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Dots Gloves – A Review

January 3rd, 2010 No comments

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In case folks around here hadn’t noticed, it’s gotten rather cold of late.  And one of the difficult things about being cold is that using electronics in the cold is just a rotten experience.  In tech’s never ending quest for miniaturization, designers seem to forget that there may be impediments between your tech and your hands that prevent proper usage.  I speak, of course, of the glove, bane of gadgetlovers everywhere there is snow and ice and freezing rain.  This problem is a lot worse with devices that use capacitative screens, such as the iPhone/iTouch.  Those devices rely on the electrical resistance provided by skin to do their thing.  In the case of the iPhone, you can’t even make an emergency call without touching the screen.  DOTS gloves were designed to address this issue.

The company itself is a couple years old.  I remember reading about them last year but by the time I’d gotten around to ordering them, they were out of stock.  They also only had one model last year if I remember correctly; this year they have three.  And this year, I went and ordered my pair early before winter really started so that I could be assured of having a set.

The DOTS gloves work by providing a small patch of thermally conductive fabric on two fingers plus the thumb portions of the gloves.

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(Please excuse the crud on the gloves – the large animal in the background enjoys gloves for breakfast and dinner, and it’s a constant battle to ensure the gloves survive their daily use.)  If you look closely, you can see the two dots on the tips of the first and second fingers of the glove.  A similar dot adorns the thumb.

The conductive patch allows the gloves to pass electrical resistance from your skin to your device while keeping your hands warm and comfortable.  They come in three sizes – small, medium, and large.  My advice is to err on the smaller side.

I purchased the D200 model, which is their warmest one.  I originally ordered the medium and then ended up switching them for the small.  It’s critical to have a tight fit with these gloves, and the medium made me feel like my hands were swimming inside fabric.  Even with the smalls, my hands still have plenty of room, and therein lies the problem.

The gloves themselves do OK at keeping your hands warm.  They aren’t going to be a lot of use in really intense cold but then again, few mass market gloves will, so that’s not a big problem.  I’d rate them at about the same level as a good pair of Isotoners.  But in terms of letting you use your iPhone while gloved, I’d have to rate them as only so-so.  I don’t know if other reviewers had really big hands or if there’s a smaller size I could have gotten that would have fit better but I just couldn’t get the gloves to be tight enough against my skin that the dots would consistently make contact.  And without that contact, it’s like wiping a microfiber cloth against your screen – nothing happens.

I freely admit that I have delicate hands – my piano teacher called them bird hands they were so thin.  But in a way, I represent a subsegment of the potential user base that DOTS is eventually going to have to figure out how to handle, namely women.  I can’t imagine that women would find the size small versions to be a good fit.  I know girls who have hands even smaller than mine, and there’s no way they would be able to use these gloves in the way they were intended.  Even women with big hands could be challenged because in general, women tend to have thinner fingers than men.  Maybe the other DOTS models provide better fit and contact, but in my daily use, I ended more often than not taking the gloves off, working my iPhone, then putting the gloves back on.  I think if they could incorporate some Lycra into the gloves so that the fit were tighter and if they made the dots bigger so that they contacted more skin surface, the gloves would work better across a wider range of people.

I like the concept of these gloves, but now that conductive thread has come out, I’m tempted to get a really close fitting pair of regular gloves and sew a couple of big fat patches onto the fingertips.  Better fit and bigger usable surface.