Misfit’s new Flash ($50) is a simple, inexpensive fitness and sleep tracker. Modeled after the company’s earlier Shine, which was released late last year, Flash retains a very similar form factor and near-identical features, but does it with cheaper materials. Instead of Shine’s aluminum disc, Flash gets by with an even simpler TPU/polycarbonate disc. The obvious upside is a much lower price. Flash isn’t quite as waterproof as Shine — while Shine is waterproof to 50m deep, Flash is only waterproof until 30m, though that’s more than enough for most people. The two trackers measure the same things: steps, distance, calories burned, and sleep quality and duration.
Flash’s tracking capabilities are all contained within the disc, which isn’t much bigger than a quarter. The disc can be inserted into a sport band to wear Flash like a watch, or into a clip, to attach to clothing or a keychain. Flash uses a common coin cell battery that Misfit claims will last up to six months. Simplicity is the name of Flash’s game: upon pressing the disc once, a ring of 12 lights will briefly show a user how much progress they’ve made during the current 24-hour period — a fully formed ring means a user has reached his or her goal for the day. That same ring will then tell users the time, with lights representing the hour and minute using an abstracted analog system. The clock function may not be completely intuitive from the get-go, but once you figure it out, you’ll be fine.
Users set up their progress goals and access all information through the free Misfit app. Like the design of Misfit itself, the app is pretty simple compared to more in-depth fitness trackers. Using a system of points, users can reach their daily point goal through a variety of activities — for instance, meeting a goal of 600 points per day requires one hour of walking, 20 minutes of running, or 30 minutes of swimming. The app also tracks sleep if you’re willing to wear Flash through the night. It purports to show how much you slept, and how much “restful sleep” you got during your latest snooze. A Bluetooth 4 connection syncs Flash to the app, updating current step, distance, and burned calorie totals. This means that you could keep your iOS device somewhere else, do a workout with Flash, and sync with the app later. The app also connects with other popular fitness apps.
Although Flash isn’t made of expensive materials, it has the virtue of feeling very lightweight — you might forget you’re wearing it, even if it’s strapped across your wrist. Using the clip to wear it elsewhere on your body might be an even better option for some users. As a $50 plastic disc, Flash isn’t meant to be a high fashion accessory, but it doesn’t look bad at all; friends and strangers may be intrigued enough to ask about it. Flash does come in seven colors, with some standing out more than others.
Unfortunately, accuracy is a question mark with Misfit Flash. Over a weekend of considerable testing, Apple’s Health app and the popular Breeze app, which use the iPhone’s motion coprocessors in the iPhone 5s, 6, and 6 Plus, gave us similar results. But Flash seemed to underestimate the steps taken by around 15%. After further testing against the Breeze app we counted the steps ourselves, and again, the Misfit Shine was off. We found that it was most likely to underestimate steps, but also gave us some results that were higher than expected. For what it’s worth, the sleep tracking seemed to be more accurate, as far as we could tell — a brief period of waking in the middle of the night was registered correctly.
While many fitness trackers try to outdo each other by increasing functionality and features, Misfit’s Flash is simple by design. Flash is easy to use and understand, and its basic companion app should even seem welcoming to novices. It’s a good option for those who have some interest in fitness tracking — we think it could be especially useful for those who want to go on weekend runs or hikes and not have to lug their larger iPhones around. But accuracy issues are tough to ignore for those who are serious about their fitness tracking. If that’s you, it might be best to look in another direction. For people who just want a simple fitness and sleep tracker that allows you to be away from your phone, Misfit Flash makes sense at a $50 price point, and earns our general recommendation.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPhone 4s/5/5c/5s/6/iPhone 6 Plus, iPod touch 5G, iPad 3/4/Air/mini