I've always been a little leery of technology that is specifically aimed at women. In my experience, these products are often manufactured by vendors who feel that the way to market to women is to color the devices pink and/or decorate them with kittens, daisies or anything perceived as cute. Thanks, but no thanks. I'm sure there are a lot of folks out there who like that kind of thing -- but it ain't me, or most of my colleagues over the age of 18.
That being said, I have to admit that there are some tech devices -- or products that support tech devices -- that can legitimately be marketed toward the differing gender preferences. For example, as a woman who has narrower shoulders than most males of the same height, I used to find the majority of laptop backpacks to be uncomfortable (or even unusable), because the straps were placed too wide to accommodate my frame. It wasn't until bag manufacturers realized that women used laptops as well that I could purchase a backpack that fit well.
One new technology that has been badly in need of some adjustment has been the smartwatch. And again, I'm not just talking about style (although I have to admit I've found most non-fitness smartwatches particularly unsuitable for anyone who isn't wearing a suit and a tie). I'm talking about simply being able to wear the darn things.
I've been to several smartwatch product introductions over the past couple of years and, with very few exceptions, the devices that I've tried on at these events have looked ridiculously large on my arm. And that's assuming they were even wearable -- I remember one whose bezel overlapped my wrist and, as a result, was impossible to fasten firmly enough to keep it from slipping to one side. Even as recently as last December, the better smartwatches were too large to be really suitable for anyone with a slimmer wrist.
So I was curious when Motorola announced that there would be three lines of its new iteration of Moto 360 watches: men's 46mm, men's 42mm, and women's 42mm.
I was glad to find out that the company was offering a smaller iteration of its smartwatch (a Motorola representative told me that 42mm was the smallest that the company felt was practical for a useable device). It meant I'd be a lot more comfortable trying one on -- and I know at least one male reviewer whose readers have remarked on the size of his wrist and who may also appreciate a smaller smartwatch.
But why have separate men's and women's lines? Are we talking pink and cute animals again?
I spoke to Katie Morgenroth, principal industrial designer at Motorola Mobility, about how the women's line of smartwatches differed. "Up until now," she said, "there really haven't been a lot of options for tech-embracing women, so there was a lot of pressure to design something you would want to wear literally every single day."
The stylistic differences between the smaller men's and women's watches, she said, was admittedly highly subjective. "We encouraged a lot of women to be involved in the process," she said. "We were leveraging that information as much as possible to test different designs."
So, for example, the proportions of the watches to their bands are different -- the smaller men's bands are 20mm wide while women's are 16mm. And when it comes to the metal bands, Morgenroth added, "we have a tapered link design so it really flows as it goes around the wrist."
Of course, as far as Motorola is concerned, anybody associated with any gender can purchase any of its smartwatches. Are you a woman who wants a bigger smartwatch or one with a wider band? Are you a man who would like a rose-gold bezel? Buy what you like.
Whether the Moto 360 will do well in the current smartwatch races is yet to be seen -- there are an awful lot of competitors out there. But I suspect that offering smartwatches that are smartly styled for both men and women -- and, yes, actually wearable -- won't hurt it in today's marketplace.