How Misfit Trackers Work

By: Alia Hoyt
The many colors of the Misfit tracker are on display at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
© Britta Pedersen/dpa/Corbis

Marty McFly and the rest of the "Back to the Future: Part II" gang had it all wrong. Flying cars and hoverboards are still a long way off, but wearable fitness trackers that can deliver a dizzying array of personal health-related data are here, and they intend to stick around. It used to be that our wrists were home solely to watches, charm bracelets and other sparkly baubles, but wearable tech has introduced numerous designed to arm us with information ranging from sleep habits to heart rate and number of steps per day. Among the marketplace leaders are Fitbit, Garmin, Nike, Jawbone and Moov, among many others [source: Palladino and Prospero]. The Misfit brand launched in 2011, and is largely known for providing more affordable fitness tracker options than many pricier counterparts. In fact, Misfit claims it created the first fully featured activity and sleep tracker under $50. In an industry that includes many models over $100, that's a pretty big dip in cost.

The company was established by several big names in the tech industry, including Sonny Vu, co-founder of AgaMatrix, Sridhar Iyengar, co-founder of AgaMatrix, and John Sculley, former CEO of Apple and Pepsi. They haven't always taken a conventional approach to product development, turning to a successful Indiegogo campaign to raise $800,000 in crowd funds to garner support for the Misfit Shine. The crusade was effective not only from a monetary perspective, but also because it increased awareness about the brand in a tech industry often dominated by the usual suspects, like Microsoft, Apple and Fitbit. And, though the company spent $20,000 on its pitch video, Vu thought the money was well-spent as its campaign was fully funded in a few hours [source: Luzar].


Fitness trackers like the ones Misfit manufactures have exploded in popularity thanks to our inherent love of numbers, data and constant self-scrutiny. Many people have goals (whether reasonable or lofty) for their personal health, and having information literally at our fingertips makes it easier to motivate or rationalize our habits. In fact, it's become such a phenomenon that industry experts are predicting the niche will grow from $1.92 billion per year value in 2014 to $2.8 billion in 2019 [source: Keller].

Misfit Tracker Options

The Misfit tracker can be taken out of its band and placed on a pendant.
© Britta Pedersen/dpa/Corbis

Fashion, function and fee are the three hallmarks of Misfit trackers. The brand prides itself on offering options to suit any budget, as well as a visually pleasing product.

Misfit Shine: The original Misfit product, Shine features a standard black band, but offers faces (a circular disc where the "brain" of the device lives) in a number of colors, including gray, topaz, champagne and even Coca-Cola red. Wearers looking for a little more finesse can order accessories separately, including bands in different hues and even necklaces that the removable face snaps into. Shine can track steps, calories and distance associated with walking, running and other sports. It's even waterproof up to164 feet (50 meters) deep. The model also features a sleep tracking capability, collecting data on the user's total number of hours slept, then subdivided into the types of sleep (light and deep). At $100 a pop, it's comparable in price with other similarly functional brands [source: Misfit].


Swarovski Shine: A glammed-up version of the regular Shine, Swarovski Shine was created to meet the needs of fitness fashionistas. Rather than the standard round face, Swarovski Shine is fitted with an "activity tracking crystal," which comes with both a sport band and a fashion-forward bracelet, depending on the type of look you're sporting for the day. The crystal houses the standard activity tracker, which monitors all the same functions as Shine. Cost starts at $169 [source: Misfit].

Misfit Flash: At $49, Misfit Flash is half the price of Shine. In fact, it can do everything Shine can, but the band and tracker are made out of plastic, rather than aluminum, giving it a more economical look and feel [sources: Kwok, Stein].

All models are powered by a replaceable battery with an estimated four to six month life span, so users don't have to mess around with yet another charging cable. They also sync wirelessly with smartphones, and are compatible with a variety of cool apps, including the one Misfit offers.


How to Use a Misfit Tracker

The fitness tracker is also waterproof and can be clipped to your body to record calories burned while swimming.

The concept behind how to use a Misfit tracker is designed to be pretty easy. The device can be worn on the wristband or clipped elsewhere. The company also offers necklaces sold separately that the circular face can snap into. Once your tracker is affixed, simply wear it as you go about your day. Bear in mind that the location of the tracker does affect how it logs data. Misfit advises bikers, for example, not to wear it on the wrist while cycling, since a person's wrists/hands typically don't move very much. Instead, a pocket, waistband or even ankle would be better locations.

As of 2015, Misfit trackers were most accurate at keeping tabs on swimming, soccer, tennis, running, walking, basketball and cycling. That's not to say that you won't get credit for other types of athletics, but it might not be as accurate. The company acknowledges this particularly with weight training. Sleep data is also collected, including the total number of hours slept and the type of sleep, analyzing body movements throughout the night to determine the latter [source: Misfit].


Misfit devices also track caloric burn and make a basic guess using a two-tier process. First, it estimates burn based on physical activity for the day, which is influenced by the intensity and duration of the exercise. People also use up calories just by virtue of being alive. Known as basal metabolic rate (BMR), it represents roughly two-thirds of calories consumed, and Misfit trackers come up with this rate by taking into account the user's height, weight, gender and age [source: Misfit].

Misfit users set up daily goals, which can be checked throughout the day to see if you're on pace. To assess, the wearer needs to double-tap the part of the circular face that would represent the "6 o'clock" location. The screen will then display where you are in terms of achievement by percentage, i.e., 25 percent, 50 percent and so on [source: Misfit]. At any point in the day you can sync it with the Misfit app by bringing the tracker within 12 inches (30 centimeters) of the wireless device you're using, like an iPad or cell phone. The data will then be uploaded and displayed in statistical and graph data, which wearers can use to push themselves harder tomorrow!


Pros and Cons of Misfit Trackers

There are many great features about Misfit trackers. First and foremost, they are fairly affordable. Misfit's devices are also very attractive pieces, as far as fitness trackers go. They look like a cool digital watch, and the color options are many and varied. They can also be worn in a variety of ways, so if you find wrist accessories to be annoying or uncomfortable, there are other options [source: Ghose].

Misfit trackers also don't require charging, and the replaceable battery lasts in the neighborhood of four to six months [sources: Kwok, Misfit]. As someone with roughly 27 charging cords lying around the house, I appreciate this feature. The wireless syncing capability is another major pro, and the graphs/charts that present the user's daily data are easy to read and understand. Plus, the app also uses a points system, so that you can compare yourself with other users on an apples-to-apples scale. Misfit's waterproof status also makes it invaluable to swimmers.


Even the best tech has its flaws, and Misfit devices are not without theirs. Although a user can check progress throughout the day by percentage, more detailed information is only available via the app, or a pretty confusing display feature, which involves lights flashing on the face. As a result, it's necessary to log in to the app to truly get a handle on calorie burn and overall progress. Critics of the app says that it's tricky to navigate, and doesn't offer any advice on what to do with the data that has been collected. There's also no nutrition entry capability, which is a pretty important part of overall health and fitness [sources: Ghose, Stables]. It should be noted that you can connect through to MyFitnessPal, so that helps fill that void [source: Palladino].

Flash, as the least expensive option on the market, has been noted as feeling and functioning cheaply. Test users claim that the wristband breaks/cracks and the face pops out with little effort, making it frustratingly easy to lose. Natasha Hill, of Kennesaw, Georgia, purchased Flash for each of her two sons. She reports that they have been through five wristbands in only a couple of months and had to scour their home to locate the tracker face when it fell out.

Despite legitimate complaints and concerns, the fitness tracking industry is still relatively young, giving the companies involved plenty of opportunity to enhance the features that users love, as well as work out the kinks.


Lots More Information

Author's Note: How Misfit Trackers Work

There's a dizzying array of fitness trackers on the market. Misfit's attractive, affordable options are good for people looking to ease their way into using such a device, so long as you remember that you get what you pay for.

Related Articles
More Great Links

  • Ghose, Tia. "Misfit Shine: Fitness Tracker Review." Live Science. Jan. 13, 2014 (March 26, 2015)
  • Hill, Natasha. Interview via e-mail. March 25, 2015.
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  • Kwok, Ken. "Wearable fitness devices to track goals: Moov, Basis Peak, Misfit Shine." Los Angeles Times. Dec. 19, 2014 (March 25, 2015)
  • Lamkin, Paul. "Fitness tracker market to top $5 bn by 2019." Wareable. March 26, 2015 (April 1, 2015)
  • Luzar, Charles. "Misfit Wearables Spent $20,000 Making Their Crowdfunding Pitch Video." Crowdfund Insider. Jan. 9, 2014 (March 25, 2015)
  • Mann, Mark. "Increasingly, people are tracking their every move." Jan. 9, 2015 (March 25, 2015)
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