Withings has got it right: wearables should be something you want to wear

Wiithings Activite
Wiithings' smartwatch: not just a pretty face

Jane's been to that fancy new restaurant. How was the meal, Jane?


Dave went to see that movie. How was it, Dave?


Karen's been on holiday. How was it, Karen?


None of those terms get the heart pounding, and it's the same for "wearable". Making computing wearable is fairly straightforward - making it something you'll actually *want* to wear is much, much harder.

Take the Samsung Gear 2 or Gear Fit, bits of smartphone forced into watch-like shapes. Or take Google Glass, which makes you look like you've fended off attempted murder by a LEGO-wielding maniac.

The reason Glass is £1,000 when it costs 72p to make isn't profiteering. It's because the silly price tag offers purchasers bragging rights, which overcomes the constant scream of OMG OMG WHAT A DORK from family, friends and passing members of the clergy.

Hurrah, then, for Withings. Its Activité is that rare thing: a wearable that's desirable, too.


It's often said that smartphones are driven by fashion, but that isn't really true. There are trends, of course, such as the current vogue for gold. But ultimately if a phone's good enough and doesn't actually frighten small children you won't care too much what it looks like, because you're either using it or it's in your pocket or bag.

Wearables are different, and watches especially so. That's why Withings' approach is so impressive. If you look at the Activité, Withings has taken a really beautiful watch design and added a bit of technology.

Compare that to the Samsung Gear 2, where Samsung has taken a whole bunch of technology and tried to make it look like a watch. That's like me pretending to be Zooey Deschanel.

I'm excited about wearables - the incoming Android Wear and long-rumoured iWatch in particular - but I'm not sure that big tech firms are the best candidates for designing wearables that you want to wear.

I'd much rather have a normal-looking watch with a few sensors in it than a watch designed by the same firm that designed my fridge, and I'd much rather have year-long battery life than a device that needed topped up every day, even if I could do it wirelessly.

Maybe I'm wrong, because of course The Kids don't wear watches these days so they might not care. Maybe the answer is to have something like Beats headphones, something ugly and ostentatious that screams "look how much money I've wasted! I've got turnips for brains!"

But I do wonder if the recent hires of fashion execs by Apple - Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts and Yves Saint Laurent CEO Paul Deneve - mean that Apple is be thinking in much the same way as Withings.

For wearables to work, they can't just be something you can wear. They need to be something you can't be seen without.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.