World’s Fair Nano Coverage: Analyzing the UX of Wearables with Helix Cuffs vs. Apple’s AirPods

At the World’s Fair Nano in San Francisco, multiple companies were hawking their wearable wares. The diversity in the category indicates that wearables are still unsolidified as a product category: Each company seems to be wondering “Should the design be led by technology/function, the user experience, or aesthetics?”

In the next few entries we’ll cover some of what we saw on display. Let us know your thoughts on the practicality, desirability and/or usefulness, if any, of these items. First up:

Ashley Chloe’s Helix Wearable Cuffs

These are a pair of stereo earbuds connected to each other by a cable. At the midpoint of the cable hangs the controller. The earbuds do not physically connect to your phone/device, using Bluetooth instead.

The earbuds are designed, when not in use, to be stored within a compartment in the attendant bracelet. 

The bracelets come in a variety of colors.

So the key distinction of this product appears to be that the earbuds are always conveniently (if you like bracelets) on hand–assuming you don’t find the process of inserting or removing the buds into the bracelet a hassle:

What consumers have to decide:

An obvious competitor to the Helix is Apple’s AirPods ($159 vs. Helix’s $149), which have no cables and are stowed in a little pillbox when not in use. The different approaches taken by each product necessitate some decisions on what type of user experience the wearer wants to have:

– Do I prefer the physicality of the button control on the Helix, or the tap interface on the AirPods?

– Do I want a cable connecting the earbuds or not? Do I want the weight of a separate controller, however light, attached to a cable?

– Do I prefer to store the earbuds in a bracelet around my wrist, or in a pillbox which must then be stored in a pocket or bag?

– When I need to hit “pause,” do I want to physically remove an earbud from my ear, as I must do with the AirPods, or tap a button on the Helix controller, allowing the earbuds to remain in place (and both hands to remain free)?

– The bracelets are visible on the body. Do I want to make a fashion statement?

Assuming the sound quality and noise-canceling technology between both platforms are equal, which product do you find superior? I suspect it all comes down to personal preference, with there being no one “right” answer. Which is what makes wearables such a tricky category to tackle.

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