Last year I came back from the annual Consumer Electronics Show super tired of condescending tech "For the Ladies" and tech/fashion accessories that looked like they were better suited to the trash heap than the runway. This year, I came away from Vegas with less despair. I was pleasantly surprised to find that gadgets designed for the fashionista set actually looked like stuff a real person would want to wear. Some are downright gorgeous. Shocking, I know.
I suspect that's because I'm not the only person who noticed and commented on how ugly and useless last year's offerings were. Plus, companies that were already doing a better job than most really stepped up this year.
Case in point: Misfit. It makes a fitness tracker called the Shine that consists of a small gray disc. By itself, simple, minimal, but not noticeable. But combined with last year's Bloom necklace (what I'm wearing above), it's a pretty piece of jewelry that also tracks steps. This year, Misfit took it a step forward and designed the new Swarovski Shine, a fitness tracker that is also a literal jewel.
The Swarovski Shine will come in two colors, clear and violet (the latter is solar-powered!), and can be combined with a wide range of crystal-studded accessories — pendants, bracelets, watch bands, and probably more down the line. The crystal on the Shine is pretty big and is definitely better suited to people who like chunky jewelry. Still, it does actually look like jewelry and not a sad attempt at it.
It's no big surprise that fitness trackers are at the forefront of making jewelry and tech work together. It's one way to ensure a person will actually wear its wearables. Many folks don't remember to put on a Fitbit every day or they can't get used to something on their wrist when they gave up watches long ago. But if you already wear a necklace daily or if you're more inclined to wear a watch-like thing that looks good, then you're more likely to keep using a fitness tracker.
The new Withings Activité Pop watch tracks steps and other fitness goals, transfers data to your smartphone via Bluetooth, yet is indistinguishable from other fashion watches unless you look closely.
Fitness tracking isn't the only category benefiting from an infusion of good taste. I also saw some cool smart bracelets by WeTech that interact with a smartphone via NFC. With it, you can send quick messages, remember data from a location (such as where you parked your car), and even initiate a rescue call if your date isn't going well or you need to extract yourself from other situations gracefully. WeTech is also looking to put this technology into watches, rings, and doll pendants.
Headphones are a bona fide fashion accessory now, even without any particular bling. And it seems that the trend for spikes is spreading.
That aside, I'm excited to try out GemPhones, earbud-style headphones that double as necklaces. They come in either wired or Bluetooth and drape around your neck fetchingly when you don't need them and are ready to pop in when you do. It's not a new idea (I ran across a set of seriously expensive ones made with real diamonds a few years ago), but it is still a good one. And at $40 to $60, the prices aren't bad for a gadget that does double duty as a bauble.
This "necklace" is allegedly a walkie talkie. I'm not sure who you'd want to talk to constantly while wearing this.
That's not to say there isn't still some tone-deafness when it comes to tech fashion. I saw some pretty hideous "jewelry" on display and lots of really ugly smartwatches. Thankfully not as many pieces of clothing that has no business existing. But overall, the trend is heading in a better direction. And it's not going to be long before all wearables will have some element of style and fashion to them that actually fits with how real women and men like their accessories to look.
I'm down with this on every level. For now, I'm making grabby hands at the Swarovski Shine.