Get Smart With the New Misfit Shine

“Don’t tell me there’s another wearable fitness tracker on the shelf”

Guess what, there’s another wearable fitness tracker on the shelf at Apple.

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“I asked you not to tell me that.”

I’ve been wearing a Jawbone UP for 6 months now and experimenting with the Fitbit Flex and last week I got my hands on the new Misfit Shine. My first impressions are that the Shine does take a few big steps out in front of the others into a more beautiful and intelligent direction.

First, It Really is Beautiful!

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At roughly the size of a quarter in diameter, this thing really is a step above the other trackers that I have used from the standpoint of being elegant yet functional jewelry. 

For the past few months now I’ve heard the often quoted message of Misfit CEO Sonny Vu that wearable technology had “better be either gorgeous or invisible”. And although I’ve seen various photos of the Shine, it wasn’t until I put it on my wrist that Sonny’s vision really sank in for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the UP, it has got a certain athletic yet fashionable style that suits me, but the polished aluminum Shine with its LED lights arranged like a clock face is truly in a class by itself.

Also on the wearable front – my wife won’t wear a tracker on her wrist when she goes to work; the guy at the Apple store who sold me the Shine said he had a Nike FuelBand but was not wearing it because he chose to wear his watch instead on that particular day; for me, if it isn’t on my wrist, I’ll forget about it and it won’t help me on my habit transformation journey. shine_o2Everybody of course has an opinion and even though I’m right 😉 with the Shine everybody wins. It can be worn clipped to your pocket or shirt, on your wrist in a strap, or as a necklace. If this thing gains any traction, I could easily see a range of 3rd-party accessories that provide many more wearing options like maybe a protective band for use when playing basketball, or an anklet, or a belt buckle. I don’t care, as long as I can keep it on my wrist!

With all of the pre-launch hype focused on the wearability of the device, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the app is also very elegant and well designed. It feels very light and simple – partly because of the new flat iOS 7 look and partly because it actually is quite simple and lacking some more advanced tracking features – more on that in a bit. I really like the feel of this app, it is now making me look forward to the release of iOS 7. app_home

One feature that gets some attention in the app is the sync experience. In early prototypes, some kind of secret-sauce data transfer mechanism was employed that required the Shine to be physically placed on the screen of the phone to initiate a sync. The original UI is still in place, but in it’s current form, the sync occurs wirelessly over Bluetooth. There is no need to put the device on the screen, or even bring it super close to the phone – you can just tap the screen and it will sync without ever having to take the device off your wrist.

At least part of the elegance of both the device and the app is rooted in their simplicity. The Shine has a replaceable battery and syncs wirelessly so there are no charging cables, no syncing dongles and no need to clutter your brain with the concern for when it was last charged, I like that. Less is more as the saying goes these days.

But it also doesn’t have a vibrator built in, so there is no alarm to wake me up in the morning and no nudge to get my butt out of the chair when I’ve been sitting too long – that’s a big miss for me. The UP “talks” to me throughout the day via the vibrator and that is an important aspect to successful behavior change. So in this case, I’m going to have to say that less really is less.

There are other features that are currently missing in comparison to the UP and Flex such as tracking meals, weight, and blood pressure and community tools. In order to keep people engaged I believe the overall experience has to be simple but also able to expand in complexity based on desired usage. Misfit has already shipped an app update and more than one firmware update, so I do expect the experience to continue to evolve.

There is one other key aspect of the Shine however that sets it apart from and ahead of the competition – it’s smarter.

Beautiful and Smart

“If you don’t mind 99, I’d like to figure this out for myself.”

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In addition to being beautiful, the Shine seems to be smarter than the Fitbit and Flex in a few subtle ways. Instead of just translating the accelerometer data into steps, it interprets the data as activities with differing levels of physical intensity – in some cases without having to manually tag the activity. And because not all activities in life translate to steps, and not all steps should be considered equal from an intensity standpoint, the daily goals for the Shine are measured in a point system, not a step count. The step totals are still there to see, but the daily goals are measured in points.

This means that if I was to get up and go for a walk around the block, the Shine will automatically detect that I am taking a walk and tag it as an activity and it will interpret the intensity based on my pace without me having to manually start and stop a timer and then tag the activity like I do with the other devices. This works for running as well. Using the point system, the Shine of course gives me more credit for my run than a walk of the same number of steps.

So if I get out of the office 4 different times during the day to walk around the block, then at the end of the day these 4 walks show up as separate activities possibly with differing intensities – no input required. That’s smart.

In addition to walking and running, the Shine can also track and assign activity points to swimming, cycling, tennis, basketball and soccer. For these activities the user does have to tap the device to indicate the start of the activity and this process can be a bit clunky if for example you ride your bike to the gym to go for a swim and so need to switch between multiple types of activities. But, there is no need to tag the end of the activity, only the start. The Shine will know for example that your swim has ended, because – that’s right, just like agent 99 – it’s smart and beautiful.

Trying to interpret accelerometer data automatically this way is a bit risky, but I like that the Shine is taking a chance to track my activities without me having to remember to start and stop timers and update intensity levels manually. The data will possibly be more accurate if I manually tag it, but I’d rather not bother starting and stopping timers and updating intensity levels if the Shine can get it close enough. I am not using a wearable tracker to help me train for the olympics, just get through my day.

I do like the Shine, but in my opinion (as I wrote about here) at the end of the day the winner will be the experience with the most powerful behavior transformation abilities. Behavior transformation more than anything else requires a strong, viral, peer pressure component. So, to me that means the winning super power will be the experience that does the best at social and community.

About Mark Feinholz

Software developer, architect, technical product manager. Inspired by technology to help us live happier and healthier lives.
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