You can learn a lot about the usability of an object from other peoples observations. This is true even if there isn’t a specific usability analysis that has been developed for the object. In fact, as is often the case, the best observations are made by people “at arms length” to the design and development process. Take for example, the case of the TREAD, a wearable multitool made by Leatherman. This multitool, in the form of a bracelet, has 29 tools squeezed into nine-links, and a watch-like clasp. Select the tool, and fold the rest back to form a handle. Seems like a good idea right?
The TREAD contains various tools: a bottle opener, a line cutter, a carbide glass breaker, an oxygen tank wrench, a SIM card tool, a ¼” socket drive, 6 box wrenches, 8 hex drives, 5 flat screwdrivers, a #2 square driver, and 3 Phillips screwdrivers. In Canada its selling for C$165, so not exactly cheap. But what do the online reviews say about the TREAD? Here are some of the more critical reviews from the Leatherman website, and Amazon.
- “All the tools start to get deformed for normal wear and tear within the first 6 months of wearing it. Also the screws self loosen the more you wear it.”
- “Very cool product, incredibly bad developed.”
- “This bracelet costs more than it is worth in usefulness.”
- “The aggressive angle make the flat bits useless. They will pop out of the screws you are trying to tighten or loosen and you won’t be able to put any torque on the screws at all.”
- “Most of the Philips and flat head bits are so mangled from wearing it everyday that they are not very useful anymore.”
- “An expensive solution to a simple problem”.
- “The best choice in limited circumstances”.
Most users agree that the concept is great, but the design is flawed. It is aesthetically pleasing, but the tools are either not that rugged, or versatile. The selection of tools is also slightly flawed. It’s unlikely that anyone would need five flat screwdrivers, and the device lacks any Torx screwdrivers. Many of the complaints centre around the inability of the clasp to function properly, or the screws which hold the bracelet links together coming loose (a common complaint). Guess what you need to tighten them, or remove unused link to adjust the size? A separate screwdriver, or their suggestion, a penny.
SIM card remover? How often does one need to do that? It seems like the tool doesn’t know what it is? Is it for fixing a bike, or swapping SIM cards? An oxygen tank wrench? The average person has no use for that. Engadget calls the TREAD 29 kinds of dysfunctional. There are plenty of good reviews, however many of these merely talk about the “great functionality”, or how cool it is, e.g. “Tread is simply the coolest tool in existence”. Here is the summary from the Leatherman website. Kudos to Leatherman for publishing the cons identified by the users as well.
For a review of the TREAD, check out this article.