It's no secret that the market is flush with terrible wearables — functional pieces that are a total eyesore. Even a lot of wearables that aren't ugly per se aren't exactly beautiful accessories that one would naturally pair with a nice outfit. Legendary designer Iris Apfel's WiseWear smart jewelry line is definitely in response to that problem.
The line, which includes three different brass smart bracelets that come plated in your choice of 18-carat gold or palladium, really is cool-looking jewelry in its own right. If you didn't know it was a connected bracelet you wouldn't know it was a connected bracelet — you know?
Beautiful, but inaccessible for most
The other differentiating feature is the bracelet's distress messaging. Tapping the front of the bracelet in a customized touch pattern sends the wearer's location and a text message to a pre-loaded list of emergency contacts. It's primarily billed as a feature for elderly women who are worried about unexpected slips and spills, but Apfel thinks that young women will value the added sense of safety as well. It's a smart addition, and I'm sure many women can see the value in having a discreet way to call for help in an emergency situation.
As an activity tracker it's pretty standard — step counting, distance tracking, and calorie intake information is all sent to a paired smartphone via Bluetooth. The bracelet can also be set to vibrate when your phone receives a call, text, or email. With no LED display, WiseWear boasts a three-day battery life.
The main issue with WiseWear's Socialite Collection (if that name doesn't say it already) is the price. At $395, it's more expensive than the Apple Watch, and ludicrously inaccessible for many in its stated elderly target audience. As The Verge's Lauren Goode said to me: "It’s nice to think that every lady ends up a grand ol’ dame living in Manhattan with a boatload of money for this thing, but the truth is that most people do not."
The catalogue shows the bracelet on the wrists of half a dozen different lithe twenty-somethings, and all of the bracelet's features require a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone (not really ubiquitous among the elderly), including the distress signaling. That tells me that WiseWear doesn't have a great idea who their product is even for.So when tabulating a reasonable cost for this product, we now have one part standard fitness tracker and one part Bluetooth-contingent Life Alert — it doesn't add up.
Sure, they were designed by a fashion icon, and the price is probably more understandable when looked at as a designer piece of jewelry. But the Misfit Swarovski Shine appeals to a similar desire for a fitness tracker that looks like luxury jewelry and still comes in at less than half the price. As does Fitbit's Tory Burch-designed line of pendants and leather wristbands.
A basic fitness tracker + Life Alert does not = $395
Apfel says she and WiseWear have plans to expand the line to include brooches, rings, and necklaces, as well as "aspirational" bracelets which will presumably be even more high-end than the Socialite collection. As nice-looking as the Socialite bracelets are, and as cool as it is that wearables are finally getting serious attention from the fashion world, WiseWear frankly doesn't seem interested in making a device that the average person can afford.
The Socialite collection is currently available for preorders at a discounted price of $295 (still kind of outrageous), and will ship sometime next month.