First off, full disclosure: Misfit gave me a Shine — not for review — but as thanks for spotting and letting them know about a minor error on one of their pages on the day they announced a related product. So, given that it was free, it was something I was grateful to receive, and established the goodwill of the people at Misfit. The thing is, I’m not exactly the type that monitors and logs everything I do. In fact, given my physical limitations (mentioned before), I can’t often follow a workout regimen to stay in shape anymore. However, I am naturally curious, and after almost 6 months using the Shine, I have been able to use it as a way to monitor my daily activity and adjust how much I eat. This review examines what is an almost perfect product at this price point from the PoV of someone that isn’t interested in (or can’t afford) the current smartwatch offerings. On this level, the Shine succeeds to offer a simple way to monitor daily sleep and wake activity. Read on to see how it accomplishes this.
Shine Basic Operation
The shine’s operation is simple enough. After popping the battery in, put it on and walk and it will record your steps just like any digital pedometer. While wearing the device you can double tap the Shine to see your progress along a 12 LED clock face representing the percentage of your daily goal. After it displays that you have the option to show the time with the hour hand LED represented as solidly on and the minute hand represented by a blinking LED. This added convenience makes it so you no longer have to pull out your phone to check the time. (The app allows you to specify which to show first which adds the the functionality of the watch portion.)
Sleep Monitor & Healthkit Integration
Wear it to bed, and it will monitor your various types of sleep. You can set your activity goal in app & you can sync with any Android or iOS device and tag activities. In iOS you can even allow it to feed its data gathered to Healthkit. But all is not perfect with this product — or at least the default accessories that come with them. I have also found a few flaws that I also let Misfit know about, and sent in ideas to correct them. More on the flaws after the main review.
Misfit App User Interface (UI)
The user interface for the Misfit app has improved significantly since January. The Home Screen summarizes either activity in multiple ways. First a points listing “[Current#] of [Goal#] Points” with a pie like circle that fills up. Tap that and it shows a graph of activity with the X-axis representing time of day and the Y-axis representing the level of activity. So, you can quickly survey how you’re doing. Sleep is also represented the same way, in pie and graph form with more restful sleep represented as darker shades of purple, and light sleep shown in violet and waking minutes shown in lilac. Below each is a numerical summary of the event. For activity it shows 3 columns: miles, calories, steps. While for sleep is shows: awake, light [sleep], and restful [sleep]. You can also see a weekly and monthly overview by tapping the calendar icon in the upper left. And this is just the home screen. I’m not covering the social sharing features because I don’t use them, but if you’re into competing with friends by “game-ifying” activity and other Misfit users, there’s also that. The only other “essential” screen would be the Devices screen where you can set the Shine’s double tap display order, see the battery condition, use the sync button (although you can swipe left to trigger a sync from the home screen which is faster if you are able bodied), and set where on the body you are wearing your shine to increase activity tracking activity. You can also tag things in the devices screen, but there’s a plus in the center of the bottom row always visible where you can quickly tag activity there too. If this sounds overwhelming, it’s not. The app designer deserves 5 stars for making such a flexible an easy to navigate app. with more than one way to use almost all the app’s features, it feels more like a Mac App with its many options to access data than a standard Windows “1-way only” app if you are familiar with the differences in design of both platfroms. Considering how concise, clear, consistent and predictable the app is, I can tell the designer obviously knows his or her craft extremely well. I would guess that the designer uses app on a daily basis, and has probably read MHUG since he follows all the guidelines to a T which makes the app a pleasure to use. So, anyone at Misfit who reads this: do not let that person or people go! He, she or they is/are one/some of those few rare gems that “gets it.” I don’t often say this about App design, especially when they pack in so many features, but this app deserves 5 stars on its own.
Durability, Comfort & Battery Life
The durability of shine is a great. My shine now has a few scuffs. These are all my fault. It is water resistant — so you could shower with it — I don’t, but forgot to take it off once or twice. Had the shine not been so comfortable, I wouldn’t have forgotten to take it off. So, after wearing it as a watch almost daily for months, I can attest to it’s ability to stay out of the way and only get attention when you need to give it attention (except when it pops out of the holder — again more below).
The battery life is about 6 months with a single CR2032 Lithium coin cell battery. This battery is very common and used in watches and other electronics, so you can find them at any electronics, watch or hardware store for about $4–$8.
I’m not the type of person that criticizes in a vacuum and leaves the receiver to ponder solutions. Given that I am naturally “an idea hamster” (as some have called me), give me a problem and I automatically try to think of a way to fix it. I accredit this to my decades of being a technician and being intimately familiar with all types of hardware and software, as well as understanding the innate purposes and adaptations that should be made to a product to suit its environment (use paradigm). I’ve written in my blog many times about finding solutions that fit both sides of a debate and satisfying multiple points of view.
Misfit, to its credit actually addressed one problem with the Shine’s UI — having to double tap the Shine just right to sync it with your phone — with a software update to it app that now just requires either a button tap or a screen drag (mentioned above) to start the sync process. So, the problem of trying to tap the exact way to activate a sync was solved. But there is one more problem — not with the shine itself but with its included bands — that needs to be addressed before the Shine can receive a 5 star rating.
Losing Its Shine
The problem is the bands packaged with the shine are designed to look very sleek and elegant, but the downside it that they are so thin, that a bump or accidentally stretching the band might cause it to either break or the shine to pop out. With me, the ring that secures the Shine in the magnetic clip mount actually broke when the shirt I had it clipped to got caught on something and forced the ring that secures the shine to expand beyond its breaking point. At the time I didn’t want to use the watch band because I wasn’t sure if it would cause a heat rash. I wrote Misfit and they sent out a watch band instead of a magnetic clip (note, they did eventually send out a few magnetic clips). But hey, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, I figured. But while I was waiting for what turned out to be a watchband, I had the Shine in my pocket for a few days. Being so small, when it fell out, I didn’t realize it and I lost it. I’m not sure where it went. It could be magnetically attached to under my car seat for all I know, or it could have fallen out on the street or at the store when I reached into my pocket for something else. No idea.
Idea to Find a Lost Shine
I thought, if the shine had a small piezo-electric speaker in it that could be triggered by the app to locate it if it got lost by flashing and making noise, I might be able to track it down in case I lose it again. That almost happened to the second one again. So, I thought of my Dish remote, which has a button on the receiver to make it flash and beep until you find it. Sure this would shorten battery life, but the alternative is losing the shine permanently — worth the trade off, in my book.
Lost & Another, Gratis
Since it doesn’t have this ability, after losing it, I figured: easy come, easy go. I told Shine not to bother sending a replacement band out, but amazingly they sent me another Shine. My reaction: “wow! That was really nice of them.” Losing this thing was completely my fault (even though I was put I in that situation because the magnetic band’s holding ring broke) but they still gave me another one. I’m not sure if they would have done with for a regular paying customer, but I figured I must have earned some good will by sending them notice of the error before blasting it on SoNets like some jerks probably would have. [I could have tweeted “hey look at these fools!” With a screen shot, but having hand-written HTML for a very long time, I realize small but very big mistakes happen (one cataloged here as “A Call from Charlene”), but instead I empathized — been there, done that.] I haven’t ever heard of a tech company doing something above and beyond for a user even when it was no fault of their own since Delta Tao bought iMacs for the few Clan Lord players still running the client on Motorola 68000 series CPUs about a decade ago. (Yes DT bought used G3 teardrop iMacs for the ~10 people at about $300 a pop, and this was a $10/month game at the time [now free after buying a $15 account].)
Elasticity’s a Double Edged Mount
I started using the watch band, and to its credit it didn’t break, but it did stretch a few times wide enough to let the shine pop out. Once it was when I was exiting a vehicle at night. Luckily I heard it hit the sidewalk and pulled out a flashlight and quickly found it (it being the grey model, didn’t help. I thought I was being clumsy — even though I’m usually a pretty graceful person. While I treat my devices with care, I do expect my clothing & accessories to have a decent amount of durability. So, I started noting when it popped out the next few times. Once I was reaching behind my bed to run a speaker wire and rubbed up against the wall and it popped out. Another time I was reaching into my pocket for my keys and it caught the edge of my pocket and popped it. After the 4th time, I tinkered with the band, pulling it a bit and realized that the amount of stretching neded to make it pop out was pretty minimal. Given that low ceiling, I figured that this was a design flaw that could affect many more people, even those that are even more careful than myself. The force required to stretch the band and the tension need to hold the band could also cause it to pop out like launching a paper wad off a rubber band which happened the time it fell out in the car (I found the Shine about 10 feet away from where it popped out in front of the car on the sidewalk — I was in the back seat).
“Attempts to Correct a Design Flaw” or “Ooh, Magnets!”
Naturally, I thought of ways to correct it. The first attempt was crude: I fastened electrical tap to sides to see it a temporary measure like this would work. It looked ugly as hell and would never go with the aesthetic. I thought, if I had an injection molding machine, I could add “fins” to the ring that folded over the edge of the Shine once seated, it would create a 3:2 interlocking system — kind of like a glad bag.
Then I thought about my magnetic phone mount, and remember the back of the shine has a neodymium magnet embedded in it that the magnetic clasp uses to attach to it. From working with these types of magnets, I knew the pull force was enough to secure the shine if it popped out again. I realized that if I suspended a my 1/2″ neodymium magnet behind the Shine and attached it to the back of the watch band, it would accomplish 2 things without ruining the Shine’s elegant aesthetic:
- it would prevent the band from stretching along the the band’s axis &
- even if it did stretch enough to pop out, the holding force would keep it from falling out.
So, once again, I used 2 pieces of electrical tape to sandwich my magnet and made the outside back end longer so it could attach to the watch band. It worked great over the last month. It has prevented the Shine from popping out more than once, and the 1 occasion it did pop out since, it was just sitting there half out of the ring, held on by the magnet. I sent this idea to Misfit when I reported the pop-out danger. So, I hope the good people at Misfit revise and release this as a design flaw fix and offer it to previous customers for free & included this inexpensive re-engineering trick in the default packaging.
Who can’t like a company that gives you things? But if the Shine had been crap or undeserving of a good review, I probably wouldn’t have even reviewed it. But I have to be true to the readers and give an honest opinion. If I had plucked down $90 for it I would still be pretty happy with it, but I’m not exactly in their demographic of active healthy adults, so I probably never would have bought it. But I like it, and it has helped me cut down on eating. If one could set a reminder to get up and move around every X minutes by making the Shine & Shine app blink and whistle for a second, that would be even better. I might have been a little upset about losing one, but it was my fault. If anything, losing the first one showed me that the people at Misfit care, which is why I think they’ll be a success as long as they continue to care about turning out a good product and their customers’ have a good experience with their products. Aside from the band issue, I have no complaints that haven’t been addressed.
I think that there is definitely a place in the gamut of health and fitness trackers for the Shine as a simple, no hassle device. With a retail price of $100 and street prices significantly lower (~$80) and a years worth of juice for the cost of 2 CR2032 batteries (~$8), I would recommend it to anyone that wanted a no hassle, straight forward activity tracker that they didn’t have to charge or even pay much attention to when they weren’t thinking about it. Be warned though, if you do buy it, you might want to fork out another $20+ for a more durable band, or try that magnet and electrical tape trick I used.
Pros: Durable, Long Battery Life , Elegant, Unobtrusive, Misfit App UI, Healthkit, Easy to Use
Cons: Included Bands Don’t Secure Shine
Shine Hardware: 5 of 5
Shine Packages Bands: 2 of 5
Misfit App: 5 of 5
Overall 12/15 = 80% (4 stars).
As always, thanks for reading.
[Update: I got this today: get a Misfit Shine for $74.15 in honor of the Fourth of July. So, if price was holding you back, this is probably the best deal you’ll see until Black Friday.]