IN 2007, when Apple unleashed its touch-screen wonderbox, users in winter climes soon learned that trying to type on an iPhone while gloved was futile. The only option was to remove your mitts and risk full-on finger freeze as you pecked out “Be there soon.”
It wasn’t long before glove companies discovered that by using technology, including conductive yarns, they could theoretically help avid texters avoid this bone-chilling ritual. Today, you can find rugged, ski-slope-ready texting gloves from North Face and Marmot; cozy knitted versions from Ralph Lauren and Uniqlo; and chichi leather texters from startups like Kent Wang and Evolg. All of them claim to work perfectly. Many unfortunately do not.
When Yale Buchwald’s mother gave him a pair of Lord and Taylor leather texting gloves for Hanukkah a few years ago, the New York creative strategy apprentice, now 21, excitedly considered the possibilities. He could, he marveled, order an Uber on a December night without wincing in pain. Or not. “They never worked well,” he said. Though he still wears the gloves, he’s given up on trying to type in them: He goes gloveless when it’s time to check Google Maps for the nearest subway station.
Cameron Wilson, 28, a logistics coordinator in Seattle, has been similarly unimpressed by the many pairs of smart gloves he’s staked his hopes on over recent winters. “Nothing was really good and nothing was really warm,” he said. Warmth is a persistent issue: With cozily thick texting gloves, you might as well be smashing a foam finger against your screen; more effective alternatives suffer from wispiness. Today, he employs an old-fashioned alternative: toasty mittens with a flap that he pulls back to reveal his bare fingers when he needs to, say, fire off a text.
Unready to adopt such a defeatist attitude, I recently tested 50 touch screen gloves over a near-freezing New York weekend, taking note of typing efficacy, warmth and fit. The best smart gloves allowed for breezy email answering, while the worst barely registered a click (as I made my notes on the weaker performers, I continually had to take them off). Most of them ranked somewhere in between, functioning adequately but leading me to give thanks for auto-correct, however imperfect it is.
Along the way I learned that knitted gloves tend to be slippery; many brands have added rubber nubs to the palm and fingers to prevent screen-cracking phone fumbles. Finding a snug fit gets tricky with stiff leather gloves, particularly in the crucial fingertip area: When I tested a problematically roomy pair, my attempt to type “goodbye” produced “ground pie.” And no matter what kind of technology brands like North Face or Marmot advertise, most bulky, ski-type gloves are terrible for texting. Smart gloves are best suited for brief bouts of outdoor typing, not whole afternoons spent on the bleachers watching football while trying to keep up with a group chat. Still, in my testing, a few winners emerged. Here are the five premier app-allowing, message-massaging, email-answering and warm gloves that we endorse.
THE PURSUIT OF GLOVE / The Pluses (And a Few Minuses) of the Superior Pairs We Tested
The Supple Slip-Ons
L.L. Bean Sweater Fleece
Gloves, $ 25, llbean.com
+ These marled gloves were the softest on the inside. With a thick, inviting layer of plush fleece, they’re like a toasty sweater for your hands.
– The lining does make them a bit denser and therefore harder to wrap around the sides of your phone.
The Skier’s Delight
Gloves, $ 35, columbia.com
+ Of all the thick-shelled poly sporting gloves, these were the easiest to type with, boasting digits that taper to a dexterous tip.
– The harder shell makes it tougher to maneuver (no rapid-fire emailing; you’ll type slowly) and is more appropriate, stylewise, for an Aspen slope than a stroll through the city.
The Handsome Hand-Savers
Evolg Leather-Fabric Mix
Gloves, $ 150, evolgglove.com
+ Japanese brand Evolg has pulled off a rare feat: By blending a checked British-esque wool with sleek black leather, it made touch screen gloves that look as dressy as traditional ones. Office-appropriate.
– The leather was still a bit slick which made using my phone while walking a challenge.
The Barely-There Pair
Mack Weldon Swipe
Gloves, $ 28, mackweldon.com
+ These gloves from a New York-based startup are crafted from a lightweight silk-blend fabric for a fit that gets incredibly close to the hand. It’s like texting with no gloves at all.
– They’re thin, so beware. If it’s anywhere near freezing, grab something more substantial.
The All-Around Neat Knit
Gloves, $ 30, moshi.com
+ The gloves by these smart-accessory specialists, in business for 14 years, feature neat waves of rubber dots and stripes along the palm and fingers that keep your phone from slipping to its doom.
– The fluffy liner, while warming, adds bulk which ups the number of dreaded “fat finger” typos.
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Write to Jacob Gallagher at Jacob.Gallagher@wsj.com