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Unisex doesn’t cut it: Tech world, we need attractive wearables for women

Most major manufacturers say their wearables are “unisex.” What they really mean is “made for men.”

Take the LG G Watch R or the Moto 360 for instance. Put either on a man’s wrist and you’ll say, “Wow, what an attractive smartwatch!” Place it on a woman’s wrist though, and presto: It’s ugly as homemade sin. Companies need to stop pretending that wearables built by men, for men, can also work for women. They can’t.

Women are the ideal customer base for wearables.

A few big companies are starting to realize this, but the folks really leading the charge in wearable tech for women are small startups and companies who get their start on crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

These projects, typically led by women, focus their attention exclusively on smart jewelry and attractive wearables that are specifically made for women. Ringly, Cuff, Plumora, MEMI, Mota Smartring, Ear-o-Smart, and many other projects like them all got their start on crowd-funding sites, and most of them focus on making smart devices that disguise themselves as pieces of attractive jewelry. More often than not, these projects exceed their funding goals and receive tons of attention from the media.

Why, you may ask? Well, it’s simple. Women want attractive wearables. Sure, ladies aren’t typically early adopters of high-tech devices, but they most certainly are the first in line for cute, functional accessories and often wear several pieces of jewelry and watches every day. We are the ideal customer base for wearables.

Apple is going after women more than it’s going after men.

Manufacturers need to make attractive, useful wearables with women in mind, and offer variety. A one-size-fits-all mentality doesn’t work — especially for women. If you’re going to make a smart necklace, bracelet, or ring, you better make it in gold AND silver, with both shiny and matte finishes. If you’re going to add a gem, offer different colors and a variety of stones.

So far, no company has grasped this concept better than Apple. Although the Apple Watch isn’t available yet, Cupertino has made it clear that it is targeting the fashion-forward crowd. The Apple Watch has graced the cover of Vogue and made the rounds at Paris Fashion Week. If anything, Apple is going after women more than it’s going after men. The company has yet to grant a tech publication an interview, but Jony Ive and other Apple executives are happy to talk to Vogue and Marie Claire about design.

Apple Watch Vogue Cover

Apple Watch graces the cover of Vogue

David Sims/Apple

But more important, Apple is offering the Watch in multiple sizes. The smaller size will look sleeker on women’s smaller wrists, and the watch casing comes in real gold and other color options too. Better still, Apple has an entire selection of colorful, premium bands, all with different clasps. The Watch may be square, but it has a lot more style than most other smartwatches. In the end, you can personalize the Apple Watch to suit your style. This alone will make it more appealing to women.

If Apple’s first wearable becomes a hit with both men and women, it will have achieved something no other smartwatch has managed yet: mainstream popularity. To hit the mainstream, you need women. Apple’s rivals are starting to take notice. Samsung introduced the Gear S smartwatch at IFA 2014, which is essentially a bangle with a screen on it. Once the company popped Swarovski crystals on it, the Gear S was positively feminine. Yes, it’s flashy, absurdly big, and bulky, but feminine at least.

Intel has gone the same route with MICA. The large bangle is made of snakeskin and precious gems, but it has a touchscreen nestled on the back where only the wearer can see it. However, that’s the only thing about MICA that’s discrete. The device has shiny gold accents and looks much larger than something most women would wear – especially in a boardroom. Nonetheless, it’s a step in the right direction.

Fitbit also partnered with Tory Burch to create high-end jewelry cases for its fitness-tracking sensor, and Rebecca Minkoff created her own line of smart jewelry for women.

It’s a good start, but more big-name companies need to get in the game. Samsung, LG, Motorola, Apple, and Intel have the money to run ad campaigns in fashion magazines, on TV, and elsewhere to let women know that beautiful wearables are out there. Many of these companies also have the advantage of brick-and-mortar storefronts where they can put their bangles and bracelets on display.

If the Apple Watch manages to convince both men and women that wearables are cool, and gorgeous Kickstarter projects keep pushing the bar higher, the doors are wide open for a wearable tech boom in 2015.

I look forward to the day when I can strap a smartwatch on my wrist, say, “It’s really nice. I’d totally wear it” — and actually mean it.