I’ve written and tried a fair few smart toys and I’m a big fan of teledildonics, so I was thrilled to be given the chance to try the Lovely Desire-Sensing Vibrating Couples Ring. This couple’s toy bills itself as a “Desire sensing vibrating couples ring and app” well I’m not a massive fan of couple’s vibes. They don’t tend to do the job as well as a good bullet but I’m all for trying new things.
My first impressions of the Lovely Desire-Sensing Vibrating Couples Ring were fairly average. It’s basically a cock ring with a bullet type fin attached. The fin is large and solid, and I can see some issues with positioning straight away. But for me the main issue was the vibration. To say the Lovely has average vibration would be being generous.
The vibrations were so weak even applied directly to my nipples they barely stiffened them. I was disappointed to find there was no way to increase this at all when I remembered the Lovely Desire-Sensing Vibrating Couples Ring has an app which comes with it. Great, I thought, I bet the controls are via the app. Although this seemed a little strange I went for a look.
The Lovely App is available from the Play store or Apple App store and downloaded no problem. Almost straight away I was concerned though. The app required me to register an email. I can’t think of any other smart toy which has asked me for this. It’s quite likely that the average person might not want a sex toy registered to their email address. I pushed these concerns to the back of my mind and entered my work email.
The app synced with my Lovely Couples Ring easily and quickly and I moved to the next stage of registration. Here is where I absolutely lost it. Up pops a screen asking me to input my age, height and weight??? Ok, so I can lie if I don’t want to supply this but why in the name of all things holy do they need this info??? It feels like I’m submitting for a medical. I fully expect it to ask how many partners I have and how many units of alcohol I consume a week. I enter my details but to say I’m unhappy about it is an understatement.
My next concern occurs with the app permissions. I’m really cautious about app permissions. I always switch off anything I can’t see a reason to be there. The Lovely App asks me for permission to access my storage. I can’t think why. It asks for access to my images as well as my phone. I’m confused and concerned at this stage. I’ve spoken to the manufacturers who have assured me that the permissions requested are purely for the app to run correctly and no different to many apps. Whilst this might be the case given the additional data the app has already gathered it feels like further intrusion.
Within the app there are different sections where it asks for even more personal info. My sexual preferences etc. This is done so the app can tailor sex tips for me. Further exploration of the app uncovered an area where users can access 24/7 chat with a sex educator or sex related video courses for the grand old price of €29.99 a month. Credit card details are requested for this. Call me old fashioned but I’m now seriously uncomfortable with this whole thing.
I screen grabbed some of the things concerning me and popped onto Twitter to ask if there would be any reason a company would require all this information. After all I’m not an expert on data management or a developer, there could be a legit reason.
A few of my followers were equally concerned and we began having a look closer at how the app works. Lovely Inc were quick to jump onto my tweets answering the questions I’d asked but I felt unsatisfied with the answers. I was told the app asks for height, weight and age so it can track calorie burning. I can honestly say the last thing on my mind during sex is how many calories I’m burning.
Jakub Konik, Lovely founder said he understood my trepidation about the amount of data the Lovely Desire Sensing Vibrating Couples Ring collected but repeatedly told me if I was uncomfortable with this, I was free not to use the toy. Except as I pointed out, there was no transparency as to how much data the Lovely needed before purchase. For me this was a major sticking point. Jakub admitted this was an issue and they have since added the data required within their product information. This is a step forward.
I was now in the process of reading through the Lovely product information. Luckily I was able to speak to people who work with data management and privacy laws for some clarity. I asked Emily Overton from RMGirl consulting and Zebra Rose (whose vanilla life includes unpicking privacy law for paying clients) to have a look over the app and the information required. After much discussion and investigation, they came back to me with the following;
The policy states that if you don’t agree to all of the data uses, you cannot use the product. Data Protection law says that this ‘take it or leave it’ approach is not allowed, as consent must be ‘freely-given’ and ‘specific’ i.e., the app must explain exactly how the data is used and ask you for agreement separately to each use.
The collection of usage data was one of the things that got the Canadian manufacturer of We-Vibe, Standard Innovation, into trouble in 2016. They were fined CAD $4 million (£2.4 million) after they were found to be collating and using their customers’ data without explicit consent. Consent is obviously a big issue in the context of sexual activity and so it is very disturbing that a sex toy manufacturer has got this so wrong.
The app collects a scary amount of data – the content of your chats with other users, your contact information, the settings and timings of when you use the device. None of this is likely to be strictly necessary for the toy to function, which means that the data collection is “excessive” in data protection language.
This data could present a real threat to users’ privacy, even if it remains only in the hands of the vendor and their advertising partners. However, a more serious concern is the security of the app. We asked a security researcher to check it out and they found serious flaws in the way the app is designed, potentially exposing every users’ information and allowing the device to be remotely controlled without permission.
The details of the security problems are being kept under wraps for the moment until they can be fixed, to try and prevent these flaws from being exploited. All in all, this is probably not a good choice of product for anyone who values their privacy.”
I had felt uncomfortable with the data from the off and this statement did nothing to alleviate my fears.
I feel strongly like the Lovely team focused so much on the app they forgot about the toy. This is the primary reason for purchase and in use I found it lacking. During sex it did little to stimulate me thanks to the weak vibrations.
He felt the vibrations became buzzy and irritating after a little while, I’d have liked to have felt them. If a toy can’t make me come, I’m not I sure I care for its €30 a month sex tips. Nor if it can tell me how many calories, I burnt in my attempts to force an orgasm.
I can see what Lovely Inc were trying to do, it was an attempt to build an extremely smart, smart toy. But without a fundamentally good toy at the heart the Lovely app is useless even with the data collected. There should have been far more emphasis on the product design and the power within it. And less worry about integrating BMI analysis.
If Lovely Inc worked on improving the design and reducing the data requirements of the app it could potentially be a nice little toy. But for $139 in price that’s a little rich for my blood given the lack of actual results. I’d be better off with a good bullet and a Fitbit.
You can purchase the Lovely Desire Sensing Vibrating Couples Ring for $139.
Thank you so much to the team at Lovely Inc for sending me the Lovely for review. I was sent this product free of charge and in exchange for an honest and impartial review.