Misfit Phase, a watch I designed in 2016 was recently named best hybrid smart watch of 2018 by Tech Radar. For historical context, we designed this watch in 2016, 3 iPhones ago. It’s a connected object in a fast-moving space, and certainly the oldest product on the list.
So what makes this two year old watch successful today? Besides the obvious fact that the price has come down significantly due to economies of scale, there are three things that we did right when designing this watch:
Using the Right Technology
This is a watch that relies on connectivity for survival. Bluetooth, so far, has lasted surprisingly long, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Just 5 years ago, ANT+ was making a good bid for close-range wireless. On a long enough timeline, though, Bluetooth is surely on the way out, and I’m willing to wager that Apple will again kill it faster than any of us anticipate. Fortunately, Bluetooth’s open nature, wide adoption, and it’s special ability to easily connect so many products has made it stand the test of time.
Looking Backwards Doesn’t Have To Be a Step Backwards
We were vicious about cutting technologies that won’t age well, even if they have mass adoption. A rechargeable battery would have made the device thinner and smaller while still offering great battery life, but would cut our effective product life to 2-3 years. We built Phase with materials that can last on the wrist for many years, well beyond the expected lifespan of even most companies, so offering users a true way of maintaining their own device by replacing the battery was pivotal in our product decision.
We spent well over 6 months researching the history of watches and jewelry to appreciate the history of creating watches. It was important to understand the key historical timepieces, innovations, who developed them, and when.
After we understood the trends and history, we designed an object to be timeless; one that doesn’t get stuck in a modern trend that would make it look dated in a few years. The deluxe materials ensure that the watch survives not only style changes, but the knocks and bangs of every day life. Our formal language was most inspired by the products that we had already created; we maintained a strong family resemblance but strived to be agelessly modern and clean. Time will tell how well we did, but it feels great after almost 3 years.
Obviously, I’m glossing over a lot of the decisions we made. My history is a little fuzzy, but these are some lessons that I have they have stayed with me over time and I hope that they’re useful when you’re designing your next product.