Whether it’s huge straps, sparkling monstrosities or just faces bigger than our whole hands, we’ve written about the fact wearable brands and big tech corporations often overlook the needs of female consumers many times in the past.
Luckily, over the past year, some brands have really shone (despite there being so few diamantes in sight, thankfully), like Pebble’s Time Round, The Moto 360 2nd Gen and Huawei Watch, just to name a few. These offerings aren’t perfect, but they’re on the right track. With straps that fit a multitude of wrists, faces that look functional, not farcical and stylish offerings that don’t sacrifice tech smarts under the hood.
But in the same breath, as women who like tech and like to spend our hard-earned cash on it, it’s frustrating to see there are still some brands that seem to have been taking lessons about what it means to design a product with men and women in mind from Paris Hilton circa 2002.
A number of new wearable announcements this year suggest that some brands are still following the same outdated and just plain wrong rule that if you want something to appeal to women it has to be covered in gems, rhinestones or other assorted glitzy assortments you can pick up at Hobbycraft. It’s like the idea of “pink it and shrink it” but with added sparkling, rainbow unicorn vomit glued on top.
A great example from CES 2016 came from Huawei. The brand lifted the lid on two new watches “for women” called “Elegant” and “Jewel”. And before we even delve into the designs (no prizes for guessing sparkles feature, a lot) these names are a little problematic, right? The brand’s original smartwatches last year had names like “Classic”, “Active” and “Elite”. The women-only names are “Elegant” and “Jewel”. Now I’m not normally one to get hung up on these minor semantic issues, but to me it seems like the brainstorming process went downhill as soon as the names were picked out from the “for women” thesaurus. But perhaps that’s not surprising from the parent company of the brand that created this ad.
The watches themselves are the same smartwatches as their predecessors (which we featured in our round-up of great smartwatches for women, ironically), they both have a 1.4-inch screen, 286ppi sapphire crystal AMOLED displays, 1.5 day battery life and both Android and iPhone compatibility.
The differences are primarily in the aesthetics. They both do away with important information on the watch face and replace it with Swarovski gemstones, a huge helping of rose gold, white and blue straps and a tonne of celestial imagery that’d look more at home on a yoga mat than something that you wear on your arm 24/7. (Below are just two variations, there are a few more.)
Oh and, oddly, their size is different. They’re aimed at women (who often have smaller wrists than men, but not always, obvs) yet these two new models are slightly bigger in dimension at 44 X 44 X 11.3mm — even though they’re the same thickness.
So the big question here for me is: why? Huawei’s previous models, which were launched last year, weren’t perfect smartwatches by any means, but adding crystals to them, making them chunkier and sacrificing important stuff — like, you know the ability to tell the time properly — for faux jewellery patterns seems like a step backwards rather than forwards. Huawei’s press release doesn’t help much:
“Following the successful launch of 2015’s best smartwatch, Huawei’s new editions aimed at women who sparkle and shine”
Riiiight. Of course we don’t want “women who sparkle and shine” to feel left out — and I’m happy to admit I might just not be the target market here — but at the same time it just feels so lazy.
The frustrating thing is the fact that it’s not all that hard. We’ve written (in a fair bit of depth) about what needs to be done. Straps that fit, faces that fit, stylish, functional, it’s all quite straightforward.
But really the most straightforward part of it all is to actually understand women. Not just a small cross section who value sparkles over specs, but women as a whole. And go on to create products that feel unisex, and haven’t been assigned a gender to varying degrees of offence and diamante.
I’m willing to accept that the ongoing debate about why wearables are so poorly made for women could be down to personal taste. I don’t own many in-yer-face gold accessories or a great deal of high-end jewellery. So sure, maybe the thinking behind marketing a smartwatch like a gaudy timepiece is lost on me. But I know I’m not alone in that.
Fundamentally, some brands really need to up their game to keep up with competition and not be left firmly in the sparkling, gaudy past as companies like Pebble and Apple head into the future.
Main image: Huawei