Would You Wear Your Fitbit If It Was a $345 Gold Bracelet?

I tried a high end “smart bracelet” for its security features, which goes beyond activity tracking featured on most standard wearables.

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Jan 15 2017, 2:00pm

Image: Wisewear

As the wearable tech industry is predicted to reach $34 billion in sales by 2020, it can be hard to stand out in a sea of Fibit wannabes, but one company that's managed to catch my attention is Wisewear. The up-and-coming startup has a simple hook for its wearables: They're not just useful gadgets, they're also eye-catching jewelry.

So in the name of tech fashion, I decided to take test the company's $345 palladium "Duchess" bracelet, which is part of its "Socialite" collection. If it's good enough for style icon Iris Apfel—the face of the collection—it's good enough for me. The current collection offers three models: Kingston, Calder, and Duchess, which all come in either 19k gold or palladium.

While testing it out for a week, I found the following:

Here's what's good about it:

  • Stylish, subtle, real life design—unlike most wearables
  • Catches signal for up to 30 feet from phone
  • "Distressing Messaging" useful for emergencies

Here's what's meh about it:

  • Expensive
  • User must love wearing fine jewelry at all time to feel full effect

Bottom line:

If you're into luxury-wear already, the Duchess can replace your Fitbit. However, at $295-$345 per bracelet, it's not exactly an affordable wearable for most price ranges, which is probably part of the appeal.

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Image: Gabriela Barkho/Motherboard

Basically, Wisewear's bracelet does what a lot of wearables on the market do, only it can also send out a distress signal to emergency contacts of your choosing if you tap it three times. It also looks like a fancy piece of jewelry as opposed to a plastic and rubber Fitbit, which screams: "I'm trying to keep my new year's resolutions." Wisewear isn't the first company to introduce this twist. An emerging group of wearable startups—including Ringly and Avawrist—are trying to blend high end design with actual tech function.

As the story goes, the inspiration behind the wearable comes from the time Wisewear founder Jerry Wilmink's grandfather woke up to get water in the middle of the night, and ended up falling and breaking his hip. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to get help, and his injuries ended fatally.

Because the incident gave Wilmink a sense of urgency to prevent these terrible accidents from happening, the Duchess bracelet's design revolves a great deal around safety, which I came to find after getting the hang of wearing and using it.

With this mission in mind, I set out to see how the Duchess would fare during a young woman's (moi) day-to-day. Over the course of the week I wore my bracelet through activities that included a trip home for the holidays, walking the puppy, two yoga sessions, running errands around the city, and of course walking home late to my apartment.

I definitely appreciated its activity tracker, which racked up my daily calorie intake and weight via the beautifully-designed iPhone app connected Bluetooth, but where my bracelet really shined (heh) was during long walks from the train after dark with a low phone battery on a Friday night, which vibrated to let me know my phone was dying.

Granted, my eyes are glued to my phone at all times (and I never leave the house without an external battery charger in my bag), but for those out there with normal charging habits, I can see this feature being really useful when they're running around with their phone stored away, for example. And because the bracelet has 72 hours of battery life, you can almost always count on it to buzz you to charge up.

Image: Gabriela Barkho

The Distressing Messaging feature was by far my favorite part of wearing Duchess.

Knowing that I could at any time tap on my bracelet's face to text a friend in case of an emergency is quite the lifesaver. Fortunately, I didn't have to use it in any true life-threatening situations during my week of wearing Duchess, but I can see myself tapping away to call my friend Caroline (who I'd saved as my go-to contact) to get her attention while I was in an uncomfortable ordeal.

As for the negative, my lack of jewelry wearing did make it a bit hard getting used to having a heavy metal cuff around my wrist at all time, but for those who enjoy a beautiful piece of jewelry, wearing the Duchess would be a practical pleasure. At the end of the day, I'd much rather wear this smart bracelet for function, safety, and aesthetic reasons over a clunky, boring Fitbit-type.

So, if you're looking for a special wearable that does more than just track activity (how 2015), Wisewear's bracelet collection could be your go-to.

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