Google’s Jacquard technology allows electronic components to be woven into clothing. A few years ago Google and Levi’s partnered on a Commuter Trucker Jacket that allowed you to control your smartphone by swiping or tapping the sleeve of the jacket.
Now the companies have introduced a new model that’s more affordable than its predecessor, and which uses a smaller Bluetooth dongle.
The new Levi’s Trucker Jacket with Jacquard will be available soon for $198 (or $248 for an insulated “Sherpa Jacket” version). That’s a little over twice the price of a non-electronic version of a Levi’s Trucker Jacket, but still a lot more cheaper than the original, which sold for $350.
So… what can you actually do with this jacket?
When paired with a smartphone running the Jacquard app, you can brush your hand in or out along the sleeve, double-tap, or cover your sleeve to initiate different programmable actions.
Some of the options include:
- Play/pause music, skip a song, or hear the title of a current track.
- Snap a photo with your phone’s camera using the jacket as a remote button.
- Hear navigation directions.
- Get real-time news updates or a summary of your day through Google assistant.
There’s also a notification LED and vibration motor that can alert you to incoming calls or let you know when your phone is out of range.
All of which sounds somewhat useful… but which is also territory that’s pretty well covered by smartwatches. And as noted by reviewers at sites including Engadget, Gizmodo, and The Verge, a smartwatch has the advantage of being something you’re likely to wear all the time.
A denim jacket is an accessory that not everyone is going to want to wear every day. It’s not going to be a lot of use on a hot summer day or a cold winter day. And once you’re where you’re going, odds are that you’ll take the jacket off. Maybe that’s OK, because the idea is to help you interact with your phone when you’re mobile, not when you’re at work, home, or out for a night on the town.
But another odd limitation is that the jacket can only handle three functions at a time. While the Jacquard app lets you do more than it used to, you’ll still need to stop and reprogram it if you want to switch between more than three functions at a time.
All of which is to say that the lower price tag might make the idea of a jacket that works as a smartphone remote slightly more palatable than it was a few years ago, most folks in the market for a denim jacket might still be better off paying for one that’s just a jacket, and picking up some other form of wearable if they want the smartphone remote control functions.
I guess the good news is that if you do decide to buy one of the new Levi’s Trucker Jackets with Jacquard, it’s probably fairly safe to wash.
While Google suggested (for a time) that the original Commuter Trucker Jacket was only good for up to 10 wash cycles, there’s no such warning for the new model. Google’s support page just says to follow the washing instructions on the jacket’s label and to avoid dry-cleaning the jacket or ironing the left cuff.
I should point out that Google also updated its washing guidance for the older Commuter Trucker Jacket, and now says that version “was tested to pass at least 10 wash and tumble dry cycles” (emphasis added).