We love our tech. We adore the simple, clean lines of the iPod and the teeny-tiny ‘isn’t it cute’ness of the Shuffle. The act of swiping a touchscreen on our Android or iOS Smartphone gives us an enormous amount of pleasure, and those FitBits are just uber-cool if you’re the sporty type. But out of all of those the only true ‘wearable’ is the Fuel band, and it also happens to be one of the only wearables that’s got things right aesthetically too. The sad truth is that, as much as we love our tech, we’re not yet in love with wearables – because they look dreadful! Yep, the tech may be cool, but the designs are leaving us fussy consumers cold. The biggest fashion crime so far has to be the Smartwatch.
The concept is fantastic – a compact smart device you wear on your wrist that gives you on-the-go tech at the touch of a screen. But my goodness, it’s ugly! You need arms the size of a gorilla to be able to pass it off as a ‘watch’ of any kind. It’s big, it’s bulky and it’s being shunned by one half of the market in particular – women. This is not a watch that the average girl wants to have hanging off her wrist. Even men are not completely enamoured with the design – again, they love the concept and the techy nature of the Smartwatch, but aesthetically it’s simply not ticking the boxes. I was expecting more…
There’s also another fundamental problem with smartwatches in particular, and that’s while they’re big and bulky, they don’t actually do as much as they promise. In fact, you can get far more out of a smartphone than you can from a Smartwatch. Emails are easier to see and respond to, while nobody wants to watch a movie or TV show on a Smartwatch.
Smartwatches have been around for 40 years, and we’re still struggling with that simple problem of getting them to look good. The trouble is that our expectations and styles have changes in those four decades. When Casio started flooding the market with its range of calculator watches in the 1980s, we liked the idea of being brash and overtly ‘techy’. We wanted buttons, bleeps and bits of tech that made you want to hold your wrist out proudly and go, “Look, it’s even got its own stylus!”
Today, we prefer understated sophistication, devices that hold a touch of mystery as to their functionality, and minimalism. We don’t want to shout our tech-savvy style; we want to mention it in passing at the very most. And designers need to embrace that if they are to create technology that appeals to the sophisticated consumer.
Flexible technology One advantage that modern designers now have is the availability of flexible technology. This alone could revolutionize wearable design and help the market overcome the public’s reluctance to adopt it on the grounds of naff aesthetics. Flexible screens could result in super-lightweight wearables that appeal to all sectors of the market. R&D experts such as Plastic Logic agree, and are at the forefront of such developments. Their CEO, Indro Mukerjee, explains: “Plastic Logic’s flexible plastic displays are completely transformational in terms of product interaction. “Flexible electronics is a reality, already proven through the development and manufacture of plastic, bendable displays and sensors. For the first time a fully organic, plastic, flexible AMOLED demonstration has been achieved with a real industrial fabrication process.
This marks the start of a revolution in wearable products, the next frontier in consumer electronics, “We’ve got the technology. Now what we need is the design nuances and modernist approach to aesthetics that will appeal to the mass market. If Nike can manage it with their Fuel band, other manufacturers should be able to adopt the new flexible tech and follow suit. Then, you might see the buying public really start to sit up and take an interest in wearables at last.