Misfit Phase Review
Watch face and visibility
A simplistic face layout can't compete with darkness
For most smartwatches, being able to clearly see the wearable's output in a variety of lighting conditions can prove pretty challenging. But with no digital screen, the Phase manages to dodge that bullet – or does it?
The watch's hands are made of a shiny chromed-out material, helping to catch the light even as it's fading and still let you read the time. But once ambient light is gone, you're on your own, as there's no built-in illumination to be found: no side-light, no back-light – nothing.
While that's somewhat understandable, the slightly more frustrating situation concerns that notification circle at the bottom of the watch's face. Normally black, it changes colors to indicate the type of notification hitting your phone – maybe yellow for a call, or blue for Twitter. And while the watch lacks a speaker, a vibration motor gives your wrist a gentle buzz to let you know when to glance at that circle to see what kind of notification is incoming.
If you were designing a hybrid smartwatch, how would you engineer that feature? A multi-color LED sure sounds like the obvious answer, but that's not what Misfit went with here. Instead, there's a physical wheel of colors that turns to display the correct one through that tiny circular window. It's not unlike the date-display on an analog wristwatch, except instead of the disk being printed with the numbers 1-31, it's sectioned off into multiple colors.
To get started with the Misfit Phase, you're going to have to download the Misfit app. The same app works with all the company's wearables, and is available for both iOS and Android devices.
Once installed, connecting the Phase to the app is easy enough: the watch's top button puts it into Bluetooth discovery mode, and then it's just a simple matter of pairing the device with your phone. The app asks for your name and some basic physical info in order to calibrate its algorithms for computing calories burned.
While general device compatibility is good, there does seem to be an issue with app compatibility when it comes to the delivery of notifications. Say you're a Google Voice user, and you prefer to get your messages through the Voice app itself, rather than sent to your phone as standard SMS. While the latter would work just fine with the Phase's notifications, the app only lets you configure notifications from a subset of the installed apps on your phone – and you guessed it: Voice is not among them.
Misfit keeps things simple – so we hope you're on a minimalism kick
Without a touchscreen, and with only limited button controls, there's not a whole lot of interaction to work with on the Misfit Phase itself. Your one avenue for exploration here is the watch's bottom button, which can be configured through the Misfit app to accomplish a number of tasks.
By far, the most flexible mode is a custom layout that lets you not just assign any of those functions to whichever button pattern you choose, but also activate a ring-to-locate feature for your phone, or even trigger select apps and services – with IFTTT looking like the most powerful there.
While we're talking about options present in the Misfit app, some are a lot more useful than others. For instance, there's a “Find my Phase” button that claims to help you locate a missing watch (that's still within Bluetooth range), but falls short of accomplishing even that simple task. Despite the presence of a vibration motor for notifications, the watch-location option entirely ignores this hardware. Instead, it spins the watch's hands and twirls the color wheel – for all of two-and-a-half seconds, and completely silently. How this is in any way useful, we've yet to figure out.
Health and exercise
Basic step-counting, but little in the way of fancy extras
Like all its other features, the Misfit Phase keeps its fitness-tracking abilities pretty toned-down, but they're indeed present. As we mentioned earlier, there's no heart-rate-monitoring capabilities, but you still get basic step-counting – as well as all the associated data (like calories burned) that can be extrapolated from that.
After synching with your phone, all that info is accessible through the Misfit app, giving you a look at your activity throughout the day, and offering you the opportunity to tell the software a little more about what you were up to – by spelling out the difference between time spent walking, running, dancing, or being involved in a number of sports, the app's better able to provide feedback about all this activity's impact on your health.
While all that sounds very involved, Misfit simplifies the way it displays your progress towards fitness goals, breaking things down into a convenient points-goal for each day. At night, the Phase will also track your sleep. And if you happen to have some buddies who are also wearing Misfit products, you can share your fitness progress with them through the app's social component. If you'd rather chart your data through a system-wide fitness hub, Misfit supports sharing its info with Google Fit and Apple Health, among others.
Finally, if you just need a little reminder now and then to get off your feet and move around a little, the Phase offers a mode that detects when you've been sitting still for too long and reminds you to get active. You can manually set start and stop times for this feature, so you're not being pestered while trying to catch some sleep.