Bottom line: Having a dedicated workout band for Apple Watch is a perfect idea for those that hit the gym regularly, so why not incorporate a useful sweatband with it? It might not be the most fashionable choice, but it's comfortable, functional, and doesn't impair the Apple Watch's use at all.
Comfortable, snug fit
Apple Watch remains in place and in contact with your wrist
Cutouts for sensors, Digital Crown, mic, and speakers
Fiddly to get Apple Watch in and out
Bulky design is not well-suited to slim wrists
No Series 7 support (coming soon)
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Unless the '80s are your jam, you probably don't consider sweatbands to be particularly stylish. However, despite being something of a fashion faux pas, they are pretty helpful for clearing a sweaty brow and keeping hands dry during exercise.
If you've missed having a sweatband on the wrist that your Apple Watch takes up, Twelve South has now got a product for you. With the ActionBand, it has created an Apple Watch band that offers the usefulness of a sweatband without sacrificing the performance of your workout tracker. As an avid runner and regular Apple Fitness+ user, I wanted to check out the ActionBand to see how well it works.
Twelve South ActionBand: Price and availability
Retailing for $30, ActionBand actually includes two sweatbands, one with space to incorporate your Apple Watch and one without. You can grab a pair directly at Twelve South's site as well as via Amazon.
In terms of sizing, there are currently two versions of ActionBand to fit either 40mm or 44mm Apple Watch models. That includes Apple Watch Series 4, 5, 6, and SE. Despite launching after Apple Watch Series 7, the larger screens of the new models mean that a new version of ActionBand is needed to support the latest Apple Watch devices. (Twelve South says this is coming soon.)
Twelve South ActionBand: What's good
The Twelve South ActionBand is made of a blend of lycra and terry cloth, meaning it is stretchy while remaining soft to the touch. It feels like exactly the type of material you'd expect any sweatband to be made of, and it's as absorbent as you'd expect too. It's lightweight and equally comfortable to wear on your wrist or further up your forearm.
Of the pair of sweatbands in the box, only one has a frame in which to place your Apple Watch, and the other is purely a sweatband. The Apple Watch enclosure is sturdy, requiring a little bit of force to put your Apple Watch in there and hold it solidly in place while working out.
There's a cutout at the front so you can interact with the display as you usually would, and the heart rate sensor on the back makes contact with your bare wrist as normal. On the sides, there's a hole for the Digital Crown to poke through as well as openings where the Apple Watch's mic and speakers reside.
While running with the ActionBand, I was never concerned that my Apple Watch would fall out, and the band itself was snug enough that the heart rate monitoring continued uninterrupted. The Apple Watch enclosure acts as a bit of a bumper for the device itself, which could prove handy for use around the gym where it's possible you'd nick your Apple Watch with a weight or on a machine.
Unlike a lot of Apple Watch bands, you don't have to worry about sweat ruining it over time as the ActionBand is machine washable. That means you can throw it in the washing machine along with your other workout gear after an arduous session. There is no sweat staining to try and scrub out and no need to wipe the sweat residue off the inside of the band or your wrist after your workout — a huge plus.
Twelve South ActionBand: What's not good
As mentioned, the built-in frame for the Apple Watch is relatively rigid. While this adds confidence that your Apple Watch will stay put, it makes it fiddly getting your Apple Watch in and out of it. It's a minor inconvenience, but one you will face every time you swap to this band at the gym or in front of a Fitness+ video.
The lack of Apple Watch Series 7 support at launch is a shame, given that many fitness-focused Apple users like to ensure they are rocking the best Apple Watch the day it comes out. A compatible ActionBand is on the horizon, though.
My other qualms with ActionBand really center around its looks rather than its utility. A lot of Apple Watch bands are sold for their visual appeal, whereas the ActionBand's focus is on, well, action. That means it's not particularly fashionable, which is actually a concern for a lot of gym-goers.
Though it is really comfortable to wear, it's on the bulky side and wouldn't be well-suited to slimmer wrists or arms. I felt a little bit like I had a quarterback-style playbook wristband on my arm, and I'm not particularly slender.
The stitched Twelve South logos on each sweatband look classy, but it's a tad disappointing that the only color choice is gray. I'm not demanding Twelve South adopts '80s-style fluorescent colors, but a small range of colors would probably suit a lot more people.
Twelve South ActionBand: Competition
Though you might own several Apple Watch bands, you can only wear one at a time, so Twelve South is effectively competing with every sports-focused Apple Watch band on the market. That includes Apple's own Sport Band and Sport Loop, plus Nike's equivalent offerings, as well as similar bands from a myriad of third parties.
Interestingly, Twelve South is also directly competing with itself too. It already offers a similarly-focused workout product called ActionSleeve which moves the Apple Watch up to the bicep which is ideal for certain types of workouts.
Twelve South ActionBand: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You find existing Apple Watch bands uncomfortable for exercise
- You have previously ruined Apple Watch bands with sweat staining
- You own an Apple Watch Series 4, 5, 6, or SE
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You don't frequently exercise with your Apple Watch
- You own an Apple Watch Series 3 or earlier, or an Apple Watch Series 7 (at least until an updated version is released)
- You are concerned about looking stylish at the gym
If you use your Apple Watch to work out but find existing sport-style bands to be uncomfortable, the ActionBand may well be your new best friend at the gym. It's lightweight, very comfortable, and doesn't sacrifice the utility of your Apple Watch at all. Better yet, it's machine washable, so you won't ruin it by working out in it — that's what it's for!
If you rarely work out with your Apple Watch, have smaller wrists, or tend to prefer form over function for your Apple Watch bands, then ActionBand is likely not for you. It's tailor-made to be useful during workouts rather than look particularly appealing on your wrist.
Adam Oram is a Senior Writer at iMore. He studied Media at Newcastle University and has been writing about technology since 2013. He previously worked as an Apple Genius and as a Deals Editor at Thrifter. His spare time is spent watching football (both kinds), playing Pokémon games, and eating vegan food. Follow him on Twitter at @adamoram.
By Tammy Rogers