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Wearables Stop Being Ugly

Wearables Stop Being Ugly

Source : wired.com

Fitness trackers are getting a whole lot more stylish.

The latest batch of wearables lets you have your fitness tracking and your fashion, too. They’re ditching neutral monochrome and sporty, almost utilitarian, styling for a rainbow of colors, faux gems, and other flair that make them suitable for any time of day, and any occasion. The change reflects the maturation of the market and the growing sophistication of consumer tastes.

“When the first activity trackers started coming out, that sporty look was what people wanted. Now we’re moving away from that,” Garmin media relations associate Amy Noury said. The company just launched its first smartwatch, the $250 Vivoactive. It’s a handsome, sleek gadget that resembles the Pebble smartwatch and builds on its general purpose activity trackers, the Vivofit andVivosmart. It’s GPS enabled and can track activities like cycling, running, swimming, or golf. Garmin also updated its Vivofit fitness tracker with additional features and a host of bright silicon strap colors and styles, including ones patterned with designs by Jonathan Adler.

We started seeing more attractive fitness trackers from the likes of Withings last year, but the trend has firmly established itself here at CES. Gone are the somewhat flimsy, totally utilitarian bands that go around your wrist or dongles that clip to your pocket. The newest trackers are sleek, almost sexy, drawing design cues from high-end jewelry and Swiss watches. Many of these changes are designed to make wearables more appealing to women, whose tastes and needs were largely ignored in the first wave of wearables. That’s changing as manufacturers realize they aremissing out on a huge potential market. In response, they’re designing health, fitness, and safety trackers that look more like jewelry than gadgetry. Cuff was among the first to do so with a wearable that serves as a personal safety monitor and notification alert yet looks like something you’d wear to dinner.

“People were able to relate to [Cuff] not as pieces of technology but rather as things they wanted to wear, with added benefit,” says company CEO Deepa Sood.

Others have followed that lead, working alongside designers and jewelry makers to create wearables that are as attractive as they are useful. Take Misfit, for example. Swarovski, the Austrian producer of fine crystal and cut glass, worked with Misfit to develop the Swarovski Shine collection, a pair of bejeweled activity trackers that can be worn on an array of crystal-covered bracelets, bands, and necklaces. The two companies got together during a wearable tech event in New York in 2013, and Swarovski thought Shine’s clean, modular design made it a great opportunity to create a new high-end accessory that won’t be obsolete within months.

“[It] has a set of features people will find interesting now, as well as four years from now,” says Tim Golnik, Misfit’s vice president of product and design. “And it’s not hinged on a large display that needs a certain number of colors or pixel density.”

You can get Shine in silver or violet—the latter of which runs entirely on solar power. Joan Ng, a Swarovski v.p., says each of the crystal’s facets direct light onto a tiny embedded photovoltaic cell. Of course, adding all that flair and tech boosts the price; the original Shine costs $99, but if you want the fancier model (and its accessories) you’ll pay as much as $250.

Withings went the other way, introducing the fun, colorful Activité Pop smartwatch. It costs $150, compared to $400 for the handsome Activité that resembles a Swiss watch. Although the Pop offers some of the same features as the more upscale Activité, it uses less expensive (and less durable) materials. The company went for fun, eye-catching colors—including teal, orange, and blue—that would encourage people to wear the watch every day. The Pop still has the masculine design common to high-end watches—a large dial with a wide strap—but is aimed at both men and women.

“The different color and material options allow men and women to pick the watch that is the best fit for them,” Withings CEO Cedric Hutchings said. The Pop has a Bluetooth radio and uses the Withings Health Mate app to connect to your iPhone and track all your activities—including swimming.

This new era in wearables is exciting. For the first time, gadget makers aren’t thinking about more than function. They’re thinking about form, and trends, and what consumers want. If people are going to embrace wearables as something they use every day, they need to fit consumers’ needs in terms of function and design, as well as their personality. Now, we’ll finally have the option to choose the wearable that’s exactly what we’re looking for.

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