The Wearables scene is ‘The’ hot topic to follow right now, and I have to admit that I’m feeling a little left out. I think fitness trackers are cool, they are in the thin edge of the wedge introducing smart devices into our lives. But they still aren’t as smart as we’d all want them to be. Smartwatches are fascinating, the industry is working on figuring out usage cases identifying real value. The truth is that I’m feeling left out, there are some neat devices which I’ll get into below that ‘get’ women, but when it comes to devices with display’s for Women, the options well…they just aren’t there yet.
Let’s look at what’s out there watch-wise for Women, Apple has their Watch that comes in 2 sizes, I’ve never been one to get too excited about Apple devices, but praise the lord someone finally made a wearable for little ol’ me. Pebble’s Steel just fits, and right now it’s the only device with a display currently on the market that would work for women. The rest of their line-up sadly is just to big.
Let me first outline what my problem is and then you can see if it’s your problem too. It’s wrist gap, that space between your wrist and the device. A space so ugly and so uncomfortable that I can’t help but feel like I’m wearing a device made for a man.
My next issue is that I don’t understand why we are trying to innovate into a brand new form factor with use cases that threaten to define future ways that we interact with devices strapped to our bodies…and shoving them right into a form factor that was first created over 200 years ago.
I get it, women aren’t usually early adopters and the miniaturization of something like this is going to take a few generations to really work for those of a more petite frame. But that’s not going to stop me from wanting to play and I’m not talking about the entry level wearables that just count steps and tell me to take the stairs. When we get past the basic glamification they are offering to our lives where is the real value?
Intel Prove they Get What Women Want with MICA
A few weeks ago I got to meet with the Wearables Team at Intel, to check out the MICA (My Intelligent Communication Accessory, a bracelet that has a display and is actually innovating in terms of form factor. Check out our hands on video of the MICA from IDF a few weeks ago.
You can go into an explanation of how the device looks, its display and how maybe it might not be everyone’s cup of tea style-wise, but the concept is what sets it apart from the entire industry. The thicker bracelet style of the device means there’s plenty room for the technology to reside (batteries, processor etc) and the design means there is also stays in place when you twist the wrist so that its semi-precious gems can be seen, not the sapphire display.
Wait? You’re Telling me A Pop Singer Nailed Wearables?
Last week at Dreamforce Will.i.am released the Puls. Check out the pics I managed to take on the wrist of a tiny model. Low and behold it looks good. It’s actually not that surprising that Will.i.am and Intel are on the same page, even though the Puls is running on a Snapdragon processor. Back in 2011 Will.i.am was Intel’s Director of Creative Innovation. So the fact that both came up with a Cuff design isn’t really that much of a surprise.
It is surprising that Will.i.am decided to go with Qualcomm…though at the Press event he was heard saying that he was the only black man to have his own OS. (The Qualcomm Toq does run a proprietary OS and to launch the Puls he would have had to modify it, so technically he has his own forked OS). Massive ego aside, the Puls isn’t trying to fit into a watch form factor, and the apps aren’t really trying to leverage the unique form factor.
During the release of the Puls, Will.i.am kept bring up the fact that he didn’t think this was a watch. This type of out of the circle thinking is what makes the Puls a ‘fashion first’ device with well thought out specific use cases. We’ve got a detailed write up for the Pulse from our time at Dreamforce last week here.
Why Tech Bloggers Are the Wrong People to Judge Fashion
Since its release last week, the Puls has been coming under some pretty heavy fire. Fast Company just released a blow by blow article of why Will.i.am did not do a good job, most of it around the fact that it’s larger than its competitors, though I’m not sure where she’s getting the poor battery life claim. I guess the larger display and slightly larger battery could end up being only a single day like many of its competitors.
What I think we need to keep in mind is that this product category is developing quickly and everything that is being released is just for the year ahead. Form factors are changing as processes are improved. It is necessary that we have round watches to appease those who need a traditional form factor? With the limitations we have with design, I’m not sure why you would really need a round screen.
That is what you Consider Unisex?
If we look at what else is out there in terms of Smartwatches , you basically need to love over sized watches, which something that perhaps some women don’t mind. In my very unscientific research talking to other ladies, I find very few who like the LG Watch R? This is a manly military utility (is that the right description?). LG is delusional enough to tell me to my face, that it’s actually unisex, when I said…come on are you serious…they said, no really women love it. Which actually made me ask my lesbian friends what they thought of it, and they thought it was dope.
If we look at what is out there, the LG Watch R is a military style watch akin to something like a Bretling or any other diving watch with a dial.. it’s classic watch styling that high-end watch makers do a great job of. The Moto 360 is also round and almost fits on top of my wrist, but it takes up the whole thing and does look a bit silly. My current favorite would be the Zenwatch which is the nicest looking Smartwatch on the market (imo) and they even tell me that they are going to be coming out with a version specifically for women.
Ok, So Apple got it right too
I know everyone is going to talk about the Apple Watch and comment that I should just go all in, but my ecosystem isn’t in Apple. I’m going to get one, don’t get me wrong, but if you’re not all in on Apple, what else is out there that has a display? Plus, we’ve gotta wait till next year for the launch of that bad boy (hopefully having a full day of battery). That’s the other thing you have to worry about when you miniaturize, it’s smaller so it has to have a smaller battery, meaning less battery life.
Here are some wearables that don’t feature displays that I think are also pretty interesting.