Google already sells various Android Wear devices in the Google Store, but now it’s getting into the accessory game with the MODE watchbands. These watchbands are on sale today in leather and silicone varieties and will work on any watch (Android Wear or other) that uses standard lugs. They’re designed to be easily swapped with a new clip system, but they’re not cheap. Google is asking $50 for the silicone ones and $60 for leather.
The snap-and-go technology is Google’s main selling point for MODE. Once you have spring bars installed on the watch, you just use the slider on the underside to lock the band into place and remove it. When engaged, a metal barrier slides up to hold the band in place. Each MODE band comes with spring bars of the appropriate size and a small spring bar tool to install them—that’s thoughtful. Any watch that has standard spring bars in the right size range should work with Mode, but Google is obviously targeting Wear. The mechanism feels solid, and it’s easy to operate. This is by far the best latching mechanism I’ve seen on a watch band, though I worry how it will hold up over time.
As previously mentioned, MODE is available in leather and silicone. There are 16 colors and 4 sizes (16, 18, 20, and 22mm). MODE should work on most watches, with the exception of non-standard ones like the Smartwatch 3, Moto 360 v1, and LG Watch Urbane 2. The demo bands Google provided are both 18mm for the Huawei Watch. However, the Hwatch has unusually narrow lugs for its size; the stock bands flare out just past the lugs to a more normal width. MODE doesn’t do this, and as a result, I think they look too feminine. On A watch like the Moto 360, I bet MODE would look really excellent.
As far as the quality of the bands, MODE seems fantastic. The leather is still just “genuine,” but it’s very soft and flexible without being spongy. The silicone bands are silky smooth without the sticky quality that a lot of silicone bands tend to have. I don’t know that I’d pay $50-60 for them personally, but I’d at least consider it. Google’s accessory prices tend to be high, so this isn’t really a surprise.
So, let’s say you scoff at a $60 watchband. No problem, there might be some cheaper options coming soon, but not from Google. MODE is an open source platform, so other manufacturers will be able to use the same latching mechanism and MODE name to make easily swappable bands for watches (the official ones are all made by Hadley Roma). It’s not a free-for-all, though. Accessory makers have to get the latching mechanism from a Google-approved vendor, pass reliability testing, and follow Google’s brand guidelines. I expect some less expensive third-party MODE bands pop up on Amazon eventually.
Google has been doing more promotions in the Google Store lately, and I hope the MODE bands end up included in one soon. They’re probably a little too spendy for most people, even though I think the quality is quite good. The quick swapping mechanism is really only a big deal if you have more than one band, and at that point you’re looking at more than $100 for bands. If money’s no object, you can have different colors to match your style, or maybe just a leather band for work and a silicone one for the gym.