When it comes to women-targeted tech, companies used to assume that a female's product choices revolve around just one feature: the color pink. In other words, slather a pink coating on a laptop or mp3 player and you could supposedly transform it into a must-have for female gadget shoppers. Following that line of logic, a chorus line of Pepto-tinted and Swarovski crystal-encrusted keyboards, earbuds, smartphones and other electronics have sashayed into stores, crafted under the erroneous assumption that women can't resist ultra-girly merchandise.
More recently, gadget makers have begun paying more attention to what women really want -- beyond color palettes. Although men still spend more than the ladies on consumer electronics -- an average of $968 compared to $631 in 2010 -- females' financial investment in the market isn't negligible [source: Consumer Electronics Association]. For example, women contributed about $90 billion to consumer electronics consumption in 2007 [source: McGraw]. And the product features attracting those female dollars revolve around functionality rather than just adorableness. Women tend to seek out gadgets that are well-designed, durable and straightforward to use -- kind of like a classic handbag [source: Marroitt].
To burst that stereotypical pink bubble, the following five gadgets exemplify how the consumer electronics industry gets it right for women. Crystal-coated carrying case not included.
A 2011 study from Harvard Medical School found that women rouse earlier than men due to shorter sleep cycles [source: Walsh]. However, that doesn't mean all women are innately endowed with the willpower to instantly hop out of bed. Hail the super-human woman who's able to shun the predawn electronic din of alarm clocks and wake naturally with the rising sun. For the rest of us mere mortals, modern technology can help ensure that we exit our beds on schedule. Enter Sleeptracker: the nighttime wristwatch that monitors circadian rhythms for you. That can be a particular boon for women, since once the watch detects early morning movements, indicating that deep sleep is over, it sounds the alarm [source: Beland].
Women who require more motivation to scurry out from under the covers might prefer to make friends with Clocky. The space-age alarm clock on wheels will roll away and hide if someone tries to hit snooze [source: Marie Claire]. Afterward, a groggy game of hide-and-seek will be the only way to silence the device.
Since women tend to double as their families' photographers, camera manufacturers have designed lighter, sleeker point-and-shoot options with them in mind [source: Marriott]. At the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, for instance, Lady Gaga told the press that she carries around a Polaroid 3-inch by 4-inch GL10 instant mobile printer in her purse. The printer serves as a portable photo lab, as opposed to the vintage Polaroid camera that takes pictures and automatically spits out prints [source: Sutter].
Although some portable printers might be too bulky to tote around town, they're nevertheless handy, wireless additions to any home photo lab. In August 2011, Canon debuted a line of PIXMA All-In-One portable gadgets that can print wirelessly from mobile applications and cloud storage. A few months prior, HP targeted domestic paparazzi with its PhotoSmart printers that offer similar capabilities. In fact, many of the biggest names in consumer electronics now include compact photo printers in their product stables, allowing women to pick and choose specs for the perfect 4-inch by 6-inch reproduction of reality.
Although it might seem misogynistic to include a GPS device on this list, in reality these gadgets are essential for men and women alike. At the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, GPS manufacturer Garmin unveiled a palm-sized tracker with 4-week battery life that could put mothers' minds at ease while the kids are out camping or when the dog gets loose from the leash [source: Popular Mechanics]. Career women with bumper-to-bumper commutes might also appreciate the new TomTom portable GPS that can detect upcoming traffic conditions [source: Cunningham]. And for those who don't care to add an additional device to their gadget collection, the Pioneer SmartCradle transforms an iPhone -- the smartphone brand preferred among women -- into a GPS for the car [source: Chubb].
In 2009, Forbes described Apple as "the world's most discretely feminine brand," fawning over its sleek, curvaceous designs and straightforward user experience. That unofficial honorific was bestowed around the same time results from a Women & Digital Life survey revealed Apple as the most-admired tech brand among females [source: SRG].
With its iPods, Macbooks and iPhones, the brand has clearly become the apple of female consumers' eyes. For instance, in the smartphone wars, Apple has emerged the victor among women, with a third of the market strongly preferring iPhones, compared to the 22.8 percent who have Androids [source: Marsal]. Although the announcement of the iPad made some women think more about their medicine cabinets than mobile computing, the demographic quickly forgave the awkward word association the product's name invoked [source: Miller]. Despite tough competition from the range of gadgets that take the top spot on in this list, women constituted about 34 percent of the iPad early adopters, according to 2010 user analysis by Yahoo! [source: Saint].
Since women are more avid book buyers than men, perhaps it isn't surprising that e-readers are the top breakout gadgets for word-loving ladies [source: Weiner]. Nielsen data from August 2011 demonstrates a distinct gender divide among tablet-style gadgets, with women preferring to tote along their light, easy-on-the-eyes Amazon Kindles, Barnes & Noble Nooks and similar devices, while men tend to opt for the broader functionality of tablet computers like the iPad [source: Horn]. In fact, e-reader popularity has grown among women, who now make up about 61 percent of the market, a marked increase from 46 percent in 2010 [source: source: Horn]. Meanwhile, romance novels -- a female-targeted genre that has long comprised the best-selling fiction category in bookstores -- now dominate the best-seller lists in e-reader markets as well [source: Ogas].
MIT's AlterEgo allows people to control computers without ever uttering one word. HowStuffWorks looks at how this could change the way we communicate.
- Beland, Nicole. "Waking Up: Find the Best Alarm Clock." Women's Health. (Nov. 8, 2011) http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/alarm-clocks?page=1
- Chubb, Mark. "Pioneer SmartCradle GPS iPhone Car Dock (CES 2011) Auto Style." Phones Review. Jan. 6, 2011. (Nov. 8, 2011) http://www.phonesreview.co.uk/2011/01/06/pioneer-smartcradle-gps-iphone-car-dock-ces-2011-auto-style/
- CNet. "Compact Photo Printers." (Nov. 8, 2011) http://reviews.cnet.com/compact-photo-printers/
- Consumer Electronics Association. "Shared Control of the Purse Strings." The Wall Street Journal. April 23, 2011. (Nov. 8, 2011) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703521304576278964279316994.html#articleTabs%3Dinteractive
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- Marie Claire. "The Gadget Guru: Gadget Gifts for Women." Sept. 10, 2008. (Nov. 8, 2011) http://www.marieclaire.com/fashion/trends/gadgets-for-women
- Marriott, Michel. "To Appeal to Women, Too, Gadgets Go Beyond 'Cute' and 'Pink'." The New York Times. June 7, 2007. (Nov. 8, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/07/technology/07women.html
- Marsal, Katie. "Women want Apple's iPhone, men prefer Google Android, Nielsen finds." AppleInsider. Dec. 1, 2010. (Nov. 8, 2011) http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/10/12/01/women_want_apples_iphone_men_prefer_google_android_nielsen_finds.html
- McGraw, Michele. "Technology Brands Reach Out to Women." Sept. 30, 2010. (Nov. 8, 2011) http://technorati.com/business/advertising/article/technology-brands-reach-out-to-women/
- Miller, Claire Cain. "The iPad's Name Makes Some Women Cringe." The New York Times. Jan. 27, 2010. (Nov. 8, 2011) http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/27/the-ipads-name-makes-some-women-cringe/
- Ogas, Ogi. "The Online World of Female Desire." The Wall Street Journal. April 30, 2011. (Nov. 8, 2011) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704463804576291181510459902.html
- Popular Mechanics. "Top 19 Gadgets at CES 2011: Editors Choice Awards." (Nov. 8, 2011) http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/reviews/editors-choice-awards-top-19-gadgets-at-ces-2011-garmin-gtu-10-gps-tracker#fbIndex5
- Saint, Nick. "Here's Who Owns the iPad: 40 Year-Old Men." Business Insider. San Francisco Chronicle. July 8, 2010. (Nov. 8, 2011) http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2010/07/08/businessinsider-heres-who-owns-the-ipad-40-year-old-men-2010-7.DTL
- SRG. "Top Tech Brands for Women." May 26, 2009. (Nov. 8, 2011) http://www.srgnet.com/us/?p=240
- Sutter, John D. "Lady Gaga: I carry a photo printer in my purse." CNN. Jan. 8, 2011. (Nov. 8, 2011) http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/gaming.gadgets/01/06/ces.gaga.polaroid/index.html
- Weiner, Eric. "Why Women Read More Than Men." NPR. Sept. 5, 2007. (Nov. 8, 2011) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14175229