While a lot of smartwatches claim to be unisex, most of them are clearly geared towards men - something that becomes obvious when you see how comically large they look when worn by women.
This isn’t a complete surprise, as smartwatch technology is still relatively new and men traditionally make up the bulk of early adopters.
However, according to Ofcom’s 2013 Omnibus Survey, a whopping 48% of smartphone users are female, so if smartwatch makers ignore them then they’re effectively ignoring almost half of their potential buyers.
And with recent Juniper Research data telling us that there will be 100 million smartwatch users worldwide by the end of 2019, brands need to take note.
Russell Feldman, YouGov’s director of technology and telecoms, explained: “Wearables are set to grow markedly over the next 18 months. Presently only early adopters own them but as the range of products expand, more consumers will come on board.
“The market will reach its first critical mass over the next year-or so, moving it from niche to more mainstream. So the next wave of wearable owners will be the key group for device manufacturers, retailers and ecosystem partners.”
While smartwatches are tipped to take off in a big way in the near future, most of the products we’ve seen so far from major tech brands have been ugly as hell. They’re certainly improving - step forward Moto 360 and LG G Watch R - but there’s still some way to go.
What we need to see is more fashion brands and traditional watch makers like Casio, Swatch and Omega getting on board, with designs that look like watches and not what how tech brands thing they should look (usually, chunky, rectangular and absolutely massive). We’ve already seen a few nods in the smart direction, like Casio’s Bluetooth-enabled G-Shock, but not really any true smartwatches.
Fashion stakes: 8 wearables that are more chic than geek
Obviously style is an important issue for 21st century gent, just as it is for the ladies, but with most tech products designed for men first, the makers need to address this.
Samsung’s head of technical product management Kyle Brown told us: “Although wearable devices to date have mainly been associated with measuring fitness and performance levels, the technology is slowly entering the world of fashion.
“Research from Mintel has found that currently, more men are adopting wearable technology than women, but as uptake increases, we’re really starting to see the industry as a whole focus a lot more on the design of these devices, making them more appealing to women as well as men.
“The design of our new products is very much influenced by this demand – for instance, the Gear S has a chic, curved 2-inch Super AMOLED display that fits comfortably around the contours of the wrist, making for a sleeker and more stylish accessory.
“With additional features such as customisable displays and changeable straps which mean you can express your own individual taste and style, we believe that these devices are appealing to both men and women, not only whilst exercising but also in their day to day lives.”
Style over substance
While we need manufacturers to use common sense when designing devices that are suited to women’s delicate, ladylike wrists, that doesn’t mean that we need all our wearables to be pink, bejewelled, or take the form of a bracelet.
A case in point, is the $1,000 Intel MICA smartband - a hideous bangle, supposedly designed with style in mind and crafted from snakeskin and precious stones. While there may be market for this prohibitively expensive device, it’s a niche one.
However, if a good-looking smartwatch like the Moto 360 were also available in a smaller size that would be ideal. Moto’s wearable if the best we’ve seen so far but would we buy it? Nope. Sorry, Moto - it’s just too damn big and it makes us feel like we’ve half-inched someone else’s watch.
Is anyone getting it right?
Aside from the big tech companies, there are some brands launching scaled down smartwatches, some even designed for women. The Cogito Pop is a good example, alongside the slightly chunkier Cogito Classic. Both watches only sport very basic smart functions, but they’re a step in the right direction, design-wise.
We haven’t seen many other efforts aimed squarely at women, outside of crowd-funded projects that have failed to reach their targets; largely due to the designs being grotesque rather than a lack of female interest in smartwatches, we would suggest.
And then off course there’s the long-awaited Apple Watch. The Cupertino company has been characteristically savvy in taking its time to announce its very own wearable. The good news is that there will be two different sized watch faces to choose from: 1.7-inch and a smaller 1.5-inch variant. There’ll also be a variety of finishes and a selection of watch straps to choose from.
We’ve already seen a trend in smartphones where makers were launching their flagship handsets followed by a compact version months later. As they’ve proved so popular, makers like Apple and Sony are now launching their smaller variants at the same time as their flagships to cater for everyone. This is what we need to see from the smartwatch makers.
Samsung’s Kyle Brown said: “We spend time listening to the needs and wants of our customers and our designs very much reflect that demand.”
While the other big tech brands are looking at making female-friendly wearables in the future, we’re looking forward to trying out the Apple Watch in 2015, mainly because it’s currently the only fully featured smartwatch that won’t make us look we’re wearing our brother’s new timepiece.
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