When the Misfit Shine appeared it made quite a splash – literally. For a start it was one of the first fitness trackers that could be used when swimming (see what I did there?), but it also tried to be a fashion accessory as well as a fitness companion.
Misfit achieved that status by bringing all manner of accessories to market for the Shine, turning it into (in some cases) quite an attractive piece of jewellery. With its fashion conscious, premium positioning, many found the Shine quite expensive considering its comparative lack of features, but it was good to see Misfit trying something different rather than just following the crowd.
The Misfit Flash, by comparison, is a far more affordable device, but that reduction in cost also means that it’s not as stylish or versatile as the Shine. However, if you’re just looking for a basic fitness tracker that doesn’t cost the earth, the Flash appears tempting.
What’s in the box?
Considering the price tag it’s impressive that Misfit bundles the Flash with both a belt clip and a wristband. The similarly priced and targeted Jawbone UP Move only comes with a belt clip, leaving you to buy a wristband separately if you want one.
That said, given the size and shape of the Flash (much like the UP Move) I find that it lends itself better to a clip than a wristband – if I want to wear my tracker on my wrist, I’d rather buy one designed specifically for that purpose.
There’s no charging cable, since the Flash runs of a lithium cell that will power it for around six months. I quite like this approach, since you’ll never find yourself in a position where you haven’t tracked your movement because you forgot to charge your device. And given that you’re constantly syncing your data, when that lithium cell does finally run out, you’ll be able to change it without losing too much activity.
Other than the strap, clip and the Flash itself (including the lithium cell), there’s nothing else in the box, but there’s not really anything else you need from a budget fitness tracker.
Get fit in a Flash!
There are no surprises with the Misfit Flash, it’s a fitness tracker that will log every step you take, then estimate distance travelled and calories burned throughout your day. It will do this while seamlessly syncing its data with your smartphone, and presenting your results in a very nicely designed app.
Like the Jawbone UP Move, the Misfit Flash has a display that works like a clock face. You can press the device to get an estimate of how close you are to your goal – illustrated by how many of the 12 LEDs around the circumference are lit. And you can also use those 12 LEDs to figure out what the time is – it’s a nice touch, just as it was on the UP Move, but it’s worth pointing out that Misfit pioneered these features with the Shine.
As always, I tested the Flash alongside various other trackers to get a good idea of its accuracy over time. What I discovered was that the Flash is very conservative in its step measurement, reporting far lower step counts than devices from Jawbone, Garmin, Fitbit etc. would.
And of course that difference is exacerbated the more active you are, so on a day where your other trackers are telling you that topped 30,000 steps, the Flash could be out by over 5,000, if not more on some occasions.
However, it’s worth remembering that all this is relative, and that if you buy a Misfit Flash you won’t be wearing it alongside two or three other trackers the way I did. And if the data the Flash is delivering is your only metric, its low step count doesn’t really matter.
As I’ve always maintained, the most important thing to remember when using a fitness tracker is that the only person you’re really challenging is yourself. So if you achieved a 20 per cent step increase this week over last, it doesn’t matter that another tracker would have counted more steps, since your personal achievement wouldn’t change.
Where the Flash really falls down, though, is in the design of the belt clip that comes in the box. Whereas the clip that ships with the Jawbone UP Move grips like the jaws of a pit-bull, the Flash clip simply doesn’t inspire confidence.
For a start the Flash never feels completely secure inside the clip – it’s not enveloped in tight rubber like the UP Move, but it’s the fact that it simply doesn’t grip what you clip it to very hard that concerns. Whether you attach it to a belt, a pocket or your shirt, the Flash always feels loose and leaves you worried that it will simply fall off at some point.
Unfortunately my fears proved founded and having finished a run around Regents Park one day, I reached down and found that the Flash wasn’t there – it had simply fallen off during my run, and having just finished a 10k loop, there was no way of knowing where I’d lost it.
By contrast, the wristband is extremely secure, and one of the best examples of its kind I’ve seen. So if you’re happy to wear your Flash on your wrist you certainly won’t suffer the same fate as I did.
If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the Jawbone UP app and consider it to be best in class, but its fair to say that the Misfit app gives Jawbone a run for its money.
The Misfit iPhone app is beautifully designed, but it’s not a case of form over function. It’s easy to navigate the app and quick to find what you’re looking for, whether that’s a general overview, or a more detailed breakdown of your activity.
It’s interesting that Misfit uses its own metric, much like the Nike Fuel Points favoured by the sadly departed Nike+ FuelBand. I quite like this approach, and it provides another reason why the Flash’s low comparative step count isn’t the major issue it might at first seem.
The Flash can ascertain when you’re being particularly active, and you can log specific activities within your daily timeline. You can also manually log your weight, allowing you to see if all that activity is having an effect on body mass.
The Misfit app will interact with other apps and services, but the list is limited compared to the competition. iPhone users will be happy to see that you can link your Misfit app to Apple Health. Likewise, MyFitnessPal will also link up nicely, allowing you to dynamically adjust your calorie intake based on real-time activity.
You can’t link with Withings HealthMate, though, which means if you have a set of Withings Smart Body Analyzer scales, your weight won’t sync automatically with your Misfit app. Strava is another high profile service that’s conspicuous by its absence, although Runkeeper and MapMyFitness are supported.
With an RRP of £49.99, the Misfit Flash is £10 more expensive than the Jawbone UP Move, although it can be found easily online for £39.99. But even with the same price tag as Jawbone’s budget tracker, it’s hard to recommend the Flash over the UP Move.
My biggest criticism of the Flash is the poor belt clip that ships with it. Considering that you’re going to be using the Flash while you’re active, it needs to be safe and secure when clipped to your clothing, and as my personal experience shows, it’s not. Of course if you prefer to wear it on your wrist, this won’t be an issue at all, and the poor clip design can be, to some extent, ignored.
The app is a beautiful example of the genre, but it needs more integration with other apps and services. If you’re a regular cyclist you’re probably using Strava, and the fact that the Misfit app won’t sync with any smart-scales is also a little frustrating.
While the Misfit Shine’s fashion and style credentials make its price a little easier to swallow, the Flash enjoys no such additional benefits. And with Jawbone’s excellent UP Move out there, the Flash will struggle to win hearts and minds in the budget fitness tracker sector.