Levi announces new jackets with Google's Project Jacquard technology, which turns part of the fabric on the sleeve into a touch-sensitive remote control for phones. Both versions are cheaper and look much more like the original versions of the Levi & # 39; s jackets on which they are based than the first Jacquard Commuter Trucker Jacket, which Levi released two years ago.
The standard Trucker Jacket costs $ 198, and a Sherpa Jacket, which adds insulation for colder weather, is $ 248. They should also be more widely available than the Commuter Jacket in many Levi & # 39; s sales channels and on the website.
The jackets are much more "normal" than the Commuter Jacket, thanks to two things: a new Jacquard Bluetooth module that is smaller and easier to fit into the cuff of the jacket and a new method of making the jackets in the first place. In essence, Levi gave up weaving the touch-sensitive jacquard threads into the sleeve itself.
Instead, it makes the jacket as normal and then inserts a small jacquard fabric into the cuff of the left sleeve. This helped Levi reduce costs considerably. (The original jacket was $ 350.) In fact, the Commuter Jacket had more compromises than both companies actually left: the sleeve had to be thicker to ensure that no fraudulent touches of your arm took place, a problem solved in the new version with better algorithms.
As for someone want a smart jacket, color me iffy. I have worn the new Trucker Jacket for less than a week, and although the Jacquard app can do more than when I first tried it two years ago, it still feels a bit like a solution to a problem.
You can program up to four different swipes and ticks to perform a dozen different actions, such as playing / pausing music, stopping your phone, putting a pin on a map, or setting your phone to display the time or your appointments. read. You can also use it to give your phone details about your Uber or enable noise cancellation on the Bose headphones.
I did experience some irritation with the software. For example, if you pair it with an iPhone and don't pay attention to your location settings, it annoys you that it can't determine your location by announcing it through your phone's speaker. The solution is to grant full location access or to ensure that you do not enable location functions in the first place, which means that you have to search each part of the app and disable everything related to the location.
Physically, the only difference between the Jacquard Trucker Jacket and a regular Levi & # 39; s denim jacket (which I often wear) is that the left cuff is a bit stiffer and has a snap button. That's because, although Jacquard works with touch-sensitive wires, it still has some real electronics. Google and Levi insist that washing multiple times should not be a problem, although dry cleaning is not an option.
The new Jacquard Bluetooth tag is also much more elegant. It is an entire system that Google apparently produced to work with multiple products; the recently released Yves Saint Laurent backpack also uses this. You simply plug the small doohickey the size of a thumb drive into the right slot in your sleeve and connect it to your phone.
It has a small light that can blink to let you know about different things. This is useful because it can be difficult to feel the vibrations in your sleeve. It charges via Micro USB (boo) and has a battery that lasts as long as the older version, which was much larger.
The Commuter Jacket had a clear field two years ago: when you're on a bicycle, you don't have to look at every type of screen. Instead, just swipe your wrist to do a few simple things. Now that Google and Levi are moving away from that concentrated field and just making Jacquard another option of the same suit, I have an even harder time understanding who it is.
The price difference is still more than $ 100 (or more, depending on Levi's discounts), for example. For another, it is unlikely that you will wear it every day, much less all day, every day. It seems to me that it makes much more sense to invest your money in a smart watch.
But maybe I don't imagine what people can use this jacket for, or I underestimate how many people are willing to spend extra money just to get a technical version of a thing. For some, the novelty may be enough to justify a purchase, but not for me. The jacquard jacket looks good, works well enough and is less expensive than before. It is a solid update to a shaky idea.
Vox Media has affiliated partnerships. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media can earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. See for more information our ethical policy.