By John Gruber
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After more than two years of testing, Jacquard, the company’s project to embed technology into clothes, is ready to launch. The Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket with Jacquard by Google (yes, that’s actually what it’s called), is now on sale in select stores.
And while it’s easy to roll your eyes at the idea of a $350 jacket that comes with its own app, Jacquard is more than a gimmick. After a few days of wearing Levi’s Jacquard jacket, I’m more convinced than ever that the future of wearable tech lies not in tiny screens on our wrists, but in the stuff we’re already wearing. […]
Which gets at one of the other appeals of reinventing wearables as actual clothes: convenience. One of my biggest issues with smartwatches is that glancing at a tiny screen on your wrist isn’t actually that much better that just pulling out your phone.
Limited though Jacquard’s abilities currently are, at least I don’t need to look at a screen to take advantage of them.
I disagree completely. First, this jacket isn’t really a wearable piece of technology. There are touch sensors on the sleeve cuff, yes, but most of the technology is in a flexible gadget that they’re calling a “tag”, which is about the size of an Apple TV remote and which you holster in the underside of the sleeve. It’s not a smart jacket so much as a jacket designed with a custom sleeve to hold the smart device. But even the device itself isn’t all that smart. It’s not a fitness tracker. I’m hard pressed to come up with a more generous description of it than “a Bluetooth remote control”.
Bell’s “biggest issues with smartwatches” is a link to a piece Bell wrote earlier this year, under the headline “It’s Time to Stop Pretending Smartwatches Are Useful in Any Way”. One can certainly argue that smartwatches were overhyped, but it’s preposterous to argue they’re not useful at all. Apple Watch in particular is terrific for fitness tracking and for showing notifications — neither of which things this jacket can do.
The only features of this jacket that Bell (or Google, in their own post announcing its release) cites are about audio control. Here’s Google’s own list of features:
Play or pause your music, skip to the next track, or ask what song is playing.
Get your next direction, ETA, or the current time.
Receive updates on incoming call or texts with a subtle LED light and a vibration on your sleeve, and have the text message read to you.
Unless I’m missing something, if you don’t have headphones in and your phone with you, this jacket does nothing other than keep you warm. It’s a glorified remote control for audio playback and talking to Google Assistant. It’s no smarter than the little clicker on the earbuds that come with every phone.
It’s great not to have to look at a display to use a device. That’s why Apple Watch has haptic feedback. But you know what else is great? Being able to look at a display when you want to. You can wear a watch every day, in all weather conditions. And you keep it on all day. A jacket is something you wear in specific weather conditions and generally take off once you get inside. I don’t see how this is better than a smartwatch in any way.
And this jacket looks even worse compared to AirPods. You need to have headphones in for any of the jacket’s features, so why not just buy smart headphones instead? They work every day, with every outfit you wear (including while you work out).
There is a future for wearable devices that don’t have displays. AirPods are part of that future; a jacket with a Bluetooth remote in the sleeve, not so much.