Misfit Phase Review
Months-long operation sounds great – just hope you can change that battery when the time comes
So far, the Misfit Phase might sound like it doesn't offer a lot compared to other wearables, but it's yet to play its trump card: battery endurance. Your typical full-featured smartwatch probably needs to be recharged every day or two, while a smaller fitness tracker might run through its battery over the course of a week.
But the Misfit Phase doesn't get recharged every day, nor even every week. Actually, it doesn't get recharged at all.
The wearable's powered by a consumable lithium coin-cell battery that Misift says should last about six months under typical usage – get a ton of notifications, and that figure could come in a bit lower. New ones are affordable enough, and especially if you stock up with a multi-pack, should only run you a buck or two each.
The slightly more worrisome issue is actually getting at the battery. As we mentioned earlier, the Phase's back is marked with a pair of contact points, and you'll align these with an included tool to unscrew the battery compartment. While that may be a usability compromise between a battery you'd need to be a jeweler to replace, and one covered by a big, ugly slot you'd need a quarter to unscrew, we can't help but be a little worried that six months down the line, we won't be able to find that tool when we need it – and suddenly an easily user-replaceable battery becomes a much bigger headache. By exercising some care, though, such situations can be easily avoided.
Compared to other smartwatches, fitness trackers, and all matter of hybrid wearables, the Misfit Phase doesn't do a ton of stuff. But perhaps counterintuitively, it succeeds the most because of its limitations. Not squeezing in a digital screen both helps keep the watch looking nice, as well as enables it to enjoy the incredible battery life it does. And once you take the time to configure the Phase to your needs, you really can get some useful value out of notifications that only go as far as “this is the contact who's texting you right now.”
While that laser-focused feature set can be appealing in the right light, it's also a little frustrating to see tied to a price tag as high as the Phase's is: pricing starts at $175, and pairing the watch with a leather strap pushes that figure up to $195. That's a heck of a lot more than many fitness trackers that offer similar, if not even expanded functionality.
So Misfit seems to be charging a premium for a connected device that doesn't really look like a connected device. That could be a pretty compelling pitch, but the execution of the Phase just falls a little short of where we'd like it to be.
Maybe the biggest negative is that it's just entirely too thick for what it is and what it does; with these capabilities, we'd want to see a far more slender wearable. And if your big selling point is traditional watch look-and-feel, your product needs to be built like one, too.
Beyond that, the poor low-light performance is another tough spot to get past. The non-illuminated notification window is a questionable design decision, and it severely impacts the wearable's usefulness.
At closer to $125, the Misfit Phase would be a much easier sell, but at these prices we'd definitely want to consider alternatives that either offer more functionality, or simply look a little more attractive, like Fossil's Q-series of hybrid watches, or the Skagen Hagen smartwatches.