Last winter, enterprising South Koreans reportedly found a low-tech answer to a first world problem: To avoid operating cell-phone touchscreens without gloves in freezing weather, they used mini sausages as finger surrogates. Whether or not you choose to believe that people were actually using the so-called meat stylus, it did make the news in Japan.
A year later, alas, sausages are not flying off the shelves, but Japanese retailers obviously did read the hand signals for help. This winter, as sales of smartphones in Japan topped 3.8 million units for 2010, local stores are stocking special gloves with conductive fingertips that let people to keep their digits warm and still operate phone and tablet touchscreens.
The current range of touchscreen gloves at Seibu Loft and Tokyu Hands is impressive, with prices ranging from about ¥1,000 to ¥5,000.The E-Touch gloves (not to be confused with the similar iTouch gloves) are also knit gloves, but have gripping material at the palms for hanging onto to those extra slippery devices. Echo Touch gloves, imported from New York, are at the higher end of the price spectrum. Made from a fleecy wool blend, they feature panels of “eLink” fabric at the fingertips.
Japanese brands are also holding their own. The simplest and least expensive are the Pitakuro Touch, which come in bright colors with contrasting silvery thumb and index fingertips. Gloves from evolg sold out almost as soon as they went on sale online at Rakuten two months ago. Though Rakuten promised a new shipment in mid-December, almost all patterns and styles are currently sold out on evolg’s own website. With soft fabric and playful dots and stripes sealed into sleek packaging, it’s not surprising.
Touchscreen gloves from Momiji, another made-in-Japan line, might not have the same flair as the flashier brands, but they are conductive in all fingers, not just two or three. Come to think of it, any make of gloves is bound to be more stylish than carrying around a plastic-wrapped sausage. And you can rest assured that they’re not going to go bad if you happen to leave them in a pocket for a while.