Collaborations with accessories designers, diamantes, sparkles, lots of Argos-style gold and, most importantly, sacrificing smarts for style points. Up to now, smartwatch brands have heavily relied on making their devices look more like jewellery than wrist-bound powerhouses in order to target women.
But in order to penetrate a mass market and prove to be more useful for more than say a day or two, brands need to understand that women don’t always want glammed-up style and dumbed-down specs. In fact they rarely want that, FYI.
Instead, they want smartwatches that work. That are functional. That look good. Oh, and it’d be awesome if they could actually fit, too. Because let’s face it, we could argue all day long about what women want from tech and what men want from tech and debate whether those two lists are really all that different (spoiler: they’re not).
But you can’t escape the fact that men and women can have very different bodies. Yeah, you can stop sniggering now. I’m talking about our wrists. Sounds like common sense, right?
I probably have an average build and at 5”7 I’m not small, but I just measured my wrist and it’s 152mm. Slap a smartwatch bigger than 46mm on me and it’s going to look MASSIVE. And I’m not the only one – you wouldn’t believe how many women I’ve spoken to in the tech space who have told me smartwatches are too big, they don’t fit properly, you have to poke extra holes in their straps, the screens are massive and don’t get them started on how many sleeves won’t fit over the faces.
Add the fact that early generations of smartwatches looked like mini calculators strapped to our wrists – absolutely nothing like the accessories many (but not all) women are accustomed to wearing. And you’ve got a recipe for a good chunk of the tech-buying population that desperately wants to join in the smartwatch revolution but feels ignored and pretty damn uncomfortable when they try.
Now of course there are practical considerations. You can’t ask for a way slimmer form-factor and not expect to compromise elsewhere (BATTERY), that’s just not how it works. In the same way, any broad brush approach dreamed up in a brainstorming session to rebrand something “for women” is bound to be problematic, because newsflash: we’re all different!
Many big tech brands entered the wearable space with devices that made women feel like Borrowers
But there has to be more of a middle-ground between huge and hideous and dumb and gold-plated that caters to a more diverse range of men, women, big tech lovers, little tech lovers, those that do like bling-y smartwatches and those who want their tech to be discreet.
Well, breathe a sigh of relief. Despite the fact many big tech brands and smaller startups entered the wearable space with devices that made some women feel like Borrowers, fast-forward a year and it looks like we’re witnessing a new range of wearables that we might actually, maybe, hopefully, wear.
Circular designs, slimmer straps, casing that isn’t too huge, a bunch of huge customisation options and no scrimping on the specs. Let’s take a look at some of the smartwatches we think women will actually wear.
First up, we’ve got Pebble’s new model, the Pebble Time Round. Plenty of women loved the original Pebble, but again, we’re talking about mass market appeal here – and it doesn’t take an expert to pick up on the fact the Pebble Time Round looks more like a standard watch. And this is so, so key. It’s a lot easier to convince someone to buy something that looks, feels and fits like something they know and love rather than convincing them of a brand new product category.
The Pebble Time Round ticks all the boxes when it comes to many common gripes with wearable tech, too.
In the promotional video, Pebble’s CEO and Founder Eric Migicovsky explains that it’s “the thinnest and lightest smartwatch in the world”. And at 7.5mm thin and 28g in weight we’re not arguing with that claim just yet.
But despite its new looks, it’s still a Pebble through-and-through, with its always-on display, days of battery life and notifications. There are customisation options aplenty, with two sizes to choose from, a number of colour options, different band widths and loads of downloadable watch face designs.
Officially announced earlier this year at IFA in Berlin, the second iteration of Motorola’s smartwatch is similar to its predecessor but with a decent upgrade. Great news for us, as we were already huge fans of the original Moto 360 – huge being the operative word. It was massive.
Luckily, it’s as if Motorola were listening the day Editor Holly and I complained about it, because with the Moto 360 2nd gen there are two disinct sizes to choose from: a 46mm model (like the original) and a 42mm. Speaking to Gadgette earlier this year, Motorola Senior Vice President of Product Kouji Kodera said “Our key thing for the brand is to provide choices to the people.”
And they’ve definitely done that. As well as two sizes, there’s a variety of bands in metal or leather to choose from – the larger one has gold, black and silver, but the hue of the moment, rose gold, is available for the smaller one. You can also use Moto Maker, an online customisation tool, to personalise the smartwatch – there are more than 300 different combinations of materials, styles and main body variations for you to pick from.
The different sized models equate to a 1.37 or 1.56-inch LCD display, and the bigger one has a 360 x 360 233 PPI (pixels per inch) resolution. Pixel density is higher on the smaller version, with the 1.37-inch display’s resolution of 360 x 325 resulting in a 263 PPI screen.
The only other thing you’ll miss out on if you opt for the smaller edition is battery life. The larger version is packing a 400mAh battery with up to 2 days’ battery life, the smaller has a 300mAh power pack, which is actually less than the first version. Ouch.
Luckily, both versions have been upgraded with the Snapdragon 400 quad-core 1.2GHz processor that’s inside most of its rivals and should iron out the laggy performance many people reported with the original Moto 360. Both also have the new optical heart rate sensor, which syncs up to Moto Body – the brand’s health and fitness ecosystem.
It’s also worth mentioning that since the latest Android Wear update, most wearables that were strictly Android only will now sync up with your iOS device too – a pretty big deal for the Apple lovers out there.
3. Huawei Watch
We see what you’re doing, Huawei, roping in Karlie Kloss for your promotional stuff. “Women wanna be Victoria’s Secret angels, right? Well, hear me out, let’s hire one!”. Bravo, I’m sold.
Seriously though, the Huawei Watch doesn’t appeal to me quite as much as the other two – it’s similar to the Moto 360, but just doesn’t wow me as much. However, it’s definitely worth mentioning because it plays a part in this migration away from bulky tech and towards slimmer, more wearable tech that looks distinctly more unisex than the stuff we’ve seen in the past.
Inspired by Swiss watches, the Huawei Watch ticks all the standard smartwatch boxes, with alerts for calls, texts, messages and emails, Bluetooth connectivity for wireless headphone support, voice commands and a bunch of smart fitness tracking features.
At 42mm it comes in on the smaller side of the scale set by the Moto 360 2nd gen, but its display has a 400 x 400 pixel resolution (286 PPI) – making it one of the most vibrant Android Wear devices on the market.
It has a circular face, as well as rose gold, stainless steel and black frames to choose from. Like most smartwatches nowadays, you can also add different watch face designs, which Huawei promises include “classic, luxury, business, feminine, modern and simple aesthetics.”
Let’s not forget that, like the new Moto 360, it also has a heart rate monitor and a bunch of sensors designed to track steps and fitness. Upgrading to an Android Wear watch generally means you can ditch your Fitbit.
Honourable mention: the Honor Nameless
Another watch from Huawei (via their sub-brand, Honor), this one looks to be slim, stylish and amazingly cheap at just £59. It doesn’t have a name just yet (they’re running a competition) and despite being announced over a month ago, it’s not even on their website yet. But from what we saw at the Honor 7 launch, it looks like it’ll be a good’un.
That’s all we’ve got time for today, folks – but there’s more on the way. And it’s not just tech brands: watch manufacturers are also waking up to the fact that, with the right team, they could dominate this space just as much.
Let’s hope these three watches are just the beginning of a step towards more diverse, unisex tech that we can actually fit on our wrists. Tech is for everyone, after all.
Main image: Pebble