It’s taken a long time, but smartwatches are finally getting better-looking.
Although the category of wearables as a whole continues to grow each year, smartwatches have struggled to find their place. Most smartwatches hover between utilitarian and overwrought, with one major feature in common: an utter lack of fashion sense.
Thankfully, the tide is turning.
This fall, we’ll see the launch of several new smartwatches running Android Wear, Google’s smartwatch operating system. Among them are the $US650 Movado Connect and the $US350 Michael Kors Access Sofie. Both watches are now available to buy online.
I’ve had the chance to test both watches over the last few weeks and one thing is now clear to me: The future of smartwatches lies with fashion brands, not tech companies.
According to research firm eMarketer, 44.4 million US adults will use a wearable device this year, an increase of 12.6% since last year. The category is growing, and more people are seeing the usefulness of products like smartwatches.
But smartwatches are unique in that they’re equally a fashion product and a tech product, and in order to grow, the two need to work hand-in-hand. Tech companies like Google and Apple need to make the software that powers the watches, because they lend the legitimacy and connectivity that helps people see the value in spending several hundred dollars on these devices.
On the other hand, Google and Apple are tech companies. They aren’t accustomed to making products to wear on your body.
Which brings us to Movado and Michael Kors, who worked with Google to add Android Wear to traditional styles of their watches.
The Movado Connect features the brand’s signature Museum Dial — a large metallic dot at 12 o’clock and two metal arms — on both the awake and sleep screen. Its crystal face is encased with gold ion-plated stainless steel, and customers can choose a silicone or metal strap. It’s an absolutely stunning watch, if a bit too large for a woman’s wrist.
The Access Sofie is approachable and stylish. It’s about the size and shape of a standard Michael Kors watch, and neatly sidesteps the brand’s “basic” image by being just a really nice-looking watch. I wore the Access Sofie constantly, without hesitation, for one simple reason: It looked great on my wrist, and went with my outfits.
As for the tech itself, both watches run Android Wear 2.0. I reviewed the operating system back in February when it launched, and not much has changed. At the time, I called it
the best user experience I’ve ever had with a smartwatch, and I still believe that.
I’ve had both watches since early August, and have worn them interchangeable over the last few weeks. I test a lot of tech gadgets, and a lot of wearables, but I’ve never before gotten so many compliments when testing a product. Now, that’s just anecdotal evidence, and I can’t speak yet for how well these watches are selling. But I believe that in order for wearable technology to truly catch on, it needs to seamlessly blend into your life rather than disrupt it, and both watches accomplish that.
In short, Google has the right idea: Make a solid OS, find companies that can handle the hardware better than you, and partner to make gorgeous wearables.
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