Garmin’s Tiny Lily Smartwatch Doesn’t Need All This Pandering Women-Centric Branding to Be Good

Garmin’s Tiny Lily Smartwatch Doesn’t Need All This Pandering Women-Centric Branding to Be Good
Screenshot: Garmin

Often, when I show off a new smartwatch I’m testing to my gal pals, they inevitably crinkle their noses. “It’s…so big. And ugly,” they say. “I’d never wear something like that.” It’s something I’ve harped about in many a smartwatch review, a plea from the small-wristed among us for a wearable that doesn’t leave us in the dust. So you’d think that Garmin’s new hybrid smartwatch, the Lily, would be an answer to my prayers.

It kind of is. The Lily, which is available in both Classic ($US250 ($325)) and Sport ($US200 ($260)) styles, has a tiny 34mm case and a 14mm band. Ironically, that’s a huge deal given that most smartwatches generally have 40-44mm cases and 18-22mm straps. If it were just that, I’d be pretty stoked. I’ve got a wrist that measures a puny 5.5 inches — and while 40mm watches tend to be fine, anything bigger can feel akin to wearing a dinner plate. Depending on the material, sometimes 18mm straps sometimes look super chunky and hideous on my bird arms. But the smaller size isn’t the only thing here. This, Garmin says, is a watch designed for women.

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Hmm. That distinction feels wholly unnecessary. Garmin’s had beautiful hybrid smartwatches before. To this day, the Vivomove Luxe is one of the most gorgeous smartwatches I’ve ever worn and that came in a whole range of unisex looks and options. In fact, the hybrid analogue category, in general, tends to be more fashionable than its feature-rich counterparts. (See: the Withings Move ECG, Fossil Hybrid HR, Misfit Path, etc.)

Looking at the design of the Lily, I guess you could say there are some “feminine” aspects. Supposedly, it’s T-bar lug style, the metallic patterned lens, and colour options are more lady-friendly. I’ll admit, the subtly textured patterned lens is interesting — but it’s not that dissimilar to the Fossil Hybrid HR or Skagen Jorn, which also feature similar monochrome displays with patterns. I’ll give credit to Garmin that none of the options feature the trite blush-rose gold combo that other smartwatch makers default to for a “woman-friendly” design.

Feature-wise, the Lily isn’t that much different from other Garmin watches. While the company highlights menstrual and pregnancy tracking, that’s not unique to this watch (nor should it be!). It’s got the same pulse ox, stress, hydration, sleep, and heart rate tracking as Garmin’s other wearables. It’s also got the Body Battery feature, which is a recovery-based metric to help plan your workouts. The only hallmark feature of a Garmin smartwatch you could say is missing is the built-in GPS, as it opts to use your phone for GPS tracking.

Watching Garmin’s “behind the scenes” video for the Lily, it’s clear that women were behind the creative vision and design for this watch. That’s impressive and wholly welcome given tech’s bro-y culture. It’s definitely true that many smartwatch makers don’t consider women when designing their devices — hence bulky, uncomfortable monstrosities — but that doesn’t mean we need smartwatches specifically for women. That feels very 2016 and implies that by default, smartwatches are for men. That’s just blatantly stupid.

It also solidifies this notion that style and fashion are inherently gendered. I don’t know friends, I think the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is gorgeous and it features a typically more “masculine” design. The Skagen Falster 3 is also “masculine” but in terms of style, it’s one of my favourites in recent memory. Funny though, you can switch up the watch face and boom. You can instantly make a watch more or less “feminine.” I can only speak for myself but as an active woman, I prefer a much more versatile, unisex design than I do something that’s overtly For Women. I’m sure there are men or non-binary folks out there who’d also dig the look of the Lily and, due to marketing, may not feel welcome in buying it. Because, you know, it’s for women.

In an ideal universe, each smartwatch would come in three sizes: Something between 34-38mm for smaller wrists, 40-42mm for medium-sized wrists, and 44mm+ for those of us with larger wrists. Most smartwatches already come with swappable straps and watch faces, so you can already customise what look you want to fit with your personal style.

Garmin’s on the absolute right track making smaller smartwatches. The thing is women don’t need smartwatches that were made for them; we just need all smartwatches to consider and include our needs. It’s a travesty that it took years for Apple, Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, and everyone else to add menstrual tracking when that’s a fairly easy feature to enable. It’s annoying that I get sent pink and rose gold review units regardless of whether that’s my colour preference, while my male peers get sent boring black-on-black units regardless of if that’s their preference.

At the end of the day, I’m still curious to try the Lily because it’s one of the smallest smartwatches I’ve seen in recent years. It’d be nice to see how notifications and metrics translate on a 34mm case. I’m extremely glad a smaller option exists and hope other wearables makers follow suit. I just wish gender had been left out of the equation.

Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for local Australian pricing and availability.