June

I thought it apropos to test a product called June during the month of June.

The June UV bracelet is something that tech types refer to as a “wearable.” Like a smartwatch or a fitness tracker, June provides tracking information to its wearer. Unlike its predecessors, June broke from the wearable tech’s clunky stigma. It is not boxy, large, and masculine like most wearables circa 2013; quite the contrary, in fact. Released in June of 2014, June served as a trend-setter, as a handful of other high-tech jewelry and attractive wearables have since hit the market.

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A small, French start-up called Netatmo created June to be one of the earliest examples of wearable tech made by women, for women. With design as the focal point of its creation, its functionality is limited to measuring UV index, warning wearers about sun exposure, and suggesting up to three sun protective measures.

Without a doubt, June is one of the most attractive wearables. One could merely wear it for its aesthetics.  But what about its utility as a technology?

June’s Story

An unexpected sunburn inspired its birth. Netatmo founder and CEO, Fred Potter, got burned while vacationing in Guatemala after spending one cloudy day on the beach. Like so many of us who have learned the hard way, he had no idea that one could burn when there’s cloud coverage. The experience prompted him to design a wearable that detects UV rays and prompts sun protection. Along came June.

Its Design Origin

Potter wanted to target women because we are the more likely sex to purchase a UV monitor. His design team considered many options before settling on the submission from renowned French jewelry designer, Camille Toupet, who has worked for Louis Vuitton and Harry Winston. Toupet’s design features a wrap-around strap with a small, lightweight jewel that clips onto it. The jewel comes in one of three colors: gold, platinum silver, and gun metal. It’s rectangular and less than two inches long with triangular facets that reflect light just like a genuine gem. The jewel holds all of June UV’s sensors and a battery, which, impressively, lasts for a month on full charge. The clip on back allows the jewel to easily slide on and off the strap and to slip onto the cradle charger. Two straps come with June – one in black leather and one in black silicon for a sportier look or activity. I particularly like the silicon strap. The straps look and latch like a watch strap.

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Wearable tech should be aesthetically pleasing and inconspicuous. June certainly satisfies these desires. In fact, to date, everyone I have encountered who comments on June has mistaken it for a bejeweled bracelet. Its simple design suits my fashion style, and I chose a gold jewel because it blends well with my other jewelry. But to each her own, especially when it comes to jewelry. We all have particular tastes. One can also clip June onto a strap, headband, or lapel. An issue that I encounter is that clothing can block its sensor. I have to roll up a long sleeve or clip it to my collar or Liam’s stroller if I want it to work. I imagine this is likely a larger issue in cold weather with bulkier outer wear.

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Breaking the Mold

I appreciate that the smaller startups, in particular, have since caught on and are making more attractive wearable tech specifically for women, including Misfit’s Shine pendant and Ringly’s ring.

Its Function

Unlike so many jack-of-all-trade technologies, Netatmo’s June simply has one purpose: It tracks UV exposure to prevent solar damage. It features UVA and UVB sensors, Bluetooth Low Energy, and a companion iOS app called JUNE. The device bases daily UV dose recommendations on data from the World Health Organization. The companion app provides a daily sun forecast detailing the expected UV index, a measure of the expected risk of UV radiation from the sun on a scale of 0 to 15, as well as what item(s) one should pack in your bag for the day: sunscreen and which SPF level (15, 30, or 50), sunglasses, and/or a hat.

On a sunny LA afternoon with a UV Index of 11, for instance, the app recommends all three measures for me – sunscreen with an SPF 50, sunglasses, and a hat. As one wears June, the app tracks sun exposure in a timeline as her “sun dose” and updates recommendations based on sun dose and changing UV indices. If one exceeds 100 percent of her allowed sun dose, theoretically, this means her skin will burn.

June individualizes its recommendations based on the wearer’s skin type, which it estimates by asking six questions during the app set-up process. June uses the Fitzpatrick scale for skin tone to determine skin type, ranging from 1 to 6, with 6 being the darkest, based on hair and eye color and tanning/burning history. I classify as a type 2 with light-brown hair, blue eyes, and fair skin that tends to tan with protection and burn otherwise. One shiny LA morning, for example, a 45-minute run on the beach wearing SPF 30 gave me about 25 percent of my daily sun dose allowance.

The June experience is passive. The reflective sensor sits on the wrist, and the app informs its user silently and without flashing lights, buzzes, or dings.

Its Utility

June will remind those who don’t monitor their sun exposure or take necessary precautions to be more mindful. However, for women like me, who are vigilant about sun protection, June doesn’t offer much benefit. Sometimes, June reminds me of my time spent outdoors when, for example, I’m in the throws of writing on the patio and happen to glance at the app. It also satisfies my curiosity about the UV index from hour-to-hour and day-to-day. But that’s where its usefulness ends for me.

Given my background in dermatology, I am already in the habit of wearing and frequently reapplying SPF 30 sunscreen and donning sunglasses and a hat whenever I go outdoors, no matter the UV index or how long I intend to stay outside. I think these UV precautions should be universally applied – for persons of all skin types (1 through 6) and for each and every day. Any skin expert will agree that donning protective sun gear and clothing should precede, and not follow, sunscreen. And because the difference between SPF 30 and SPF 50 is negligible, the suggestion to use SPF 15 or SPF 50 instead of SPF 30 doesn’t resonate with me either. Thus, June’s UV updates and recommendations don’t impact my behaviors.

However, I think that there is a niche market for June, limited to those who are actively, or proactively, concerned about sun exposure and also want to improve their sun awareness and protective practices. For this group, June UV may be the absolute perfect accessory. Unfortunately, I fear most will not see its point unless they are simply curious, like me.

Its Battery Life

Netatmo claims the June UV should last one month on a single charge due to the energy savings of Bluetooth LE. It’s true. After using it for nearly four weeks, my June still has just under half of its battery life left. Epic! Other wearables require daily charging, so June’s long battery life definitely sets it apart. June’s charger plugs into any standard USB. Conveniently, it is very small and portable, but this also means that it is easy to misplace or lose.

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In Conclusion

Netatmo nailed the June UV’s design, no question about it. However, in terms of functionality and practicality, June falls short. While skin cancer awareness is on the rise, only a small subset of people will desire June’s UV detection capability and follow its suggestions. Perhaps if it offered more features, like water or sweat resistance for joggers and bikers or a pedometer, it would be more useful to a broader population. Although, as we’re living in such a high-tech world, I actually appreciate its simplicity and its singular objective.

On that note, June performs its function well. It reliably registers UV index based on location, silently alerts the need for action, and remains charged day after day. If you fall into the category of the actively sun-concerned and/or sun-curious consumer – oh, and you like bracelets with some “bling” – you may want to invest in June (cost ranges from $60 to $100). All others may struggle to justify its price tag.

Pros

  • Inconspicuous and small
  • Fashionable, feminine design
  • Straight-forward companion app
  • Accurate UV detection
  • Informs need for sunscreen reapplication and for going indoors
  • Extended battery life

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • Only works with its companion app (no data is viewable on the device itself)
  • Does not recommend sunglasses and a hat at all times
  • Questionable relevancy of SPF 50 versus SPF 30

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Categories: Product Reviews, Sun Protection

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