The massive Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that took place in the first week of January was, unsurprisingly, dedicated in a big way to wearable tech. Of those launches, quite a few seemed to be designed with style at the forefront — the blinged-out Swarovski Shine being the most overt example of that investment. Not every device fully nails it on the fashion quotient (see, again, the Swarovski Shine), but it's exciting to see that focus come to the forefront.
Between the new releases from CES and launches late last year, here's our take on the devices that are most effectively melding form and function at the moment.
From a wardrobe integration perspective, the Intel Curie was one of the more interesting devices to come out of CES, simply because it's tiny. According to Intel, the Curie is designed to be especially power efficient, which makes it good for syncing up with applications you always have running, like social media platforms and activity logs.
As Vanessa Friedman at the New York Times rightly pointed out, the button-sized piece of hardware frees designers up from thinking that wearable devices should be limited to the wrist. That alone is helpful. And given that Intel has already partnered with the CFDA and Opening Ceremony, we'd guess it's will make its way into the studios of some fashion designers by the time it ships in the second half of the year.
Withings Activité Pop
While the original Withings Activité band is fantastic for its classical design, the recently released Activité Pop wins for being both subtle and, at $150, about $300 cheaper. I'm going to publicly throw my backing behind the "sand" colorway because it's quiet and beautiful in a way that most fitness trackers are not.
Wireless, app-controlled lightbulbs that change color aren't a new idea — Philips has been doing it for a few years now with Hue — but Misfit's $50 Bolt bulbs are worth taking a look at. The cool (and wearable) part is that you can hook the bulb up with a Misfit activity tracker such that the light will gradually change when you're falling asleep or waking up. That's a beautiful and neat application of health monitoring.
When it released its Up3 fitness tracker in November, Jawbone promised that the device would detect a much wider range of health data than the devices preceding it. It's also much more attractive. The point, as lead designer Yves Behar explained in a company blog post, was not to "[hide] components behind fashion clichés," and it wasn't to pretend it's not a tech accessory.
Rather than masquerading as a classic jewelry piece, the device has a playful, plastic look, with a pearlescent mock-quilted or black twisted band. I think of it as existing in the aesthetic family as Pharrell's fragrance packaging — fun, a little quirky and optimally paired with a wardrobe sourced from Opening Ceremony.
Forgive me for being immensely obvious, but this one's important, and not just because it looks good. Whereas most smartwatches cater to relatively niche audiences (techy athletes, tech nerds, women on a whole, etc. etc.), the Apple Watch is aiming for the mainstream. As Cuff founder Deepa Sood pointed out when we spoke in early January, Apple's offering could do a lot to normalize wearables overall — which would benefit every other company out there doing the same thing. We'll see if it can.