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Multifunctional smartwatch bands should be more of a thing


It’s no surprise that most fitness trackers have interchangeable straps these days. Watches, smart or not, are a fashion statement, people have different needs for their wearables, and everyone’s skin reacts differently to certain materials. But after trying the new Nomad glow in the dark apple watch band and Samsung’s eco-leather hybrid strap this week, I find myself craving straps that serve multiple purposes.

The Nomad strap launched earlier this week and it’s about as simple as you can get. It’s the definition of business by day, party by night. In normal lighting all you see is a normal cream colored strap. In the dark, it turns bright green. It’s not the most practical strap, I admit, it’s a more subtle shimmer in person, but it’s probably not the better choose if I were to go to a theater. But what caught my attention is that it allows me to change my style almost effortlessly.

A more practical example would be the eco-leather strap that comes standard on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6. Never mind that eco-leather isn’t always real leather. If it’s the look you’re after, it can happen both up close and from afar. The hybrid aspect is that the bottom of the strap is silicone. Am a big fan of this type of strap because I don’t have to change straps before a workout. The easiest way to ensure you stick to an exercise regimen is to remove as much friction from the process as possible, and it’s one of the main reasons I No I opt for leather straps in my day to day despite preferring the look. This is specific to me, but I already have to slather on sunscreen, put on my contacts, grab my water bottle, and pair up at least three other wearables to test. The last thing I want is to add more steps before I can get out the door.

It’s more of a slimer, ectoplasm green.
Photo by Victoria Song/The Verge

In both cases, it is similar to the concept of “day to night”: an outfit or makeup look that easily adapts from one setting to another with minimal effort on the part of the wearer. The “minimum effort” part is key.

In most cases, it is not difficult to change the straps. But sometimes, it can be! Straps that use standard pins are convenient because many smartwatches and mechanical watches use them. I have poor eyesight and a predilection for manicures. Depending on how well the strap is made or the size of the movement itself, it can be a hassle to swap one strap for another. I have broken a lot of nails and skipped too many manicures in the process. Button-based mechanisms, like the new one-click straps from Apple and Samsung, are less cumbersome, but can still be difficult if you have limited hand mobility. There are tools you can buy to make the process easier, but you also have to search for the tools every time you want to change your style.

The other problem is managing your collection of straps. Smartwatch manufacturers have gotten better at this over time, but sometimes straps aren’t backwards or forwards compatible. Or suppose you decide to go up or down a size within the same watch family. Often times your existing straps may not work and therefore you have a useless collection. At $60, the Nomad strap is expensive, And if it didn’t feel like two straps in one, I’d balk at buying one in the first place, let alone throw it away if it doesn’t work with my next Apple Watch. You can find much more affordable alternatives on Amazon or Etsy, but having to replace any part of a collection is an annoying prospect, regardless of cost.

If each strap you buy can perform in multiple scenarios, you don’t need that many straps to start with. My dream strap would be some sort of leather on top, with a more breathable nylon or fabric underside. (Silicone is nice, but I often get rashes on contact; that never happens with fabric.) It would be great if, like Nomad’s glow-in-the-dark strap, it could have one that changes color based on light or body temperature, sort of like a mood ring. The more mileage you can get out of a strap, the less you’ll need in your collection and the less you’ll need to change them out for specific occasions.

I am well aware that this will not be to everyone’s taste. Many people like to have a healthy strap collection, while others are happy to never change their default strap. At the very least, multifunctional bands would save you time and money, without sacrificing style for people who may lack manual dexterity. Considering how many faux-leather hybrid straps there are, and the fact that Nomad’s glow-in-the-dark strap sold out in 24 hours, I don’t think I’m the only one who likes the idea.

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