In the previous post on wearables seen at the World’s Fair Nano, we looked at Ashley Chloe’s Helix Cuffs vs. Apple’s AirPods. This time we’ll look at Rowkin’s offerings, which are much more similar to Apple’s product than the Cuffs, but have some minor differences in UX.
Rowkin displayed their three versions of wireless Bluetooth headphones: The Bit Stereo, Bit Charge Stereo and Micro products. Each consist of wireless earbuds that “live” in a little charging case, just as the AirPods do, with some minor differences.
The diminutive $130 Micro’s case holds enough juice for four charge cycles providing three hours of battery life each, meaning the user is carrying around 12 hours’ worth.
The Bit Stereo’s chief physical distinction is that the designers have opted for a cylindrical case resembling a lipstick tube:
These are more casual-use earbuds, as the battery life contained within the charger only provides two charging cycles that each provide “up to 3 hours of talk time and up to 2 hours of music playback.” The key benefit seems to be that the cylindrical form factor takes up a minimum of space.
Although priced the same as the Micro, the larger Bit Charge Stereo provides a whopping 15 charging cycles or can completely charge an iPhone 7, the company claims. Clearly designed for the power user, the battery case comes in at just over 3.5 inches tall.
In short, the Micro is similar to Apple’s AirPods in form factor, minus the aesthetic differences. (I’ll let the technophiles argue over which sound better, as we’re only concerned with the role of the industrial designer here.) But Rowkin offers the customer more choices with their light-duty Bit Stereo and power-user Bit Charge Stereo.
Time will tell whether Apple’s one-size-fits-all approach, which undoubtedly streamlines their manufacturing process versus Rowkin’s requisite multiple factory lines, proves to be the winning one. With wearables, it’s still not clear whether one type of design will “win” and dominate the category, or whether these will continue to be, like eyeglasses, wristwatches and other on-body devices, ruled by fashion rather than function.