It's a small thing but it can make all the difference. Often when we're reviewing wearable tech - which we do often - companies send us the basic, default, lowest priced model to test. And it affects how we feel about the smartwatches, fitness trackers and accessories, especially as we've all been wearing half-ugly wearables on our wrists for years now. It gets you down.
I've also seen our collective opinion totally switch from 'meh' about the default style to cooing over a stainless steel model, say, or a model with bezel details.
In wearable tech, first impressions count. The first wave of smartwatches did real damage to mainstream opinion of the whole category and Apple and Fossil Group are still in the process of repair.
I'm not saying the default options are always less than aesthetically pleasing, but if you're a wearable company promising fashion and customisation and personality then put your money where your mouth is. Kill the concept of the basic style and offer personalisation from the get go. I don't want to pay full price for a default, bundled strap I don't want then pay again for the strap I saw in an ad campaign.
Giving customers that choice from the start may eat into profit margins, in terms of manufacturing scale, so it is a gamble. But I'd bet that it will bring in masses of new customers who are intrigued by the features but don't want to ruin their outfit or add a blemish to an otherwise co-ordinated Instagram.
Does this come in raspberry & spots?
The key thing I'm banging on about here is what you can get when you first buy the wearable - specifically online. Additional straps for trackers and smartwatches are doing a nice business these days, but if you're paying $150 or more for a connected accessory, you should get the exact colour finish, material, size and strap/band you want. So that means more (affordable) bands and straps available when you buy.
The first company to go all in on this concept was Motorola and its Moto Maker design tool for smartphones and smartwatches - materials, sizes, bezel finishes, there was a lot of freedom over the design, more so than is available now actually. Moto Maker is no longer available on the website, though, and since the Moto 360 Sport we've heard more and more indications that we shouldn't expect another Moto smartwatch anytime soon.
I've spent a couple of hours browsing the online stores for fashion-forward devices from Fitbit, Apple and the rest. And as Misfit sells it, its M.Y. Misfit customisation tool does offer tons more choice from the get go than Fitbit and Apple particularly when it comes to default bands.
Let's not oversell what you can do here - it's essentially clicking around, viewing preview images and choosing the colour finish of the device itself and then the material and colour of the strap/band. There's no further granular touches to modify as with Moto Maker.
Announced in June, it's available for the Misfit Ray, Misfit Shine 2 and the Misfit Phase right now with the Android Wear Misfit Vapor 'coming soon'. There's 600 unique combinations, with 1,000 expected by the end of the year, Misfit gives you a few combos as inspiration and it'll take one to three days longer to ship.
Here's a comparison on the choice available. Fitbit's new Alta HR comes in stainless steel and four colours - black, blue gray, fuchsia and coral - as well as two more expensive editions - gunmetal stainless steel and black; 22k rose gold plated and pink. Plus it comes in two sizes - small and large.
Head to Fitbit's accessories page and it's doing a really good job, but if you want a leather strap, a metal bracelet or one of the Public School options for those Alta HR, you buy those separately starting at $60 extra.
Then there's Apple which, when it comes to sizing, colours and finishes on the Watch, is showing Serious Love to the fashion crowd with the options available. Ceramic? Sure. 38mm? No problem. Still, those jazzy woven nylon bands that I love are sold separately, aren't they? Why can't I just have them from the start? For default, it's sport band, Milanese Loop or well, HermĂ¨s leather.
Let's take the Misfit Ray, start with 'device colour' there's six tones of aluminium and stainless steel to choose from the device itself so that's tied with the Fitbit. On the 'custom straps' tab it really gets going. Materials wise, you can choose from sport, leather, nylon, nylon tassel and leather double wrap.
Colour wise, there's 27 colourways, some block, some patterned. Not all colours are available for every material - so nylon tassel only comes in black and sand. But the fancier materials are only $20 extra than the sport band - super reasonable when you're at the initial buying stage.
We'd like to see this design tool go international for Misfit - we got an error message on the UK store - and to see it rolled out for all the Fossil Group brands or at least as many are willing to relinquish controls of their colour combinations. We're talking Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Emporio Armani, Diesel, Tory Burch, all of whom have fresh wearables due out before the end of 2017.
And for Apple and Fitbit, good work, keep it up, more collaborations. But on the bands and straps issue, just let us buy our wearables with the default band we actually want to wear please. Much obliged.