Quirky Digits, Warm Fingers

Digits - image courtesy Quirky
Image Courtesy Quirky

Occasionally, I need to make a call during bad weather, and that means I run into a conductivity problem with my gloves. You can’t use normal gloves with a smartphone because they don’t allow the electrical signal to transfer from your finger to the phone screen. I’ve solved this problem in the past by using those half-mitten, half-fingerless gloves (with the flaps that close over the fingers). They’re OK, but my fingers get chilled by the draft that creeps under the flap. Another option would be to buy conductive gloves (like these gloves reviewed by Amy Kraft last week), but this doesn’t help if you’ve got a set of gloves you already like.

I actually buy my gloves in multiple sets, on sale, and then stuff pairs in all of my coats’ pockets. Even with this strategy, I misplace gloves often enough that I’ve been tempted to attach them to my coat arms with a string, much like I did in grade school. What I’ve really needed is a low-cost way to rig several sets of gloves for conductivity.

Enter, Quirky: a social invention site that allows users to submit ideas for new inventions and share in any profits for ideas that turn into products. Quirky came up with a solution to my dilemma: Digits, an accessory that simply attaches to your existing gloves to create conductivity. Digits are black buttons with conductive silicon on the outside and metal on the inside. They come in two pieces. You poke a small hole in your glove from the inside and screw the outside portion on the top. Make sure it’s secure–I lost a button this way as I was testing.

I also tested several pairs of gloves. A set comes with four buttons, but I’m not sure you really need to use all of them, unless you’re a super-dedicated, multi-touch, gesture kind of geek who absolutely needs to use four fingers. I can live with only one finger being conductive when it’s cold outside. That brings up another point. The metal backings do lose heat faster than the rest of the glove. My fingers were still generally warm, but the metal backing was definitely colder than the rest of the glove. This is also a problem with gloves that come with the conductive areas built in, but at least you can limit the number of affected digits this way. You’ll also notice the button when using your gloves for other activities, like driving. It wasn’t terrible, but something to keep in mind.

I tried several gloves, and loose gloves were difficult to control. There’s definitely a thick bump between your finger and the surface of whatever you touch, so you need some tension to keep your finger and the Digits together. Lightweight fleece gloves were too cold, but that might have just been because they’re inadequate by themselves. Thick, tight-fitting gloves were perfect. My favorite set was a fleece-lined pair of suede Isotoners I bought from Woot last year. I put the button in one finger only, and I can continue to read my tablet while sitting outside waiting for the bus. Awesome. Would I rather be toasty warm somewhere inside? Yes, but at least this way I have my eBooks to comfort me in the cold.

Quirky sells Digits in four-packs for $11.99. Full disclosure: Quirky provided sample product for this review.

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Marziah Karch has written books on topics like Android and LEGO robotics. She is also writes for About.com for money and GlitterSquid for fun. She lives in Portland, Oregon and still works a day job. Because she apparently has free time on top of all that, she is also a doctoral candidate researching the information behavior of independent game designers.