Apple made a huge Apple Watch mistake 8 years ago — and it shows

With fall just around the corner, anticipation builds for the upcoming release of the latest iPhone and Apple Watch models. Next month, it is highly likely that we will witness the unveiling of the iPhone 15 lineup, along with the Apple Watch Series 9, and maybe even the Apple Watch Ultra 2.

However, in the past few weeks, rumors have circulated regarding a potential game-changer in the form of the all-new Apple Watch X, expected to launch in either 2024 or 2025. This upcoming release would mark a significant milestone, as it coincides with the Apple Watch’s 10th anniversary. As for the year 2023, it seems that the Apple Watch Series 9 will offer more incremental improvements.

One of the intriguing features rumored for the Apple Watch X is a proprietary system for attaching watch bands. According to reputable sources like Mark Gurman of Bloomberg, Apple may potentially introduce a magnetic band attachment mechanism, departing from the current button mechanism that requires sliding the bands into the chassis.

While a magnetic attachment system appears to bring convenience and sleekness, it also highlights a notable drawback in Apple’s decision to use proprietary bands from the outset.

Your Apple Watch bands are about to be useless.

An Apple Watch Series 5 and an Apple Watch Ultra with an assortment of various Apple Watch bands.
Christine Romero-Chan / Pro Well Tech

The Apple Watch was initially announced in September 2014 and officially released in April 2015. As of now, it has been around for a solid eight years.

I got my hands on the Apple Watch Series 0 a few months after its release. Since then, I’ve managed to build up a decent collection of bands, ranging from Apple’s own to various third-party options. Up until recently, I always opted for the smallest Apple Watch size, either 38mm or 40mm, which means most of my bands are designed for the smaller watches. However, I’ve since upgraded to the Apple Watch Ultra, rendering those smaller bands unusable.

Currently, I’m in the process of rebuilding my band collection for the Apple Watch Ultra. I enjoy mixing up my band styles and having a range of options to choose from. However, with speculation about the Apple Watch X potentially introducing changes to the band attachment mechanism, I’m now being more cautious with my band purchases. I don’t want to invest in too many bands that may become incompatible in a few years’ time.

MobyFox Hokusai Apple Watch band.
Christine Romero-Chan / Pro Well Tech

The adoption of a proprietary band system by Apple when the first Apple Watch launched posed a problem. Once Apple decides to change the band attachment system, the extensive collection of watch bands assembled over the years becomes obsolete.

It’s not surprising, really. After all, Apple used the 30-pin connector for the iPhone for several years before transitioning to Lightning. Now, with the potential move to USB-C on the iPhone 15, it’s logical to expect Apple to alter the functionality of Apple Watch bands at some point. Although the timing has been uncertain, the possibility has always loomed.

If Apple introduces a magnetic system for a potential Apple Watch X, it could become the new standard for future Apple Watches. Gradually, the old band system will be abandoned, leaving the question of what will happen to all those outdated bands.

It’s quite contradictory for a company that emphasizes sustainability to change the band system in a way that renders current bands useless.

Apple should have copied Samsung.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 and Watch 6 Classic, in black and silver.
Andy Boxall / Pro Well Tech

Over the past decade, my devotion to Apple products kept me from exploring other alternatives until my time at Pro Well Tech. However, since joining, my perspective has undergone a transformation—quite a significant one at that.

Let’s consider Samsung Galaxy Watches, for instance. The absence of proprietary bands is what sets them apart. Instead, they utilize universal 20mm watch straps. It’s an approach Apple would have benefited from as well.

By adopting standard watch straps for the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 and earlier models, a world of strap options becomes available. No longer do you need to wait for a specific, proprietary version of your preferred style. Even if you decide to switch from the Galaxy Watch, those bands can still be used with traditional watches or other smartwatches that use standard straps. The same holds true for smartwatches like the TicWatch Pro 5, Garmin Forerunner 265, and various others.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic, and the new fabric strap.
New fabric Samsung watch strap Andy Boxall / Pro Well Tech

One drawback I find with standard straps is dealing with those small pins that attach them to the lugs. It can be quite a hassle, especially if you enjoy swapping out bands frequently. In this aspect, Apple’s system is more convenient, especially with the introduction of a magnetic mechanism.

However, I do believe Apple made a misstep by not adopting a standard watch strap system like Samsung and other companies. If Apple had embraced the existing standard, you would have been able to use your favorite watch straps before the Apple Watch era. Furthermore, even if you were to switch to a different smartwatch, you could have continued using your beloved straps.

Now, there are rumors that Apple will change the strap attachment method in the future. Unfortunately, this means that all the watch bands you have collected thus far will become obsolete. The prospect of an enhanced Apple Watch experience is undoubtedly thrilling, but if it comes at the expense of years’ worth of watch bands, the excitement will be somewhat dampened.