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How not to make wearables: The hideous Cybertool is a cautionary tale

Just when you thought wearable tech was finally becoming attractive and useful, Acer and Victorinox came along with the Cybertool, a watch that shatters that illusion so completely, it’s like we’ve made no advancements whatsoever in the past few years. Bafflingly unattractive, the Cybertool is evidence even watch makers haven’t got the hang of this smartwatch thing.

It’s not actually a wearable in itself: The Cbertool is an accessory to Victorinox’s range of damn-fine-looking Inox products — hard-wearing Swiss watches that are apparently the brand’s best-selling timepieces. Surely then, they deserve an equally damn-fine-looking smart accessory? Victorinox spent four years and went through hundreds of prototypes before signing off on the Cybertool. It’s … very sensible, but not the product we would have expected after so much diligence.

It’s not the fact the Cybertool doesn’t do much that shocks, it’s how ugly it is.

The Cybertool is a clip-on piece of plastic that that adds a massive bezel to your lovely Inox watch, leaving the face exposed, while adding in a selection of basic smart features after connecting to your phone via Bluetooth. The usual notifications are displayed on an small LED screen, along with a step counter, stopwatch, and a timer. There’s a vibration alert, and the Cybertool even shows the time on its digital display, just in case you need to double check.

The case is water- and dust-resistant, and it has a battery that needs charging each week, despite the relative lack of actual smart features or a big color touchscreen. There are buttons to press, which scroll through the options on the screen, and an accompanying app. Victorinox said people didn’t always need smart features or connectivity, hence the reason for making it removable.

Related: Samsung Gear S2 review

It’s not the fact the Cybertool doesn’t do much that shocks, it’s how ugly it is. It’s a gigantic wart that Victorinox expects people to put on their pleasingly attractive watches, and we’d question whether anyone at all will want to do so. Certainly anyone who wants to wear a shirt will think twice, because the Cybertool stands so proud of your wrist, it’ll be impossible to get past the cuff.

When Acer said it had been working on a new product with Victorinox, it was exciting news. The result was kept a complete secret from everyone, right up until the big reveal — and it’s not difficult to see why. To say it was a letdown is an understatement.

So who’s to blame for this affront to wrists everywhere? Acer told Digital Trends the Cybertool was, “designed by the research and development center at Acer,” and that it, “offers the best of both worlds.” Victorinox has yet to respond to our questions on design and the response to the Cybertool by its customers.

Yes, wearables are hard to get right, but it shouldn’t be this easy to get them so wrong. The Cybertool is a $100 accessory that turns something stylish into something repulsive, and is the absolute last thing we expected from a company with such an established pedigree in strong design. Fossil and TAG Heuer have nailed it, but Victorinox’s Cybertool proves that just because a few watch makers seem to be cracking the wearable conundrum, not everyone’s getting it right.