Wearables are here to stay. If you don’t already have some sort of “smart” device wrapped around your wrist you’ve probably at least thought about it. Or perhaps you have a friend who can’t stop talking about theirs, and all the fun things it does. In this installment I’ll talk about two of the hottest devices, the Fitbit Flex and Misfit Shine, to help you decide which one deserves to land on your arm right now.
It is no secret, I’m a huge Fitbit fan-boy. I love their ecosystem, and even have one of their Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale devices to weigh myself regularly. But similar to this CIO review, I’m always open to giving other devices a chance to win me over. After spending some time with the Misfit Shine I found that it was was at times better, and at times worse, than the Fitbit Flex. Allow me to elaborate…
For sake of this review being a comparison I’ve broken it down into easy-to-digest sections. If you feel I’ve missed anything or have a question, leave your comments at the bottom.
UPDATE (AUG-21-2014): Just today Misfit revealed an update to their software that adds, most importantly, integration with MyFitnessPal. For more details click HERE. Below is a comparison that was drafted PRIOR to the change. Based on that data I truly see the Shine and the Flex as two VERY close competitors, and I like each of them about equally as much.
SIDEBAR: Because I’ve had my Fitbit Flex for so long, I’ve not placed a LOT of photos of that older device in this review. Please explore the rest of my blog for more photos of my Flex.
HARDWARE & BATTERY
With the Fitbit Flex you get a large and small wrist band, and the device itself which is about 75% the size of a AAA-battery. To date the Flex offers the most comfortable bands on the market, and their are plenty of attractive colors from them and 3rd parties you can buy. You also get a USB dongle that allows you to charge the device which you’ll need to do once every 6-8 days. And don’t lose that dongle because it is proprietary and costs $20 to replace. Lastly is a wireless USB sync dongle so that you can sync your devices to your laptop, though most users won’t need this as they’ll be using Bluetooth to sync the Flex to their smart phone.
In the box of the Misfit Shine you get the device, which is around the size of 3 quarters stacked on top of each other. You only get one band, a one-size-fits-all Sports Band. But you do also get a magnetic clasp band, which allows the device to be attached to things like your clothing, your shoes, and so forth. You also get a tool to pop-open the device when replacing/installing the battery, and one included CR2032 battery that is claimed to last 3-4 months. Let it be said that the battery life of the Misfit Shine is a great selling point, and one that had me very excited from the start.
Personally I found the Misfit Shine‘s clasp a useful option, especially for activities like swimming or cycling where body-location could be more versatile. Perhaps room for future expansion exists where the location on your body could provide added data, like revolutions for cycling. But alas, the current software recommends placing the device on your ankle/shoe for biking, but offers no specific metrics when you actually do so.
Where the clasp on the Misfit was nice, the wrist-based sports band was not. As others have also complained, I found it was both unattractive and dainty, offering a less-than-secure feeling. In my case I knew that going in from other reviews, so I purchased the Misfit Leather Band (Black) wrist band, which is downright awesome. Ultimately it turns the Misfit Shine into a faceless watch, and the machined rim gives it a very classy, gorgeous look. Visually it is just one gem-stone away from looking like a nice Movado Watch. If you plan to get the Misfit, I cannot stress enough getting the nicer watch bands.
One thing that I noted early on was the difference of the displays on the two units. Where you get just a few dots on the Fitbit, the Misfit offers 12 dots around in a clock style. That is because beyond providing goal metrics (like the Fitbit), it also displays the time. This was a feature I loved, and found very easy to understand. However, in bright lighting the LEDs were washed out and very difficult to read on the Misfit, a problem the Fitbit doesn’t suffer from. Still the quality of the “dot data” on the Misfit was a winner over the Fitbit.
SETUP & SOFTWARE
Both devices are easy to setup allowing you to do so with just your smartphone to get started. Each of them has you create an account for syncing data to the cloud. However the Misfit Shine lacks any sort of web portal to view your progress. On the flip side the Fitbit Flex offers the best web portal I’ve experienced to date for this device category. For both devices I’m sure most users will rely solely on their phone for data consumption, so the web portal issue may be moot.
Once you’re up and running you can set goals. This is where the two devices take different paths, points versus steps. In these cases I’m in agreement with reviews like this one on TechRadar where I’m just not a fan of a points-based system. However I disagree with that review about the Up24, as my prior reviews and friend’s experiences prove the hardware is unreliable. (More can be read about that in my earlier blog reviews). Anyhow, staying on subject here, I’m a data geek so when it comes down to it I want to know how many steps I took, not how many “game points” I’ve won.
For my testing here I set myself to “kinda active” which meant the Misfit Shine would attempt to get me to walk an hour a day, or run 20 minutes, or swim for 30 minutes, as shown in the setup photo. In comparison, I’ve set my step goal on my Fitbit Flex to 6,000 steps which works out given my desk-job during the day, and I personally prefer this tangible goal rather than some made-up points system. As you’ll see later in various photos the Misfit DOES indeed show you your daily step count and distance, but there is no information that explains the relationship between points and steps.
Overall both of the applications are rather similar, with the Fitbit possessing a bit more power and usefulness. As a matter of fact just a few months ago they rolled out a big software enhancement update that added running and food logging. And with that I’ll make mention that the Fitbit can integrate with MyFitnessPal, or use their own food logging features, where the Misfit does not have any true caloric food intake recording capability.
For many folks food intake doesn’t seem to matter, but for me this is huge. It is my belief & understanding that diet is the leading component to any healthy lifestyle, and as such I feel your fitness tracker needs to integrate with your diet. Being active is only one part of the equation. Even if you have a calorie counting food app, the Misfit would require you compare them separately — no integration. In this aspect the Fitbit ecosystem is far superior, since it records food on its own, or with the MyFitnessPal integration.
There are items that I liked better in the software on the Misfit Shine as you’ll see in my head-to-head comparisons of data logging below. But where the Fitbit Flex would break down your workout sessions into specific steps and distance, the Shine only offers a time and points snapshot. Another issue was getting the Shine to display. Where tapping the Flex to put it into Activity mode is almost too easy (as it can happen accidentally on occasion), the opposite is true of the Misfit. It often took way more taps than necessary just to get the tracker to display even the simple double-tap progress data, let alone attempting the triple-tap activity mode, which proved downright impossible most times. Some happy medium between both devices would be ideal. (Oh how I miss the physical button of my Fitbit Force)
SIDEBAR: Both devices offer a slick little visual display/dance when you reach your goal for the day. Lucky for me I managed to have my camera ready and was able to snap an Instagram of the final moments of the Flex display while awaking the Misfit display simultaneously. You can see it here:
Within the first few hours of having the devices together I decided to run a few tests. First I performed a short 6 minute walk on my treadmill. I wanted to see how a short walk would look on the Misfit Shine (see image here). When the Misfit saw I was more active than usual it broke out that session, but the data you see is all you get. There is no way to see the steps or distance of an activity like this. In contrast, you can use Activity mode on the Fitbit Flex which will break out details like caloric burn (estimate), plus steps and distance. And it works indoors or outdoors (GPS). (Sorry but my screen shot on this did not work because it was over-written with my heart rate data I took simultaneously– but trust me, the Fitbit is better for step-based activities)
On the second test I moved over to my stationary bike. At this point it seemed like a good comparison would be to put the Misfit Shine‘s ability to record cycling up against a heart rate monitor standard practices. As per my blog post HERE, I’m using Digifit software, and a bunch of Wahoo Fitness goodies. My current HRM of choice is the Wahoo TICKR and this works in conjunction with the Wahoo Blue SC Cycling Speed & Cadence Sensor that I have on my bike. Here is the data from that very brief 6-minute cycle ride/test:
As you can see again the data is VERY limited from the Misfit Shine, providing only time recorded (manually put into this mode)– but no other data. Obviously you need advanced sensors to get distance and RPM– but the Misfit doesn’t even show RPM or anything. Overall if you’re serious about your activities, neither the Misfit nor the Fitbit are going to fulfill all your needs. But I can’t help but feel like for step-based activities the Fitbit Flex is better than the Shine, and for everything else neither do a GREAT job.
SIDEBAR: When it comes down to it, most activity trackers are meant to take care of recording your data when you’re NOT working out. That means the 95% of the day you spend sitting, standing, walking, sleeping, resting. In that case I was REALLY happy with the Misfit Shine in that the badges it shows are kinda cute, nice, and simple. If you were active for a small period of time it would show you that nugget in a little badge (“Mild cycling” or “kinda active”). Those little icons helped paint the picture of your day. But the moment you wanted more data, you were screwed. In that regard the Fitbit goes a bit deeper, but for an honest workout heart rate/cardio recording is the best way to go. And if your exercise is just the occasional casual jog, run or walk– the Misfit could prove to be a VERY satisfactory device.
COMPARING ONE FULL DAY
After testing the device for a while I decided to go back and compare one FULL day, after it was complete. Here you can see the data provided by the Misfit Shine compared to the Fitbit Flex. Note that on this day I performed an approximately 23-minute “fast walk” on my treadmill, but I did not do any “manual” activity recording on either device.
In this instance you can see both apps were what I consider to be VERY close. Calories burned over the entire day differs by only 63, and steps are only 111, apart which is less than 2% — acceptable to me. There is a greater variance in distance with the Fitbit showing 10% more covered, but that is trivial. In both cases you can see that I went for that 23-minute walk, though again the Misfit shows only the points/time if you click on that red icon at 7:55 PM — and in truth the Fitbit would show no more data either. But if you WANTED the Fitbit at least has the capability to show more info, if you want.
SIDEBAR: Both devices record sleep and according to some setting on the Misfit it said it could wake you up during periods of light sleep. I do NOT care about recording sleep data so I did NOT compare/test that here. I’m also not sure how it would wake you up as I saw nothing for setting alarms on the Shine, where the Flex has the ability for silent vibration alarms. That is a feature I really do love! Perhaps something the Shine will add down the road?
– Stylish looks coupled with great battery life
– Simple app needs greater depth of data, less gamification
– Lack of food recording and 3rd party integration is a turn off for me
– Ability to record non-step activities a huge bonus, but still under-developed
– Difficult to wake up with taps, hard to see in bright light
– Perfect device for someone wanting style, and stand-alone performance
– Starting to visually look dated (over a year old, new devices look cooler)
– Best ecosystem on the market today, with 3rd party integration
– Provides food database stand-alone or with other software as needed
– Better background sync performance than the Shine, but worse battery life
– Still the industry standard, but starting to fade quickly
If you don’t already have a fitness tracker, and you’re just looking to grab a device that can help you stay more active, the Shine is probably a good way to go. You’ll never have to charge it, and the versatility is great. However, I can’t help but feel like they are missing the mark with the points versus steps, and the lack of data reporting for the user. If they added integration to MyFitnessPal and swapped over to a true steps-only system, it would truly be the PERFECT device for me. And for most consumers….
In truth the ONLY reason I cannot suggest the Shine is because of diet integration. If that factor doesn’t matter to you (it does to me), then without a doubt the Shine is actually better than the Fitbit in enough other categories to win me over. But for me that one difference makes all the difference to me. I’ll be watching you, Misfit Shine …. make a few changes, and you may just knock the Fitbit Flex right off my wrist!