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Apple Watch Ultra should be sold without bands (or how to fix Apple’s annual wearable supply woes)

Apple Watch Studio
(Image credit: Apple)

It seems to happen every year. Certain Apple Watch models sell out very quickly during pre-ordering and early buying. This year, the issue is showing its ugly head with the all-new Apple Watch Ultra and other new models Apple announced last week

It doesn't have to be this way, however. A simple way to ensure more people receive their wearable devices on launch day is to allow us to receive our Apple Watches and Apple Watch bands separately. 

Here's the problem

Last week, Apple introduced the Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch SE 2, and the Apple Watch Ultra. These models are available in styles that vary by case sizes, materials, and, of course, bands. Then there's the Apple Watch Hermès and Apple Watch Nike, both Apple Watch Series 8 models with some additional variances. 

I'm not going to spend the time to count the available Apple Watch combinations, but it's excessive, and even more so because of the many different bands. 

Apple shouldn't suddenly stop selling Apple Watch bands at the time of purchase. Instead, it would be better for everyone if it were to ship these items separately. That way, for example, every order for an Apple Watch Series 8 (45mm) with gold stainless steel would go out at the same time. 

Under the current scenario, that isn't happening simply because some Watch bands are more popular than others. 

Apple Watch Ultra

(Image credit: Apple)

An example

Let's consider the Apple Watch Ultra as an example. This model is only offered in titanium with a 49mm case. Therefore, one would assume any order placed today would arrive at the same time, right?

No. 

Cupertino sells the Apple Watch Ultra with nine bands across three types: Alpine, Trail, and Ocean. Alpine is offered with a Small, Medium, or Large band, while Trail comes with an S/M or M/L band. The Ocean comes with only one band size. 

At the time of this writing, at least in the U.S., the shipping lead times are the same, regardless of the band size for each category. However, they differ significantly, depending on the color of the band you choose. 

These are the current lead times:

ModelColorShipping estimate
AlpineOrangeOctober 26-November 2
GreenOctober 12-19
StarlightOctober 12-19
TrailBlue/GrayOctober 26-November 2
Yellow/BeigeOctober 26-November 2
Black/GreyNovember 3-9
OceanMidnightOctober 12-19
WhiteOctober 12-19
YellowOctober 12-19

As you can see, the shipping times don't appear that much different. And yet, they are different nonetheless. 

So in the above example, you can order the same Apple Watch as someone else but could receive your purchase on November 2 vs. October 12 for the other person. And this scenario can go on and on, depending on the Apple Watch version, case size, case materials, and band size. 

What should happen

I'm not a logistics expert. However, fewer product combinations would probably be much easier for Apple to handle. I also recognize the company makes a lot of money on each band purchased, and it certainly doesn't want to give that up. 

With one tiny switch, Apple could still make money selling Apple Watch bands and ensure every Apple Watch customer receives their wearable simultaneously. 

Instead of packaging both products in a single box, each should ship separately as needed. In other words, if the band you want isn't available for six weeks, but the Watch is available the next day, so be it. On the ordering side, under this plan, nothing changes, as you still need to order an Apple Watch band with each Apple Watch purchase. However, the items would now show up as separate line items.

Some readers will note you can't wear a Watch without a band, which is undoubtedly true. However, most Apple Watch buyers in 2022 already have an Apple Watch, which means there are already bands in the home that can be used until a new one arrives. (There's also a nice selection of third-party Apple Watch bands that could serve the same purpose.)

Isn't this a better approach? 

Honestly, separating an Apple Watch from its band at shipping sounds better for both Apple and the buyer. On the one hand, everyone who orders a specific Apple Watch model will receive theirs simultaneously. On the other, Apple would have fewer products to ship out the door, but it would still generate those all-important band sales. 

The only issue I see with my suggestion is there are now two packages going out the door per order. And yet, isn't that what happens whenever you order an Apple Watch, then purchase new bands separately during the product's life cycle? Of course, it is. 

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.