There’s a Glove for That! Gloves that Work with Touchscreens – Isotoner smarTouch Gloves

by Michael Sheehan on November 12, 2010

in General, Review

As the seasons change and the Fall and Winter outfits come out to combat the cold and other elements, your touchscreen devices start to get some neglect, but only when you are outside. There is a reason for that. You either have to remove your gloves to use your cell phone or tablet and freeze your fingers off, or…well, there isn’t any other option aside from simply not using your device. At least until now. After over a year of research and testing, Isotoner has come out with new type of glove with a technology essentially sewn into fabric of the gloves that allow you to use a touchscreen while wearing the gloves. It’s called the Isotoner smarTouch.

isotoner_gloves_2

The problem with many of the newer phones on the market is that they are just a bit too high-tech. In the past, when people had plain old buttons on the phones, you could press them, even with gloves on. They had actual buttons. However, as technology has advanced, making things much more like those computer touchscreens that we see on Star Trek, the problems associated with touching those screens that use capacitive technology have increased. In fact, nowadays, capacitive touch screens are everywhere, from cell phones to MP3 players to ATM machines to interactive gas pumps. Let’s face it, there is nothing worse than having to take your hands out of your warm gloves in order to “swipe to answer” your cell phone or enter in your PIN at the ATM, especially if it is really cold outside.

It is important to note that there are other types of touchscreens out there, apart from capacitive, there are also resistive and surface acoustic wave types. However, most of the currently popular cell phones use the capacitive technology so Isotoner decided to capitalize off of this and create a glove that actually worked with capacitive touchscreens. The problem with capacitive screens is that they require a tiny electrical current or charge from the user’s finger tips and these charges, since they are so small, simply do not transfer via a glove.

isotoner_gloves_1

What Isotoner has done is actually weave conductive threads into the index finger and thumbs of both hands on the gloves. What this means is that you can still use all of those capacitive devices but without removing your gloves.

So Do They Actually Work?

I got a pair of the smarTouch prior to the full production units were rolling out to retailers. Unfortunately, the weather was pretty nice and I didn’t have a chance to use them until recently. I was able to use them a few days in a row recently as I waited for an early morning train in the cold 6 AM morning. I was able to swipe to unlock and scroll through my emails fairly easily. If I tried touching the screen with one of the fingers that did not have this conductive fibers woven in, there was not response on the iPhone that I was testing on.

isotoner_gloves_closeup

It is a bit awkward trying to hit smaller numbers or letters on an on-screen keyboard when you have the gloves on and it definitely takes some getting use to, but after a little bit of practice, you can get it to work.

However, I do have a complaint about the design. While when you do touch the conductive fibers to the screen it does work, the exposed surface area is pretty small and in an odd design (sort of an hour-glass design). I found it difficult to actually maintain any type of speed while typing and sometimes, my finger touch wouldn’t register the press on the screen. I think that if the finger portion were enlarged a bit from the current design shown below, it would make it much more effective.

isotoner_closeup

That being said, the gloves are grippy, using the rubber wire mesh (which you can see in picture above) meaning that you won’t drop your device. And the woven technology does seem to work as advertised. I believe that if you are just using it occasionally with your phone you should be pretty happy. They do provide plenty of warmth and are water-resistant or water-repellent. They seem to work well in cold, humid and dry conditions and the only thing that you have to worry about is having the conductive threads covered by a foreign substance. For extreme cold conditions, however, they might not be ideal.

The smarTouch gloves have a MSRP of $40 but I have found them at Macys and JCPenney on sale currently for about $20 which I think it the proper price point for it. There are a variety of colors and sizes for men and women.

HighTechDad Rating

I have to say that I really love the concept that Isotoner has here. This is definitely something that is needed in the marketplace. And, the solution that they have come up with does work pretty well. However, given that this is a first iteration of the product, I’m hoping that version two of the design will make the touch areas on the thumb and index finger a bit larger and easier to use. The current “hour glass” pattern of the touchable area is a bit limiting. It may, however, work better for other people and I probably will get a lot more used to it over time. The concept I definitely recommend, but the implementation needs some work. And the price point (from the MSRP standpoint) I felt to be a bit high (the “sale” prices at Macys and JCPenney seem to accurately reflect an adjusted market value for the gloves).

EASY TO GEEK FACTOR – is the device easy to get up and running
HTD_4_half_star
FAMILY FRIENDLY – does the device fit well into family environments
HTD_4_half_star
RECOMMENDABILITY– would I recommend it to others (more means “yes”)
HTD_4_star
PRICE POINT – does the price reflect the product function
HTD_3_half_star
OVERALL – my general rating
HTD_3_half_star

There is currently a promotion running on their website where you could win a pair of the smarTouch gloves and an Apple iPad so definitely enter for that sweepstakes!

Disclosure Text : I have a material connection because I received a gift or sample of a product for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was/am not expected to return this item or gift after my review period. More information can be found in my About page as well as here.

HTD says: The Isotoner smarTouch gloves are definitely innovative and useful and do perform as expected. I look forward to the next version!

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