Google and Samsonite’s smart backpack is a better use of Jacquard

Google and Samsonite’s smart backpack is a better use of Jacquard

Unlike on the YSL backpack, where the threads camouflage into the strap, the Samsonite version’s white stripes contrast against the black background. This visual cue is helpful because I don’t have to feel around for the touch-sensitive area. The ridged texture also helps distinguish them from the rest of the strap. 

To connect the backpack to your phone, you’ll have to slot a thumb-sized dongle into the strap, just like you would with the jacket. While it was slightly unwieldy on the sleeve’s cuff, this module sits unobtrusively near the bottom of the backpack’s strap. The module syncs with your phone via Bluetooth, and through the Jacquard app, you can define what brushing up and down or double tapping the strap does.

There aren’t any new tools available on the Jacquard platform — you can still only do things like skip or pause your music, ask Assistant a question or drop pins to remember places you’ve been. I set a swipe up to go back a song on my playlist, brushing down to skip to the next track and double tap to take a selfie. I also chose to have the dongle’s LED light up green when a message or call came in and blue for Uber notifications. 

Samsonite Konnect-i backpack with Google Jacquard hands-on

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

While I’m underwhelmed by the lack of new features, I was impressed by how much more responsive the Konnect-i was compared to the jacket. When I received a text, the strap vibrated to alert me before my phone even showed an alert. With a brush up on the fibers, Assistant read the contents to me, though oddly it left out the name of the sender.

Similarly, swiping up or down to control my music was speedy, and pairing the Konnect-i with my phone was a breeze. I also liked that when I double tapped to take a selfie, not only did my phone quickly pull up the camera in the Jacquard app and start a 3-second countdown, but the backpack vibrated in tandem. Perhaps because it’s on my shoulder and chest instead of on my wrist, the dongle’s vibration felt stronger and more noticeable than on the jacket. 

I also find the implementation of Jacquard better here. For one, I am far less likely to toss a backpack in the washing machine (sometimes I do, okay?) and ruin the hardware if I forget to remove it. Backpacks are also slightly more versatile than jackets — whether it’s 100 degrees or 10, you can always carry a backpack. One thing the jacket does better, though, is that when the module’s LED lights up in a specific color, it’s easier to see on the sleeve than on the backpack’s strap.

Despite all the improvements and benefits the Konnect-i brings, I’m not sure there’s much of a value proposition here. It might be helpful on your grocery runs, bike rides or while you’re walking your dog. But a $200 smartwatch can do all the same things, and more. It would be more useful if Jacquard offered more skills, especially since it’s easier to interact with the backpack strap than the tiny face of a wearable. As it stands, though, the Konnect-i is a niche product that will only appeal to a limited audience.

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