:

Wear:
Knock-off watch bands don't use the same quality materials or manufacturing processes as brand-name products. For example, your so-called leather band may be a cheap imitation material, allowing for cracks and wear much sooner rather than later. The metal aspects that clasp onto the watch may also wear away quickly. Remember, there's no quality control inspector with knock-off manufacturing.

Protection:
A good watch band protects your Apple Watch as much as it displays it. It holds it in place and feels steady during walking or running. Because knock-offs use flimsy materials and uncontrolled manufacturing processes, there's no guarantee that it will fit your wrist well or hold your Apple Watch tightly. That means that whether parts gradually loosen or they aren't there to begin with, your Watch is in danger of falling.

Returning/Ordering:
A knock-off brand isn't going to give you a return policy. You get what you pay for. In many cases, it's a matter of a few dollars that you can simply kiss goodbye. But what if using a knock-off band wound up damaging your Apple Watch? There's no recourse available, no number to call, no replacement or reimbursement. A knock-off Apple Watch band puts this all at risk.

Actual Results

Not surprisingly, knock-off and cheap Apple Watch bands didn't really pass muster when it came to consumer reviews. In fact, many of the non-brand bands received the lowest of the low reviews, while brand reviews tended to average around 4-5 stars. This isn't that surprising, as most knock-off items are made with cheap materials and low quality control overseas. Remember, these items are often made for pennies, so selling for a few dollars is a huge profit level.

The Verdict

With all of the information above, let's review. The pros of buying a knock-off Apple Watch band are minimal, mostly that it's cheap and a fraction of the cost of a brand-name band. The cons, though, are many:

  • It may not fit right.
  • It may feel cheap or poorly put together.
  • It may not hold your Apple Watch properly.
  • It may quickly tear or wear down.
  • And whether you want a simple refund, return, or at worst, recourse for damage to your Apple Watch, there's no customer service department available to help you get proper recourse -- and in the end, you may even wind up buying a brand-name band anyway.

In other words, knock-off bands put your technology at risk. It's a lesson in “you get what you pay for,” and it's very easy to find online reviews that tell you this same story over and over. In contrast, brand-name Apple Watch bands have generally positive reviews and strong word-of-mouth.

The decision is yours based on your time and budget. But the sensible choice is clear: by investing in a quality Apple Watch band, you'll spend a little more money but save a lot in grief and time. After all, if you've put that hundreds of dollars into an Apple Watch, why not spend a little bit more to protect it?

How to Protect Yourself...and Your Watch

Your Apple Watch is an investment in yourself. It makes your life easier, connects with your devices, and is stylish to boot. It’s simply worth protecting. To do that, you’ll need a band that fits both your situation and your budget. The problem with going cheap is that it invites more headaches than you might expect.

Instead, the simple way to protect yourself -- and your investment -- is to go with a name brand. Read online reviews, and if the price seems to good to be true, then be suspicious. If you’re at an Apple Store or other place that can let you try it out in person, do so. That doesn’t mean you can’t price-shop online, but at least getting a physical feel for a name-brand in person sets the bar for what to expect with quality, price, and size. Ultimately, it’s all about the longevity and safety of your watch. Make the right purchase and the smart decision, and your watch will last until it’s time to upgrade to the new Apple Watch.

Knock-Off Bands vs. Brand Name Bands Infographic

 

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