If 2015 was the year of the smartwatch, 2016 belonged to the smart analogue watch. Fossil has played a significant role here, embarking on a year-long mission to deliver 100 wearables. Now Misfit, which was bought by Fossil last year, is delivering its first proper timepiece – and it's plain to see where the design cues have come from.
The Misfit Phase is a hybrid smartwatch: there's no screen, but it will alert you to notifications using vibrations and hand movements, and it will track your movement and sleep too.
It's also putting a big focus on looks, and we think a big part of the decision over whether the Phase is right for you will come down to this.
So, read on to find out what we thought of the Misfit Phase.
Misfit Phase: Design
Misfit has always made good looking wearables, but it really honed its craft on the Misfit Ray. The Phase, its first watch, is a beautiful debut that has Fossil's design philosophy coursing through its veins. Though it has a less "classic" look than watches like the Skagen Hagen Connected, it's still one of the more stylish wearables we've tried this year. There are no numbers on the face, only graduations of the same colour that are broken by a small circle at the bottom, and easily fade away when lighting isn't bright. All in all, it's very minimal.
For the review I've been trying out two different models: the grey shroud with brown leather strap and the black with sports band. At 41mm the face isn't too big, but that doesn't account for the lugs or the fact that it's quite thick. With only one size to choose from it may not be for people who prefer smaller watches, but it's not certainly not hefty, and I've found it very comfortable. It's also waterproof to 50 metres, though you probably won't want to dunk it without a sports band.
The Phase is shipping right now in a range of models, though the silver with white sport band and navy with navy sport band models are a week behind. As is the case with most smart analogue watches right now, the integrated lugs can fit any 20mm band, giving you more room for customisation. The price of the Phase ranges from $175 to $195 depending on your choice of silicon or leather band, making it Misfit's most expensive device yet.
On the right side of the watch are two buttons. The top button will move the hands to indicate what percentage of your activity goal you've hit, and with a second press show your set alarm. The bottom button is for 'Link', Misfit's way of letting you control other smart devices – music playback on your phone, remotely taking a photo with your phone, that kind of thing.
Turn it over and on the stainless steel back you'll find two dimples; included with the Phase is a tool that can use these to open up the back and reveal the coin cell battery, which you should only need to replace once every six months.
Misfit Phase: Smart features
Smart analogue watches have a challenge in how they convey information to the user. Yes you always have the app, but constantly fishing out your phone defeats the point of a smartwatch. The Hugo Boss Smart Classic gets around this with a small screen on the face; the Skagen Hagen Connected uses a sub-dial to display steps and notifications. The Misfit Phase does neither, but instead transmits all information through the hands as well as a small circular window at the bottom that shows different colours.
Each colour represents a different type of notification – a call, a text, a Facebook message – and you can decide which corresponds with which in the app. For calls and texts you can also assign a select number of contacts to numbers, and when a notification comes in the hands will point to signal who it's from.
Now, I find this feature better than I did on the Skagen which uses something similar, but it's still a bit of a memory game. It made sense to select the colours based on the app, so my WhatsApp messages are set to green, Gmail to red, Facebook Messenger to blue etc. But I wish that calls and texts weren't locked to green and blue respectively, as this kind of messes up that system.
Misfit's solution to notifications is functional, but requires a bit of time to get your head around. The first few times I'd receive a text from someone it required a bit of deciphering before I remembered who and what corresponded to which colours and numbers. Of course, there's no way of seeing what the notification says, and if you want to respond in any way you'll still have to get your phone out.
Misfit's Link feature will let you add one of four different functions to the bottom button: music remote, selfie button, keynote remote, or a customised one of your creation that works with some third-party apps. And with each one there are four button inputs: single press, double press, triple press and long press.
I've mostly used this for controlling music playback on my phone, but the customised option means you could add, say, a single press for taking a photo but a long press for performing an IFTT function. There's also a 'ring my phone' mode, which I find quite useful.
Misfit Phase: Activity tracking
The Phase adopts the same Misfit activity sensors you'll find in the Ray and Phase 2: it tracks steps, distance travelled, calories burned, and your sleep.
If you've used Misfit's app for any of its other devices, you know what you're getting here, and in terms of activity the Phase doesn't make any departures. Your overall daily activity works on a point system that's calculated from your distance travelled, calories burned and steps done. The app will tell you how much more you need to do (by walking, running or swimming) in order to hit your target.
I've become quite skeptical about the accuracy of many wrist-worn sleep trackers, but I really have found the Misfit Phase to be very good here. Put against more dedicated sleep tracking tech like the Beddit 3 and RedMed S+, as well as my own knowledge of when I woke up/fell asleep, the Phase was very good at accumulating my total sleep time at the end of a night. The Phase will automatically detect when you fall asleep and wake, so you don't need to tell it you're going to bed. However if you do set an alarm within the Misfit app you can also have it send you to sleep with calming sleep sounds, featuring such classics as 'crickets', 'campfire', and, who could forget, 'waterfall'.
The day-to-day activity tracking has been a bit less accurate, and it's usually a case of undercounting. The results haven't been dramatically off, but it's noticeable when you look at the distance data. I can't think of a single tracker out there that's totally nailed step tracking, and I find that the Fitbit Charge 2, which I compared it to, often overcounts if anything, but alongside GPS data I've noticed the Phase coming in a little under the line. Misfit tells me this is something that could be fixed with a simple firmware update. Given that the tech is the same as we saw on the Ray, which we found quite good in our testing, I have faith that this is the case.
Like Misfit's other wearables you can tag specific activities in the app and tell it how vigorous they were, and they'll then be added to your activity timeline for that day as Misfit puts its algorithms to work. The lack of a heart rate sensor and built-in GPS mean this isn't a wearable for hardcore fitness tracking, so you won't be getting in-depth data on all your workouts, but the goal is to keep you moving through the day. The Misfit Move feature also makes a return, which alerts you when you've been idle for too long by vibrating and sending the clock hands into a frenzy. Simple, but effective.
- A great looking watch
- Long battery life
- Sleep tracking accurate
- Notifications take a while to get used to
- Only one size
- Some distance accuracy issues right now