Warby Parker's try-before-you-buy model continues to seep into any business small enough to fit into a mailbox. And this time, it's wearables.
Now if the phrase "the Warby Parker for wearables" makes you want to close your laptop and hurl it into the ocean, I get it. Believe me. In this case, though, the analogy is useful for understanding what is actually going on here. Today, gadget rental company Lumoid.com is launching a new program that will ship you a box of five fitness trackers of your choosing to try out for a week: Fitbit, Jawbone Up, Nike+ products, the swim-friendly Garmin Vivosmart, Samsung's Gear Fit—you name it.
If you decide to buy, say, a Fitbit One that you can clip onto your belt rather than a bracelet, great! Before your seven days are up, simply send the box back with all five items, pay up, and Lumoid will send you a brand-new Fitbit One, totally unused, as if you ordered one from a store.
If you decide that fitness trackers aren't quite your thing—and really, who could blame you?—you pay Lumoid a $20 try-on fee. Easy-peasy.
One of the key selling points is that there's no up-front cost, though you'll need to leave a credit card number. It's ideal if you were already planning to purchase a fitness tracker and needed to make a final call between, like, a Jawbone Up24 or a Fitbit Flex, but didn't want to pay for both and return one of them.
Lumoid is a Y Combinator-backed startup based in San Francisco that was launched last year by Aarthi Ramamurthy. Originally the idea was for customers to rent out DSLRs, lenses, quadcopters, and other expensive electronics before they buy them, but now Lumoid is expanding into the wearables space. (And yes, you can rent a developer's edition of Google Glass, though why you might want to is another question altogether.)
Ramamurthy sent over a box of assorted fitness trackers for me to try out. Each box is packed with a selection of small plastic ziplocks with a short description of what the device is, who it might be suited for, and what kinds of biometric readings it gathers. It isn't a fancy setup, but I did not really mind.
One complaint, though: The instructions for setting up the devices needed to be more thorough. The kit didn't, for instance, tell you how to remove the plastic charging cap on the Jawbone Up24, which may be a problem for anyone who hasn't tried one before and may lead to unnecessary breakage—and, of course, a fee. (Lumoid assesses penalties for damaging loaner gear on a case-by-case basis.)
And unlike a pair of plastic eyeglass frames or maybe even a Diane von Furstenberg dress from Rent the Runway, there is something inherently icky about wearing something that actively encourages you to get sweaty that a stranger has already worn on their body. But Ramamurthy bets that discerning buyers won't really mind if it helps them make an informed purchasing decision, and that cleaning and maintaining an inventory of hundreds of fitness trackers isn't even all that difficult. Wear and tear is part of the game.
"With wearables it’s way more easy for us," she tells me, when I asked her if she was afraid customers would wear a bracelet in the shower when they're not supposed to. (Not all the devices are clearly marked if they are water-resistant or not, though some, like the Garmin Vivosmart, note that you can swim with them on.) "Cameras are way more delicate."