I've been using the Apple Watch for about a month now. That's enough time to have some thoughts on the watch in general, how's it best used in practice, and what Apple could serve to do better with it. Even with that time spent though, I've put some thought into the matter and I think in order for me to write the piece I want to about it, I'll need to wait. I'll live with it some more, think some more, and hopefully something vaguely good will begin to spit out of my head and into a document at some point.
With that being said, there is something about the watch I think I'm ready to talk about, and that's the Sport Band that I've been living with for the past month. This is the same band that ships in a variety of colors as the default band with all three collections of the watch, and as such will most likely be the band that the majority of initial watch owners will end up with. Many of the early press reviews of the watch threw in a point or two about the Sport Band, but I'm of the opinion that even the cheapest band in Apple's collection is deserving of it's own review.
The band itself is pretty simple. One half features the pin and tuck closure, while the other has a simple set of holes which allow for adjustment of how tight the watch fits on the wrist. Both sides are made from a material called fluoroelastomer which Apple has made sure to mention in their marketing copy for the watch. The word fluoroelastomer is fancy, but what it amounts to is a band that works just like many rubber watch bands but ends up being much softer and less "grippy" than a traditional rubber band. That's not to say it slides all over one's arm, rather the band hugs your arm tightly (depending on your sizing adjustments) but remains soft and comfortable while doing so, unlike other arm-hair-pulling rubber bands like the one I had on my Pebble.
Speaking of sizing, the Sport Band comes with one of the pin and tuck halves of the band, but includes both small/medium and medium/large size options of the other side. If this is to be the most widespread Apple Watch band out there then it ought to fit everyone, and Apple seems to have done an admirable job at that here. For the most part I've heard that everyone seems to be able to find a comfortable fit between the two sizes, and I find my thin wrist fitting into the third hole of the small/medium band quite nicely.
That fit is a pretty comfortable one for a rubber-style watch band. I've been wearing a rubber band similar to the Sport Band every day for nearly a year now, so I'm used to having something on my wrist during the day. The Sport Band is just as form-fitting and snug as my previous band, but the additional softness really adds to how comfortable it is and the watch disappears on my wrist. As I'm sitting here right now typing I can barely feel the band even if I think about it, but someone who hadn't worn a watch before might notice it more in daily use than I did.
Being a part of Apple's collection of watch bands, the Sport Band is swappable with the other options that Apple offers, allowing people like me who purchased the aluminum Apple Watch Sport model to buy and use some of the higher-end bands as well. I've been eyeing both the Leather Loop and Milanese Loop myself, and I have a feeling that once they become widely available in Apple Stores I'll have a tough time not springing for one of the two on an impulse-buy.
More on that band mechanism. This is Apple bringing it's miniaturization and design muscle to bear, and it shows. Two rubber pads on the lateral edges make it easy to slide the band in and out while the magnet in the middle is pushed by the buttons on the underside of the watch in order to disconnect the band. Simple, easy, and the kind of solution that one would expect from an a Apple product. Really well done.
I've been wearing the Sport Band for the entirety of the month in which I've had my Apple Watch now, and in my time with it I've had very few issues arise.
At first I admittedly had a difficult time fastening the band. Every time I went to put the watch on, I'd have to lay my wrist down on a flat surface, position the watch while pressing it against whatever surface I was resting my wrist on, and then fasten the band on the opposite side of my wrist awkwardly using both of my hands. This was time consuming, difficult, and I was always worried that I would end up scratching the watch's face on whatever I was resting my wrist on. Thankfully as I was hoping, it quickly became much easier to fasten the band with repeated daily fastenings and I'm now able to do so using just one hand and without much effort. I just had to get the technique down.
I don't usually add videos to my posts here on the blog, but after several failed attempts to properly photograph the process, I thought I might as well just record a video of myself putting on the band and leave that here instead. I hope it helps anyone who had the same issues I did when first receiving the watch, and I hope you'll excuse the somewhat shoddy (read: nonexistant) production values.
Another issue I was initially worried about was staining or discolorations on the band over time and use. I chose to order my Apple Watch with the white sport band and I was scared when I first received it that it might share a similar fate to my iPad's (formerly) white smart cover and end up discolored in an unappealing shade of grey-smudge. Thankfully, some part of the band's fluoroelastomer properties must make it resistant to holding smudges or stains with any sort of permanence, as a quick dip in the sink has fixed any I've encountered so far. In my jobs as both a cafe barista and as a kitchen dishwasher I've gotten a fair share of grime and who knows what else on the sport band, but I've always been able to return it to looking brand-new with a simple scrub in water. Absolute thumbs up here, I'm so glad my fears were unwarranted.
The only other aspect of the Sport Band that I was at all concerned about was if the band would get overly sweaty in daily use, and in particular when working out. Through a combination of normal life and semi-weekly workouts I can honestly say that this isn't too much of an issue. When I'm working out the band will get a bit sweaty up against my skin, but not to the point where it would start sliding up and down my wrist or interfere with the Apple Watch's heart-rate monitor. Outside of workouts I haven't noticed the Sport Band feeling sweaty at all, and I'm overall pretty pleased with it. This is the Sport Band's only concession to it's rubber-style construction, and I'm happy to say that even then it's only noticeable in the most active of situations, not on the average day of sitting around or more relaxed exercise. I'm more than willing to give the band this one downside though, especially with it being so resilient to blemishes and stains. What can I say? I'm an aesthetics guy.
Really, on the whole I think Apple's done a good job with the Sport Band. It accomplishes exactly what it's been designed to do and then manages to excel in areas even outside that. It's a cheap, comfortable, rubber-like band that works well for everyday activities and workouts, but also fits in with the more premium side of the Apple Watch's image as well with a modern design, soft feel, and plenty of colors to choose from (with more on the way.) It's the watch's base-model, but it's the base-model in the same way that you get leather seats even with the lowest-priced package of a proper luxury car. Don't let the price of the Sport Band fool you, it's still quality. And I bet you'll still catch me wearing mine sometimes long after I pick up one of the Apple Watch's more high-end band offerings. (If I do 😉)