Misfit Phase review: A smartwatch that looks smarter than it is

Price when reviewed

If you’re in the market for wearable tech, you’ll have quickly learned there’s a payoff in the smart department. You can either have the feature-packed definition of “smart” or the good-looking definition of “smart”. The part of the Venn diagram where the two cross over is vanishingly small, especially when you try and add a third circle labelled “decent battery life” to the mix.

Misfit has attempted to square this circle with the Misfit Phase: a hybrid smartwatch that looks great and has six-month battery life. The letdown is that it’s only what I’d call “smartish”. Smarter than the Casio Edifice EQB-600, but a positive dunce compared with the Samsung Gear S3.

That doesn’t mean it’s bad, you just have to set your expectations to the right level. Read on to find out if the Misfit Phase is the wearable you’ve been waiting for.

Misfit Phase review: Design

The first thing you’ll notice about the Misfit Phase is that there’s no screen. There will be no discussion of resolution or pixels per inch here – the Misfit Phase is a watch in the traditional sense, with hour and minute hands that tick around the minimalist circular face of the watch.[gallery:2]

There are no numbers on said face, either, just lines and a small Misfit logo at the very top. Two buttons adorn the right-hand side, but there’s no crown to set the time, as this is handled by the accompanying app. At the bottom of the watch face is a small circle that changes colour when the phone sends a notification via Bluetooth. You can customise what notifications trigger which colour, although annoyingly the colours for text and calls cannot be modified.

The strap our model came with was a leather affair, which feels comfortable enough on the wrist, although the shape of the lugs meant that no matter how tight I pulled the straps, the watch itself was never close to being flush with my wrist.

That’s not a critical problem with no heart-rate monitor, but it’s a peculiar design quirk all the same. The leather version costs £185 on Amazon UK (under $140 on Amazon US), a rubbery sports-strap edition goes for £95 on Amazon UK (or $100 on Amazon US). Both can track swimming, which wasn’t something I wanted to try with the leather strap, but it does mean that you can be comfortable wearing this in the rain without issue and, unlike touchscreen devices, you can rest assured a little water won’t interfere with your level of control.[gallery:3]

Let’s be clear: much of what you’re paying for here is the looks, given the limitations of its smart functionality, and Misfit has scored a hit here. This is one of the most stylish wearables we’ve ever seen, even if it achieves this by actively going back to a previous era of wristwear. Features-wise, you can clearly get much more for your money elsewhere, but in terms of appearance, this is as good as it gets.

Misfit Phase: Performance

So let’s get onto those features. As with previous Misfit devices, the Phase is an activity tracker first and foremost. It keeps an eye on the number of steps you’ve taken and can tell if you’re running as well. The latter is handy, but don’t expect any in-depth analytical analysis from that. There’s no GPS or heart-rate monitor, so the watch won’t be telling you how many minutes to your mile, just that you were moving faster than normal. A binary indication: running or walking.

In fact, the watch itself won’t really be telling you *anything*. The accompanying app does most of the heavy lifting on that and, unlike the similarly analogue Withings Pulse, there’s no separate dial to see your steps directly from the watch face. Instead, you can see how much of your daily activity target you’ve hit by tapping the top button, at which point the minute and hour hands jump around to indicate the percentage of your target you’ve completed. A second tap will show you the time your alarm is due to go off, if you’ve set one.[gallery:4]

It’s a reasonably elegant solution, but things fall flat when it comes to complicated phone interaction. That’s the job of the second button, but by default it can only handle one kind of input at a time. If you fancy a change, you have to adjust its functionality via the app.

The preset functions give you a choice between tagging a physical activity, playing music, taking a selfie and advancing slides in a presentation. By default, however, you can’t use the button to do more than one of those at a time, which is just as well if you don’t want your workout playlist kicking into life during a board meeting.

The app does let you assign functions to up to four custom button presses – double, triple and long presses – but some functions can only be assigned to a long press, and in any case this kind of setup is just asking for mis-presses.

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