There's an inevitable conversation about wearable technology that goes like this: all things you wear on your body should emphasize style. So should any gadget.
If you care about style, it'll be hard to beat the Misfit Shine. This new Bluetooth-connected activity tracker might be the most eye-catching fitness gadget I've ever seen.
But, in the battle of cheap sub-$100 wearable wireless fitness trackers, can the Shine rise above the competition? Right now, think of it as wearable jewelry that just happens to track your movement. I love its style, but I'm not sure everybody will. It does, however, clearly show that as the wearable landscape gets ever more crowded, design's going to end up being more important than ever before.
What it does
The Shine's really just a fancily designed iOS-connected pedometer. It's really no different from a lot of other fitness trackers that are popping up all over the place like dandelions: It uses a three-axis accelerometer to track movement and act as a pedometer. It has Bluetooth for syncing data with iOS devices. As a wrist-worn device, you could compare this to the Fitbit Flex, Jawbone Up, Basis Watch, or Nike FuelBand. In clip-on mode, which the Shine can also be out of the box, it's more like a Fitbit or a Withings Pulse.
It has some advantages over other trackers: it's waterproof to 5 atm for swimming, showering, or other activities; the Withings Pulse and certain Fitbit models aren't. And, yes, it has an "activity tracking" mode that can be set for swimming, cycling, or sleep at the current moment, besides the Shine's baseline walking/running tracking. It can be worn on your wrist or as a clip-on device with included accessories, or even worn as a pendant.
But it lacks a true number-based display. The hyperminimal Shine instead uses 12 LEDs that pulse clockwise to tell what percentage of your daily progress you've achieved, a little like the Fitbit Ultra. It also acts as a clock, by lighting up one of the 12 points to indicate the hour and another blinking one for minutes.
You'll have to fiddle with the Shine to get it to tell time right-side up: it pops into elastic silicone ring accessories, but a "12" indicator on the back tells you how to spin the Shine around to orient properly.
As a watch, it's quite thin -- more like a standard women's watch than a man's. It has its charm, though: you'll need to double-tap to get the time, but it's readable outdoors, if slightly faint in direct sunlight. The time readout is a great feature, but more of a bonus than a true watch since it only tells time in 5-minute increments, due to its limited array of lights.
Design: from another planet
The Misfit Shine is as odd-looking as its name: no one I've shown it to has been indifferent. It's polarizing; some like its simple, futuristic design. Others think it's too much.
It resembles a prop from the movies "Elysium" or "Oblivion." It's minimalist. It's sleek. It glows and winks at you with embedded LEDs. It also happens to be water-resistant, and has accessories that let you wear it as a wristband or a clip-on, or even a pendant.
The Shine's got a weird, compulsively touchable look. Made out of aluminum, the curved coinlike disc has a matte surface and polished mirror edges. There are no buttons, no charge ports. Hold it in your hand, and someone could easily think it was a fancy bottle top or a piece of odd jewelry.
The Shine's so minimal that it's hard to spot it in its packaging. Most people won't even know what it is when they look at it. Pop it out of its plastic box and you'll find an included black silicone wristband and a magnetic clip accessory underneath, along with a battery and a tool to open the Shine and pop it in.
The Shine is intended to be a more stylish, wearable piece of fitness tech than the bevy of similar fitness trackers, and to that end it has optional leather watchband accessories ($80) and a necklace with pendant attachment ($80). The included silicone sport band ($20) and magnetic clasp ($5) are less expensive, but rely on stretchable silicone rings that snap around an outer groove in the Shine's aluminum edge. They could possibly snap and need replacing, but the Shine earns points for flexibility, and for wearable accessories that are better thought out, for instance, than the Withings Pulse's.