Misfit Vapor review

A sporty Android Wear smartwatch worth the wait? Maybe not
Misfit Vapor

The Misfit Vapor is a smartwatch that we thought we'd be getting our hands on a little earlier in 2017. We first clasped eyes on it in a Vegas hotel room filled of Fossil hybrids at CES in January. Then we waited. And we waited some more.

The Vapor was expected to land in the Summer but it never turned up. That release date got pushed back to October and it still didn't turn up. Now the sub-$200 Android Wear watch has started to ship, and based on the amount of comments we've had on the site about it, we're not the only ones who have been waiting.

Read this: Best Android Wear smartwatch to buy

Having already launched the Misfit Phase, its first hybrid smartwatch, with the new Misfit Command also now shipping, the Vapor is the first full-fat Wear watch to launch out of the Fossil Group to firmly go up against sportier smartwatches like the Apple Watch Series 3, Samsung Gear S3, Garmin Vivoactive 3 and the Fitbit Ionic. We should add that the Fossil Q Control has just been released too, and it's near identical to the Vapor, just with a slightly different design.

That means you can expect GPS (but only when connected to your phone), heart rate monitoring and dedicated sports tracking for running, cycling and swimming too. We've spent a good amount of time with the Vapor to find out what it's like to use day-to-day, from keeping us away from notifications on our smartphone to tracking our workouts. So has the Misfit Vapor been worth the wait? Read on for our comprehensive verdict.

Misfit Vapor: Design and build

vapor holding page

At first glance, the Vapor won't strike you as very unique looking watch. It's packing a 44mm brushed stainless steel case and measures in at 13.5mm thick, which means it's by no means the sveltest of smartwatches. But it's not a chunky beast either. If you're familiar with what the Moto 360 looks like, then that'll give you an idea of what the Vapor looks like on your wrist. A lot of people liked the Moto 360, and they'll probably say the same about the Vapor, but we think it really depends on what version you go for.

We got to test out the black stainless steel option with the matching black strap, which gives the Vapor a more minimalist look but it just feels a bit drab and a bit ordinary in comparison to the more eye-catching rose or gold tone options. The all-black version might be for gym-friendly, but I found myself swapping it out for something a bit nicer for the rest of the day.


Speaking of the bands, they are the 20mm kind and they are interchangeable with two buttons that keep them securely in place. It'll cost you $19.99 to pick up an individual band or $59.99 if you want a bundle of them.

If you like swimming, then the good news is that the Vapor is waterproof up to 50 metres. So unlike the majority of Fossil's Android Wear-running smartwatch collection, you can safely take it in the shower and it'll even track your swim action (more on that later).

vapor holding page

Up front and centre is a 1.39.-inch fully round AMOLED touchscreen display, which squeezes in 326 pixels per inch. That actually means it has a slightly bigger display than our current Android Wear fave, the LG Watch Sport, but it does have inferior screen quality. While it might not match the Sport, it's still an absolute beaut with its rich, deep blacks that really help the Vapor's display stand out. Something that we have noticed from the first time we saw the Vapor is that the screen no longer sits slightly raised above the bezel, which we actually thought added a bit of character. It's a minor, but we kind of liked that element of the design.

One screen feature you might not necessarily spot straight away is the touch sensitive bezel or Virtual Touch Bezel as Misfit refers to it as. This gives you an alternative way to interact with the touchscreen display. So if you swipe your finger across the top part of the bezel, it'll move you between screens and is also integrated into some of Misfit's own apps to aid navigation. Does it really make a great deal of difference in the same way that say Samsung's rotating bezel or Apple's digital crown does? We're not so convinced. It doesn't have any apparent advantage over interacting with the touchscreen in the standard way. Misfit might have some interesting ideas how it can be embraced as a feature. Right now, it's just not that useful.

As far as other redeeming features are concerned, you've got that solitary physical button on the right hand side of the watch, which like most other Wear watches can be tapped to launch the app drawer or held down to launch Google Assistant. Around the back is the heart rate monitor and that's really your lot. Like we said, if you really want to see the Vapor looking its best, definitely go for one of the more luxurious cases and band combos.

Misfit Vapor: Android Wear 2.0

Misfit Vapor review

Yes, the latest version of Google's operating system is running on the Vapor straight out of the box, which means you can enjoy all of those key Android Wear 2.0 features including the ability to access the Play Store from the watch to download apps, enjoy more customisable watch faces and improved notification and messaging support. It'll also be updated to Android Oreo as well, which doesn't promise radical changes but does make some useful tweaks to the OS.

Read this: Best Android Wear tips and tricks

As far as our experiences pairing the Vapor with an iPhone and an Android phone, we've definitely had fewer problems with the latter. While features like notifications worked pretty much without issue in the iOS realms, we encountered a lot of problems connecting and updating the watch, so that's worth keeping mind for any iPhone owners eyeing up this particular Android Wear smartwatch.

There are some staple hardware features on board to make the most use of what Android Wear has to offer. So the built-in microphone brings support for Google Assistant and 4GB of storage allows you to transfer music over to the watch. And of course, there's both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. Qualcomm's Snapdragon 2100 Wear processor powers the performance, which is notably slick with no signs of lag when you're swiping through screens and launching applications.

One feature that is missing is Android Pay support, due to the lack of built-in NFC. We've argued the case previously that Pay should come as standard on all smartwatches but unfortunately not all Android Wear hardware newcomers have seen fit to include it. You can add the Vapor to that list of smartwatches that won't let you pay for stuff from the wrist.

There's not a lot new happening in the way of apps. It's pretty much what we've seen before preloaded onto Wear watches aside from Misfit's fitness-focused apps and a weather forecast app, which looks slick, but it just tells you the weather for your current location. It's the same with the watch faces; don't expect anything out of the ordinary here. There's a handful of good-looking Misfit faces to pick from, but you'll probably want to venture into the Google Play Store to find some better options.

Misfit Vapor: Sports tracking

Misfit Vapor review

As a company Misfit has been rooted in health and fitness and with the Vapor, this is the first opportunity it has been able to properly flex its sports tracking skills on a smartwatch since it was bought out by the Fossil Group. That means it'll make it easier to track walks, runs, cycle sessions, swims and hikes. There's GPS, but it's not the built-in kind we were initially promised when the Vapor was first announced. Instead you have to rely on piggybacking of your phone's GPS to map routes.

While you do have the benefit of downloading and using third-party health and fitness apps or using Google Fit, which comes pre-installed, Misfit includes its own apps as well. Misfit Activity is your place for actually tracking an activity while Misfit Activity Review is, well, pretty self-explanatory. That's where you can see your logged sessions.

Misfit Vapor review

Setting these up is by no means seamless. You'll need to download the Misfit app onto your phone and add the device inside the app to start tracking. While it was relatively straightforward doing this on the Google Pixel 2 XL, we encountered a lot more problems doing it on an iPhone. Whether it was connection issues between the watch on the phone or setting up Wi-Fi, it just didn't play nicely.

When we did have things up and running, what you'll find is actually a really nicely designed app. In run tracking mode, that touch sensitive bezel is integrated into the proceedings letting you switch between screens containing run data, heart rate information, music controls and mapping. It's one of the best designed sports tracking apps we've seen on an Android Wear watch. It's just a shame it didn't always work perfectly.

Take the mapping for instance, which, while appearing accurate, did on occasion throw up an optimisation issue where the map didn't properly fit onto the Vapor's round display. What was more concerning though was that despite seemingly delivering accurate mapping and run data in comparison to the Garmin Forerunner 935, the watch would randomly end a tracked session and return to the main watch screen. This happened a few times and we've pinned the problem down to the sensitivity of the screen when it's worn underneath a jacket, which if you live in colder climes is a pretty big issue.

But it wasn't an issue just isolated to running and outdoor activity, it was also a problem in the swimming pool as well. Pitting it against the Forerunner 935 in swim tracking mode, it did exactly the same thing. Pretty much accurate when it was tracking, but then it randomly ended the session.

vapor holding page

Things don't get much better on the heart rate monitoring front, and if we're being honest we're not too surprised. You can take on-the-spot readings during the day via Misfit's dedicated Pulse app. While it generally dished out accurate readings, it's the time it takes to generate those readings that irritates. It's also probably the reason why Misfit offers a 'smart sample' reading, which speeds up the process but is not as accurate as waiting for your pulse being detected.

Misfit Vapor
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When it comes to putting it to the test during a workout, it's found wanting. In couple of interval training sessions, it was at times 10-15 BPMs off the monitors we were testing it against for accuracy. It simply couldn't handle the high intensity stuff. What is equally disheartening is that it's difficult to find out where this heart rate data is stored, if it is at all. For pretty stable heart rate monitoring, it does a decent job, but this certainly is not the finest optical heart rate monitor we've used.

Misfit Vapor: Battery life

Misfit says you should get all-day battery life and that is really your lot. You might stretch to a day and a half, but that really is pushing it and we've often found ourselves staring at a blank screen if it's not been charged over night.

What's more concerning is that the battery drain is pretty severe even when you're not pushing it to its limits (i.e. using GPS). Just using it for notifications and even with the screen asleep and screen brightness set to automatic, it doesn't do a great job of conserving power. One positive is that when it does go flat it's a relatively quick charge and the small charging cradle that comes with the Vapor does hold it securely in place.


Misfit Vapor
By Misfit
When the Misfit Vapor was first announced, it promised great sports tracking features and Misfit's own operating system all wrapped up in a luxury design. What we ended up with was a smartwatch running Android Wear that shipped with fewer features, some of which have been a let down. Maybe Misfit will make another Vapor, maybe it won't. While there's certainly the foundations of a good looking, sporty smartwatch here, your money might be better spent elsewhere.

Hit
  • Nice looking (with the right case)
  • Zippy performance
  • Well designed Misfit apps
  • Not too chunky
Miss
  • Screen sensitivity issues with sports tracking
  • No NFC
  • Heart rate performance underwhelms
  • Average battery life


6 Comments

  • BillyB3 says:

    Misfit support told me it doesn't have built in GPS and the website says the same (Connected Location Services).

    Does it actually have built-in GPS? Did you test it without a phone within Bluetooth range?

  • rktakami says:

    I wish Misfit would put it on sale already.

    • ia1976 says:

      No GPS or wireless sync which is no problem for me coming from a Pebble. I want it more for swimming, which it has and other fitness tracking. Just looking for an upgrade to my Pebble at this point.

  • larrygold says:

    Does misfit usually reduce the price during pre-sale? 

  • JulesBunny says:

    Battery life seems a worry - I was looking forward to a fitness watch that could last a week between charges and not something that needs an every night boost. 

    Shame the pebble technology never got picked up and bought to market. 

  • blkatz1 says:

    After after spending a full month with a Mifit Vapor, I was forced to return it for a refund Actually, I returned two Vapors. The first one didn't work properly, so it seemed, so I was sent a replacement. The replacement performed exactly the same. For notifications, the watch worked well, for tracking swimming, running or walking workouts, the watch was a complete failure. As mentioned in the review, it often stopped mid-workout. It was also highly inaccurate, measuring just half the steps I actually walked. And, for swim workouts, it never seemed to measure more than 25 laps or 30 minutes of swimming. I was actually doing well over 100 laps in an hour. It never measured my 90 minute workouts. The heart rate monitor takes forever, and won't work in a pool. Plus, GPS only works if you carry your phone with you. And, the Misfit app doesn't allow you to edit workouts, like it did for my Shine. If you only want a smartwatch for notifications, this will do. As a fitness tracker, forget it. I'm soured on smartwatches for now. 

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