When Will Wearables Take Water Protection to the Next Level?
Posted on April 15th, 2015 by hzodev
As wearables become more popular and adoption more widespread, makers of these devices are starting to learn more about the activities and behaviors of their end users, and what features are important to them. Let’s use water resistance and waterproofing for these electronics as an example. Big surprise, right?
Just how important is this feature becoming for users of wearable devices? Of course the answer depends on what the wearable is meant to do and the lifestyle of the individual. If the main functionality is to measure sleep patterns or remind you to correct your posture, then people might not care about water protection. Rightly so.
But what about a smartwatch that does a little bit of everything, or the fitness tracking wearable that specifically monitors workout activity? Depending on the activity, who it’s marketed to and the intended use after it’s purchased, it’s becoming more evident that people want to be able to keep these devices on all the time, regardless of what they’re doing.
With that in mind, it’s becoming more apparent that wearables on the market today simply are not living up to the cries from consumers to have a device that’s truly resistant to water. One could argue that there still is not a waterproof wearable device or a waterproof smartwatch available to purchase yet.
The Proof is in the Product
Like everything released by Apple, the Apple Watch has prompted countless numbers of product reviews by people conducting their own usability and performance tests. When it comes to water exposure, the early reviews don’t indicate that users have much confidence getting the device wet at all. One reviewer on the Vergecast Podcast tested it reluctantly in the shower only to find things not working quite as they should afterward. So is it really safe to wear in the rain, or keep on your wrist every time you wash your hands?
Herein lies the fallacy of standardized testing for consumer electronics. Apple says the watch is safe to IPX7 standards (defined as 30 minutes of submersion in a meter of water without failure), but says that, ‘submerging Apple Watch is not recommended’, calling the device ‘splash and water resistant’. Confused about what companies are really claiming when they say a product is protected to a certain standard, only to learn that it isn’t? So are we.
For info on testing standards, head back to this post for a refresher on IP ratings and what they really mean.
In another case of excitement about a water resistant wearable gone awry, Jawbone recently announced that after months of delays and promotion of a device that was supposed to be water safe in up to 10 meters of water, the new UP3 would not be delivering that level of protection after all. The Jawbone faithful were of course a bit deflated after hearing the news, and Jawbone promptly apologized and pointed to manufacturing delays as the source of the problem. Then they claimed that the new UP3 would be ‘splash-proof’ and, “inline with most other multi-sensor trackers.”
This begs additional questions. What does that really mean? That makers of these devices still don’t see this as a feature that consumers want? That the status quo is acceptable when it comes to protecting wearables from water, other liquids and corrosives? It’s true some wearables are resistant to sweat, others protected against sweat and splashes, while a resilient few even survive an episode or two of full submersion, but there is no rhyme or reason to the claims and no consistency to what they mean.
Making Wearables Waterproof
This is the Wild West when it comes to water testing electronics. Meaningful testing for a waterproof feature has yet to be defined. And no doubt from the perspective of consumers, deciphering what’s safe and what isn’t is becoming more ambiguous with every product launch. Just know that paying an extra $100 for an aftermarket ‘coating’ will definitely not make your new wearable (especially one with inductive charing like the Apple Watch) or phone much safer after exposure to water. In fact, here’s how those aftermarket coatings really perform.
HZO would like to demystify all of this confusion about water protection by working with companies and manufacturers to create wearables that perform to the levels consumers are calling for. Devices that are safe to wear anywhere. A Swimmable, Livable wearable.
Help us raise the bar on the protective technology companies use today. Demand better protection for your wearables and other devices. Solutions that make electronics waterproof already exist–at HZO we do it every day–and understanding what it means to buy a water safe electronic device shouldn’t have to be complicated, and users shouldn’t have to have expectations dashed or be disappointed in performance anymore.