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Misfit Wearables Shine activity tracker stands out in the crowd

One segment of the iOS accessory market that is extremely popular right now is connected activity trackers. This segment all started with the original Fitbit and Nike FuelBand, and the segment now also includes a family of Fitbits, an entry from Withings, the Jawbone Up and more. Many of the devices either clip onto your belt or are built into a wristband, but the new Misfit Wearables Shine (US$119.95) stands out as a device that not only looks different, but can be worn on your body in a number of ways.

The Shine also stands out in one other unique way; the company that created it was co-founded by a gentleman who should be very familiar to Apple fans -- former CEO John Sculley.

Design

The Shine is a tiny aluminum disc-shaped unit about an inch in diameter and about a quarter of an inch thick. There are no buttons on the exterior and most of the time, no glowing lights. To wear the activity tracker, you have several choices. First, there's an adjustable silicone wrist strap that the Shine can be slipped into. The Shine has a channel around the exterior that the silicone strap snaps into, and as you'll see that channel also helps with the other mounting methods.

There's a small silicone clasp with a powerful magnet on one side that can be cleverly used to attach the Shine to clothing. That magnet is so strong that while fooling around with this device for the review, I attached the Shine to my earlobe and to one nostril... Most of the time, though, it was grabbing the cuff of a long-sleeve shirt. If you're more of a dressy person, you may want the leather strap (optional, in black or natural leather) or the optional necklace.

However, I do not recommend using the clasp. On the last day of my testing I misplaced the tiny Shine once, then lost it forever somewhere during the early evening. If something that expensive -- $130 -- cannot stay attached to its owner, then potential buyers either need to have deep pockets and buy a lot of Shines, or use something other than the clasp.

The Shine comes in four different finishes; gray and jet, and from Best Buy stores in the US, also topaz and champagne.

Unlike a lot of the activity monitors on the market, the Misfit Shine will take a shower or an accidental spin through the washer with ease. The company even recommends it for swimming! For power, Shine uses a single and readily available CR2032 battery cell that will last up to four months, so there's no charging port or any need to obsess about charging the Shine regularly. When it's time to change out the battery it's quite simple to do -- use a tiny pry tool that is included to pop the Shine apart, pull out the battery, and drop another one in before closing it up again.

So how do the little white LEDs glow through aluminum? Is it Scotty's transparent aluminum from Star Trek II? No, even better, the LEDs glow through some laser drilled micro-holes that are so small that water cannot get into the case, but light can get out. It's brilliant!

Functionality

As with most of the newest activity trackers on the market, Shine uses Bluetooth LE to link to your newer iOS devices. Just fire up the app with the Shine nearby (and with the battery installed) and the two will recognize each other quickly. The free app is quite useful and colorful, and includes some clever animations. If you put the Shine atop your iPhone display, it begins to animate the sync process with a series of pulsating rings. Note that you don't need to manually do this to have Shine and your iPhone sync ... but it's a great incentive to see how your activity is going.

Let's talk about that activity tracking. Shine doesn't have a built-in GPS receiver, just a three-axis accelerometer. As you move about, the device tracks that information and the app then translates that into a type of motion. At this time, it recognizes walking, riding a bike, running, swimming. The company says that as they begin to recognize profiles for other types of activities -- say, skiing or karate -- they'll send out app and device updates that automatically track those activities. As it is, I'm just happy that it can also track my favorite activity -- sleeping.

So how do you use Shine? Just strap it or clip it on, and go. Misfit Wearables suggests putting it on your shoe, sock or ankle if you're cycling, as it won't do too much if you're riding a bike and have it on your wrist. You use the app to set a goal, which corresponds to a certain amount of activity. For example, the review Shine is currently set at 600, equivalent to walking for one hour, running for 20 minutes, or swimming for 30 minutes. To see where you're at during the day, a double-tap on the shine displays an arc of white LEDs that give you a percent complete total.

That same double-tap can display the time as well. The Shine has an "up" or twelve o'clock position that is marked on the back; if you know which way is up, then it will display LEDs that give you the approximate time. For example, at 4:12 PM local time the double-tap displayed some dimmed LEDs at the :00, :15, :30, and :45 positions, then brighter LEDs at the :15 and :20 positions to indicate that it was "around" 4:15.

A triple-tap can start tracking an activity like sleep, with another triple-tap ending that tracking. All tracked activity is displayed on an intensity scale, and total results during a specific day are visible in the app in terms of points, steps, calories burned, and miles walked or run.

If there's any issue I have with the Shine, it's that at this point it doesn't really work well with others. For example, the Fitbit and Nike Plus devices have quite a few services which they can work with, like RunKeeper, MyFitnessPal, and our AOL company favorite, Virgin HealthMiles. Right now, there's no way to share activity data with other services nor can I share my information with friends.

Conclusion

The Misfit Wearables Shine is a very unique and well-designed activity tracker that should attract a following by those who are looking for a way to track fitness without a plasticky device. Its water resistance and long battery life make it a winner in the activity tracking market.

Pros

  • Very solid construction, machined from aluminum
  • Water-resistant -- you can shower or swim with it
  • Unobtrusive user interface that uses taps and cleverly hidden LEDs to show your percentage of total points for a day as well as the time
  • Can be worn any number of ways, with a wristwatch-like leather strap, silicone sports strap, magnetic clasp or necklace
  • Incredible four-month battery life, no recharging required

Cons

  • No way to share activity results with other people through social networks or share with other fitness services
  • Magnetic clasp apparently isn't strong enough to keep the device attached to clothing in all situations, making the device quite easy to lose when the clasp is in use

Who is it for?

  • The fitness buff who wants more than just a cheesy-looking plastic band for activity tracking.

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