HealthTech: Misfit Flash
Who are Misfit?
Misfit, historically known as Misfit Wearables, was founded in October 2011 by Sonny Vu (Misfit president and CEO), Sridhar Iyengar and John Sculley (former Apple CEO). Sonny Vu and Sridhar Iyengar previously co-founded AgaMatrix, a company that made the iBGStar, the first FDA approved iPhone medical device. The ‘Misfit‘ name honors Steve Jobs and was inspired by the 1997 commercial which debuted Apple’s ‘Think Different’ slogan: ‘Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.’
Misfit’s first product released in 2012. The Misfit Shine is a c.£100 activity tracker introducing sophistication to the activity tracker marketplace , which we hope to review in a future article.
In mid-2014 Misfit released the Misfit Beddit, a sleep tracker which is left under the pillow in bed with no need for the user to wear anything to track sleep duration and quality and syncing it to the iOS and Android Misfit app.
In addition, during this period Misfit also released a number of wearability options for the Misfit Shine (alternative wrist straps, necklaces, T-shirts, socks, etc.) and then, in November 2014, Misfit released the Misfit Flash, a low cost tracker option bringing the majority of the Misfit Shine functionality to a much lower price point.
In January 2015, Misfit announced their expansion from fitness tracking to home automation and smartphone controls with the release of the Bolt smart led bulb and partner Misfit Home iOS and Android app. With this hardware/software pairing users are able to change the colour and intensity of the lighting at home via a mobile app.
Finally, the launch of the Misfit 2.0 app update for iPhone and Android devices, brought integration with other applications such as Spotify and Yo, and the ability to sync with the company’s home automation products like Beddit.
Although we are happy to report that there is an official Misifit app for both Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 the apps lag the iOS and Android apps both in version number and functionality with the Windows Phone app currently at 184.108.40.206.
The Misfit Flash
The main selling point of the Misfit Flash is its extremely affordable price, with an RRP (Recommended Retail Price) of a mere £49.99 in the UK and a currently (May 2015) discounted price of £32.49 at Currys making it the tracker for the masses.
Our initial unboxing of the Misfit Flash presented us with a simple looking plain black plastic tracker disc, looking cheaper than the Aluminium Misfit Shine and the alternatives from Fitbit, iFit, Jawbone and Polar, but a quick read of the product literature and the Misfit Flash appeared much more like affordable sophistication in its simplicity.
As with most activity trackers the Misfit Flash is available in a number of colours, specifically Frost (white), Onyx (black), Fuchsia, Zest (Lime green), Wave (blue), Reef (teal) and Coca Cola Red.
The closest priced competitors are the Fitbit Zip and Jawbone Up Move. When compared with these competing products the Misfit Flash appears more simplistic, following a form follows function philosophy as its circular shape both mimics its coin cell battery power source, aligning with its circular watch face with 12 LEDs. This circular watch face is then supported by the division of progress into 12 sections. Although the Fitbit Zip has a digital display it doesn’t track sleep quality and although the Jawbone Up Move does track sleep quality, it has no display. When it comes to wearability, the Fitbit Zip and Jawbone Up Move are only provided with a clip attachment, although the Jawbone Up does have an aftersales wrist strap available. Finally the competitors are only sweat and splash resistant whereas the Misfit Flash is 30m water-resistant meaning that you can swim in it.
The Misfit Flash tracker unit is a matt plastic disc, roughly 20mm across and 5 mm thick with a matt grey soft feel rubber/plastic wrist strap and plastic clip attachment, making it more versatile than the Fitbit and Polar alternatives which are either wrist or clip mounted, but do not offer both. Furthermore, both the Misfit Flash and Misfit Shine are powered by a CR2032 coin cell battery, negating the need for weekly charging as the battery is expected to need replacing every 6 months.
The functionality presented within the Misfit Flash is that of a movement/step counter/sleep quality monitor, able to provide visual feedback via 12 small red LED lights hidden behind its matt black flexible front facia, which also acts as a button. A short press of the facia provides visual feedback of progress against the user selected target of either of the following:
- Steps: An internal accelerometer records each time the tracker encounters a sudden change in acceleration which can be associated with the impact of your foot on the ground whilst walking/running.
- Distance: Like with all other accelerometers which do not incorporate a GPS sensor, distance is calculated based on steps, age, gender, height, weight and a the time between steps, used to asses if you are walking or running.
A long press switches the Misfit Flash into and out of activity tracking mode which changes the internal calculations to better track non-walking/running activities like:
This is a very interesting concept, but it is a little disappointing that there are three different button press actions that can be set within the mobile app with only one for activity mode setting. The other two button press combinations (double press and triple press) can be used to provide remote limited operation of the Spotify or Yo app on your connected iOS or Android mobile phone.
As well as splitting your daily target into 12 sub-divisions (one per LED) showing progress, the Misfit Flash can also be set to show the time (displayed to the nearest five minute interval) before or after displaying progress towards the selected target (above). We did find that the facia needed pressing harder than we expected in order for the tracker to react, but this does minimise the chance of accidental operation.
Although some users have had issues ensuring that the tracker was orientated correctly in the wrist strap for the time to be displayed with 12 o’clock at the top, we found that a quick press of the tracker display whilst installing it in the strap shows where 12 o’clock will be displayed to enable correct orientation. We do feel, however, that a keyway in the tracker and wrist strap would be a simple way to ensure correct orientation every time without miss.
The advantage of the replaceable battery in the Misfit Flash and Misfit Shine is limited to the ability to wear and forget for 6 months, as it also means that there is no external connection meaning that it has been simpler to make it water-resistant. Unlike most other trackers, the Misfit Flash is safe to swim in as it is rated to 30m water resistance and the Misfit Shine rated to 50m water resistance although the trackers will not record strokes or lengths, but at least this provides some recording from swimming.
Our assumption is that the reason Misfit advise that the trackers do not track strokes, even if the wrist strap is used, is that they are unable to guarantee the accuracy of stoke recording as all monitoring is accelerometer based. Strokes are cyclical providing a smooth change in direction, whereas walking and running provides a more sudden change in direction and is thus easier to measure. This said, Misfit do advise that the Misfit Flash and Misfit Shine can be used to monitor cycling which is another circular motion.
As the Misift app was originally designed for iOS, being migrated to Android during 2014, there has been an official Misfit app on the Windows Phone store for quite a while now and this is the app version we have focussed on. As with many apps in the Windows 8 PC and Windows Phone 8.1 stores the apps lag the iOS and Android offerings in version number, appearance and functionality, feeling like they are still in development with no option for auto sync, being worsened by having to go into the menu to sync the Misfit Windows Phone app.
This said, the Misfit Windows Phone app provides user configuration access, to set user profile information (age, height and weight) and set targets for activity, sleep and weight and enable/disable automatic sleep monitoring and clock display. In addition to the Steps and Distance for which progress can be displayed on the Misfit Flash the service can also assess computed calorie burn and sleep duration and quality which can be interrogated via the mobile app.
Although the Windows Phone 8.1 app has appeared stable, we have encountered a number of crashes from the Misfit Windows app on both a Windows 8 RT tablet and Windows 8 laptop. We are advised that these issues are being investigated.
Initial set-up took longer than expected as the Misfit Flash was not pairing and connecting with the Misfit Windows Phone app, requiring us to venture into the support pages of the Misfit website, in order to persuade the tracker to pair and connect as the instructions provided within the product packaging are somewhat limited, once we had the guidance the set-up was a breeze.
We later paired and linked the Misfit Flash with the Misfit Android app on a Samsung Galaxy S6 running Lollipop, which also had initial connection issues, followed by intermittent syncing, but the android app provided much more functionality when working correctly. We have been advised that all sync issues are fixed by a forthcoming firmware update, expected in July. We are hoping this extra functionality will come to Windows Phone when it receives the Misfit 2.0 app upgrade.
Surprisingly there is no online web user interface for the Misfit product range for users to interrogate the tracking data on a bigger screen relying only on mobile and PC apps to do this. We have been advised by the team at Misfit that they are soon to launch http://my.misfit.com which will provide a web based dashboard for user data, so watch this space.
Social integration is somewhat limited as, even though on the friends tab you can select to check Facebook, we have not found an option to link to Facebook and the search always provides us with zero results. We have advised the Misfit team of this issue and are awaiting feedback.
On unboxing we expected the Misfit Flash design and functionality to be too simple, but within hours of starting testing we began to understand the Misfit design philosophy as the design feels fluid with its simple, logical, shape based on the shape of its battery and the 12 divisions of the progress scale supporting the five minute/hour divisions of a clock face. In no time we realised the additional information displayed on trackers can be lived without, as the Misfit Flash interface provides enough.
Although we prefer a tracker to have a digital display providing better user feedback, the Misfit Flash is very well priced for its functionality and provides more flexibility than its competitors, with its wearing options and its 30m water-resistance. If you are interested in monitoring your steps and sleep, but don’t want to part with nearer £100 then the Misfit Flash is the one for you.