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Adventures in Solo Loop Sizing

Juli Clover, reporting for MacRumors, “New Apple Watch Owners Have to Return Entire Device for Ill-Fitting Solo Loop or Braided Solo Loop”:

Because these bands are not adjustable, Apple sells each one in nine different sizes to make sure each person gets a snug fit. To get the right sizing, Apple offers a printable tool [PDF] and also measurement comparisons so you can estimate size, but as it turns out, that sizing isn’t always accurate and Apple’s returns for ill-fitting bands ordered with one of the new Apple Watches are a hassle.

Customers who chose a Solo Loop or a Braided Solo Loop along with an Apple Watch Series 6 or SE and have a poor fit can’t just return the band for a new size — the entire Apple Watch has to be returned since it’s considered a set.

Unfortunately, there are limited supplies of the new Apple Watch Series 6 models and the new bands, so customers forced to make a return are now having to wait from late October to late November for a new Apple Watch, depending on the model chosen.

This sucks, but you can see how it happened. I think this is the first situation where Apple has been not just hindered, but outright bitten by COVID-era restrictions. First, it’s obvious these bands are better sized in person than using a paper ruler. But second, exchanges are better facilitated in person too.

Starting a few years ago, when you buy a new Apple Watch, the watch + band bundle is treated as a single SKU, but the watch and band are in separate boxes inside an outer cardboard wrapper. The band in its own box seems like something you ought to be able to exchange independently of the watch, but it isn’t sold that way. This has worked fine to date, because none of Apple’s bands prior to the Solo Loops are sized precisely. All their other bands are adjustable, and to cover a wide range of wrist sizes, some come in two sizes. Apple’s Sport Band, for example, comes in “S/M” and “M/L” sizes, but Apple just includes both sizes when you buy one.

There’s a reason why no watch bands from any watch brand I’m aware of are sized as precisely as Apple’s new Solo Loops. It’s a huge logistical problem compared to adjustable watch bands, and the whole thing is premised on people knowing their correct size — which is a function both of their actual wrist size and their preference for how loose or tight they prefer bands to feel.

Based on what I see on Twitter and in various public forums, it seems like most people with ill-fitting Solo Loops are winding up with ones that are too loose, not too tight. Justine Ezarik measured her wrist as a 5, but Apple sent her size 3’s and 2’s as review units, and the 2’s fit her perfectly. (Again, Apple PR’s size guessers are freakishly good.) This makes me suspect that many are using Apple’s measuring tool inaccurately, or printing it out at the wrong scale, or both, and perhaps Apple should clarify the printed instructions. The current instructions simply read:

Cut and wrap the tool around your wrist, snug but not too tight.

What those instructions don’t make clear, but perhaps should, is that I think you’re supposed to use the tool to precisely measure the circumference of your wrist, not to simulate the circumference of what you think would be a comfortable watch band. Think about how a tailor measures your chest or waist — you’re not cinching a tourniquet, but you don’t want any slack at all. Here’s me measuring my wrist.

But I’ve seen reports from folks who used Apple’s tool and wound up with Solo Loops that are too tight, and I’ve also seen reports from people who prefer the rubber Solo Loop in one size but the Braided Solo Loop in a different — usually smaller — size. So again, like buying shoes, there’s no substitute for trying them on in person. Which, alas, is not an option for a lot of us at the moment.