There’s an ugly truth about smart watches: No matter which company designs them, they’re all hideous.
I haven’t spoken to a single woman who wants one. Finding a guy who wants one is difficult as well. I’ve only seen one in the wild, on a Twitter PR person. Tech investor Marc Andreessen is the only person I can think of who’s excited to buy one.
I’m not a fashion snob. I have some cute $US30 shoes from Ross. I wear a few rings and things. I also own a stylish gold watch which I was given for Valentine’s Day. But I have no desire to replace my Marc Jacobs bling with a gadget that buzzes, blinks or beeps alongside my cell phone.
So, even after Apple unveiled three different smart watch designs, I vowed to never buy a wearable, and certainly not a smart watch.
But while compiling our annual SA 100 list (which comes out tomorrow), I took a closer look at Ringly.
Ringly is a New York-based startup that looks like something you’d find in a boutique, not an Apple store.
It’s a chunky gold ring with a beautiful gem in the center. It could be made by Bauble Bar and sold on Gilt Groupe. Instead, it’s made by two young founders, Christina Mercando and Logan Munro. It raised $US1 million from investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures and First Round Capital.
But the ring does more than just look pretty — it vibrates subtly when a text message from an important contact comes in or a notification from a favourite app is sent. It also gives a gentle buzz when you get a call from someone you love.
There’s a tiny light on the side of the ring. Other than that, it looks like a normal piece of costume jewelry. It’s even made out of 18K gold and semi-precious stones.
The price is a little steep at nearly $US200. Yet this morning I found myself on Ringly’s site with two rings in my pre-order shopping cart.
(My sister, who is far more stylish than I am, has a few rings that look just like it and she never hears her phone when it rings. It’d make a fun Christmas present).
I’m tempted, for the first time ever, to splurge on a wearable for her, my mum and maybe even myself.
The problem with wearable solutions from Apple, Samsung, Google and LG is they make you look like a walking computer. Billie Whitehouse, a fashion-wearables designer in NYC, thinks that’s a fatal flaw. She’s designed wearables like a responsive sports jersey, the Alert Shirt, and Navigate, a blazer that has a vibrating GPS built into the shoulder pads.
“We don’t want you to be a flashing light,” Whitehouse said at a design and idea-centric conference, PSFK. “We don’t want you to look or feel like a computer.” Ringly may be the first tech startup that gets this, and understands what women want.
I’m not drawn to Ringly because of the technology. I’m drawn to it because it’s a ring I’d actually want to own, with or without the mobile notifications. The fact that it syncs with my iPhone is just an additional perk, not the selling factor.
I haven’t bought or worn a Ringly yet. But for the first time ever, I’m excited to hunt down a wearable and try it on.