New, year, new you. If that’s your plan for 2014 and you’ve not really been very active before, then you might be thinking along the lines of getting an activity tracker.
This is a huge growth area and you’ve got plenty of choice. And there’s a fair bit of variation in what activity trackers can do. They can let you set goals, give you prizes when you achieve them, let you upload information to the web for long term analysis, have built in social features, and can track different kinds of activity including ascent in some cases.
The Misfit Shine doesn’t do all these things and in many ways it is rather basic. But it does have some interesting features. You can wear it in different ways, it has both iPhone and Android apps in support, its has a rather neat way of doubling up to tell you the time, it has excellent battery life, and it is waterproof to 50 metres.
That last fact might be a clincher for you if you are a swimmer. So many wearable devices don’t offer this water proof feature, and that means you can’t use them to track your performance in the pool. Even if you aren’t a swimmer, then you might like the fact that you can keep the wrist worn Shine on when you are in the shower and that it is what the makers call ‘laundry proof’. As someone who has left her Fitbit One in trouser pockets a few times so it has been through some wash and spin cycles, I can say that’s comforting.
The Misift Shine doesn’t look like any other wearable technology I have come across. It is an aluminium disk with a bushed, matte finish that looks great. The finish certainly makes a nice change from the rubber and plastic of so many other activity trackers.
It is quite small – its diameter is 27mm which is about the same size as a 50p piece. It is magnetic on the bottom. That’s a useful feature as you’ll see shortly. There’s a groove around its circumference which is used to slot it into two provided wearable systems – a wristband and a hook. The latter you can use to clip the Misfit Shine around a belt loop or shoelace. That hook has a magnet built into it – and yes, it is strong. I fixed the Misfit Shine to a shoelace on several occasions and it didn’t come off.
If you don’t want to wear it on either the wrist strap or hook it can sit in a pocket on its own. And you can buy a more substantial wrist strap or even a neckband if you’d like to wear it as a necklace.
Twelve white LED lights sit around the front of the Misfit Shine. These are crucial. For the most part they are off, with the surface of the Shine a simple plain disk. Double tap it and they light up to show performance towards your daily activity goal – the more lights the closer you are to your goal. If all twelve light up you have reached the goal.
The lights also tell the time. After the lights have indicated progress four briefly light up – imagine the 12, 3, 6 and 9 on a clock face. Then these go out and two light up one constant, one flashing. The constant light is the hour, the flashing light the minutes. It’s not entirely accurate, and it does take rather longer to get there than glancing at a proper wristwatch. But if you don’t wear a watch and are used to grabbing your phone for a timecheck the time taken is comparable.
The Misfit Shine is powered by a standard flat battery, and it lasts up to 4 months. That’s hugely longer than any other wearable we’ve reviewed at Fittechnica and very impressive indeed. You fit the battery by prizing back and front apart using a provided tool – or the tip of a knife.
So far, then, this all sounds pretty positive. But what about in everyday use? How do you get the most out of the Misfit Shine? Does it provide plenty of information? Is it accurate in its measurements of your activity?
Well, the Misfit Shine needs an app – which is free. It delivers information to the app via Bluetooth 4.0 LE (that’s Low Energy). The more technical among you will spot immediately that this means it is not going to be compatible with a huge number of mobile devices. There’s an iOS app that is compatible the iPhone 4S or later so if you have that, an iPhone 5 or the new iPhone 5S or iPhone 5C you are OK. Recently an Android app has also launched, but again you need to look for Bluetooth 4.0 LE. If you’ve got a Samsung Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note II, Google Nexus 4 or 5, you are in luck. If your Android device isn’t pretty new – and isn’t running Android 4.3 or higher – then it may not be compatible.
It’s pretty annoying that the iOS and Android apps are rather different. I was running the app on a Nexus 5 and that meant I didn’t have access to a lot of the features iPhone users have. For example the iPhone app will graph your progress towards a goal showing when you have been most active. It can report on different activities such as walking and running, And it will give you a weekly progress report as well as a daily one.
The Android app does none of these things. Maybe they will come in an update – and I do hope they arrive soon. It’s poor form for a device to be sold with different features depending on whether you are an Apple or Android user so I hope the two apps are brought into sync with each other sooner rather than later.
Please bear in mind as you read on, then, that all the usage evaluation and screen shots in this review are taken from my Nexus 5 running Android 4.4, and all my comments about usability are from an Android user’s perspective.
There’s something else worth noting in terms of how the Misfit Shine handles its data. It doesn’t upload to an online storage system so you can’t earn cumulative points over a long period of time. The Android app doesn’t give a running total of all the points you have earned to date. There are whole ecosystems built around that concept, and you can upgrade a device and keep going on accumulating scores and gaining points. You need look no further than the Nike fuel system Riyad is so keen on to understand how it works.
You need to set the app up. As is the standard form you tell it your sex, height, weight and age – it asks for your birthday. You can also adjust the daily goal. By default this is 1000 points. From my use of the Shine I reckon you get roughly 100 points for every 1000 steps travelled.
When work on the wrist the Shine is very far from accurate in noting every step you take. How accurate it is for you will likely depend on how much you swing your arms when walking. For me the accuracy was way off. I tested this by using the Shine and my Fitbit One with the Shine on my wrist and the Fitbit in my pocket. When the Shine said I had done 8750 steps the Fitbit One counted 10,131.
Now, that count obviously has an effect on the Shine’s understanding of distance travelled. And there’s another point to note in relation to that – you can’t calibrate stride length. I know my Fitbit One, whose stride length for both running and walking can be calibrated separately, to be reasonably accurate but not great. So on that same walk I also carried a GPS enabled Garmin 220 (a review of that is coming soon).
The Garmin is clearly the most reliable of the trio and it said I walked 7.1km. The Fitbit One said I walked 6.6km. The Misfit One said I walked 5.4km. It is worth noting too that there’s no altimeter in the Shine so it can’t give you the ‘stairs climbed’ type of info that the Fitbit does.
Stride length calibration, like other updates to the Shine’s software, could be added via the app over time – indeed the first time I linked the Shine and app a software update was sent over.
The Shine claims to know when you change activity type, and can differentiate walking, running, cycling and swimming. You just give the Shine three quick taps to tell it you are changing activity. So, I went on a cycle with the Shine looped into the toe of my shoes and triple tapped the Shine when I started to ride. When I got home and synced with the app it recorded what I’d done as walking. I guess maybe it could do no more since the Android app doesn’t seem to be able to show any activity but walking at present.
Well, that’s not quite fair, actually. The Shine can also monitor your sleep activity and the Android app does display that. You have to remember to give the Shine a triple tap before putting your head down, and then it will note the length of time you are in deep sleep and the total time you are asleep. It identifies deep sleep as periods when you are not moving around. It’s hard to know how accurate this measure is, but it did seem fairly consistent during my three weeks test period. Though on several nights I forgot to triple tap and so there was no recording at all.
I’m not sold on the Misfit Shine. I’ve seen other reviews that eulogise about it, but for me it is let down by some fundamental things – all of which could be fixed. It is not accurate when wrist worn – Misfit could do some user education on that front to help you understand it is best work in a pocket or on your clothing. Its distance measures are likely to be inaccurate because you can’t calibrate it to your stride length.
There’s no web portal either, which means the ‘ecosystem’ is non existent and you can’t compare progress over time or win awards for progress.
Then there’s the app problem. The Android app needs to be updated so that it offers the range of features in the iPhone app, such as weekly stats and collection of information on different types of activity.
Given that the Misfit Shine costs £99 and the wrist worn Fitbit Flex £79.99, and the Flex has whole lot more features on offer including a great online portal, I might be inclined to advise anyone interested in activity monitoring for the first time to try that rather than the Misfit Shine.
And to the makers of the Shine I’d say there is real potential here, but they need to fix the Android app and provide some additional features on the Shine itself.
- Light and easy to wear
- Looks more like jewelry than an activity tracker
- Clever on board LED lights system
- Long battery life
- Inaccurate when wrist worn
- Can’t calibrate stride length
- Android app lacks features of iOS app
- No altimeter
- No web portal
- No prizes or trophies
Manufacturer: Misfit Wearables