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Apple to reportedly offer Apple Watch band exchanges as alternative to full returns

According to a report on Wednesday, Apple will allow Apple Watch buyers to swap out the bundled strap for another if the accessory is not to their liking, a strategy that saves both time for the consumer and precious device supply for Apple.

A memo to Apple Store employees sent out today and later obtained by MacRumors reveals Apple plans to let Apple Watch customers who are looking to return the device an option to simply exchange bands.

Workers are instructed to suggest a band swap if a buyer wants to return Watch because they are unhappy with sizing, color or style.

There are limitations to exchanges, however, as Apple notes replacement bands "must be within the same collection as the watch and must be an available band option for that watch face." This suggests Apple Watch Sport buyers are only allowed to swap in a different Sport Strap, while Apple Watch owners can exchange their unwanted band for a Sport Strap, classic buckle, leather loop, link bracelet, Milanese loop and, for 38mm units, modern buckle.

Apple's standard 14-day return period applies to the strap swap program, while exchanges will only be performed on Watch units purchased through the Online Apple Store, Apple Store app or a "Kiosk," the latter likely referring to pop-up Apple Watch Shops. Exchanges do not appear to be an option for models purchased from the few high-end fashion outlets Apple chose to work with for launch. Unlike brick-and-mortar Apple Stores, these retailers will supposedly have stock on hand for in-store sales on Friday.

Finally, the memo notes Apple Store employees are not allowed to use band swapping as a way to configure Watch for a customer.

Exchanges are routed through Apple's call center, which sends the customer a new band and offers instructions on how to mail back the original. As for full Apple Watch returns, the document provides guidelines for inspecting the device, pointing out Geniuses and a store manager need to inspect Apple Watch Edition models prior to acceptance.

While initial Apple Watch units are spoken for, Apple today confirmed that orders are heading out earlier than expected, affecting some customers whose orders were originally estimated to arrive in May or June.