Hey, smartwatch manufacturers: Ladies want to wear these things, too.
I like my 38mm Apple Watch a lot. It fits well into my day-to-day activities, it helps keep me fit, and, oh hey — it fits my wrist.
When I first heard about Android Wear last year, I thought the folks behind the OS were doing a lot of things right. And I still do: the approach to notifications is smart, custom watch faces are neat, and Google Now — while creepy — works exceptionally well at providing smart information for your day.
There’s only one problem: There’s not a single Android Wear device designed to fit a small-wristed person.
You’re wearing it wrong
If wearable technology is the next big thing for our tech-connected society, why is Apple the only company paying attention to the smaller-wristed set? Lady or dude, there are quite a few people on this earth whose arms don’t resemble the trunk of a Sequoia tree — many of whom would be excited to use a smartwatch. I was thrilled when Apple announced multiple sizes for the Apple Watch, and moreover that both were reasonably-sized for the wrist; sadly, I have yet to find an Android Wear device that will fit on my wrist without making it look like the technology equivalent of an iron shackle.
Here’s the thing: I want to like Android Wear. As I said previously, the company is doing a lot of smart things on the software side. And the hardware isn’t terribly-designed: On the contrary, for those with applicably-sized wrists, the watches look quite natural.
On my wrists, however, I find Android Wear too large for comfort, let alone style. I happened to find myself in a house today with some of the folks from Android Central, and just for kicks, decided to see just how well these watches compared to my 38mm Apple Watch. From right to left: the LG Urbane, Moto 360, 42mm Apple Watch, and 38mm Apple Watch.
Here’s each of them in turn, starting with the LG Urbane:
The Moto 360:
The 42mm Apple Watch with Milanese:
The 38mm Apple Watch Sport with Milanese:
Here’s the thing: My wrists are small, but they’re not waiflike — I have about a 57mm height in which to wear a watch. But everything aside from the 38mm Apple Watch feels more like a pair of handcuffs than a comfortable timepiece.
Even the 42mm Apple Watch feels too large on my wrist. I could wear it, but as I said in my initial thoughts on Watch sizing, it’s the difference between wearing something comfortable and wearing something to have access to technology. I’ve carried a variety of bulky tech devices over my years in this field, but having something on your arm is different: It’s personal, and if it doesn’t blend into your daily activities, you’re going to notice it constantly.
The Moto 360 is technically the smallest Android Wear watch available at 46mm tall, but it feels positively gargantuan on my wrist — especially when the screen goes dark. In part, that’s due to its circular form, but it’s still frustrating as a small-wristed person who otherwise liked its design.
The LG Watch Urbane… to be honest, it just feels like playing dress-up. It’s a beautifully-designed piece of Android Wear, to be sure. But it’s not in any way meant for ladies or small-wristed people.
Marketing and technical challenges
It just baffles me. Women buy phones. We like technology. And, by and large, we like nice-looking jewelry on our wrists. Yet Apple is the only company that even considered including women in its initial watch marketing. It’s especially telling that their guest at the Apple Watch event was charity organizer, runner, and former model Christy Turlington Burns.
But let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment: It might not be that other manufacturers don’t care about women and smaller-wristed men; they may just not have the technology to execute it well. Smartwatches are essentially computers on your wrists, and it may just be that Android Wear manufacturers haven’t figured out how to fit the computer they want within the space of a 42mm or smaller watch face.
Apple’s technology is impressive, and what they’ve crammed into a 38mm tall device is nothing short of a feat. It’s the advantage they get from designing the whole widget. Heart rate sensors, 14-18 hour battery life, the taptic engine, the S1 chip — Android Wear might have similar internal ambitions, but they’re still assembling components and that might hurt the miniaturization.
But if that’s the issue, Android Wear manufacturers are going to have to step up, and quickly. Even if you love Android, the current offerings are so paltry for the smaller-wristed that I can’t in good conscience recommend them.