I’ve wanted to try out an activity tracker since way back – when Matt and I used to lament over the fact the Jawbone UP was inclined to crash, and that neither of us could afford one even if they weren’t.
I mean – the whole programme that helped me lose my first 100lbs was all about increasing your NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis – and the activity tracker model seems kinda designed to support that, focusing on the stuff you do that burns calories when you’re not in the gym.
But the trouble is, I’m not really into wearable tech. I think it’s unlikely you’ll ever see me wearing any of those future-specs or super-duper-watches, because… Well, I just don’t really get the point. I’m prepared to be proven wrong on this, but I’m yet to find much in that vein that I’d actually want to wear. I’m no style icon, personally, but… Tron isn’t really what I’m going for when I get dressed in the morning.
Having said that, I’m a slow-adopter of this kind of thing. In all honesty, I’d still choose a printed book over an e-reader, so there’s a strong possibility that’s just me being old-school. I fear change. Anyway, the only thing I’ve really fancied trying out along these lines is an activity tracker – and that feeling went into overdrive about a month or so ago, when one of my very good friends bought herself a Fitbit, and was suddenly walking everywhere with a sense of joy and satisfaction that gave me some serious envy.
So when I was asked to review a Misfit Shine, I was delighted – because it seemed to me like exactly what I was looking for: a balance between functional activity tracking, and a pretty cool form that I’d actually wnat to wear on a daily basis. I mean, look at it:
It’s slightly bigger than a £1 coin, and comes with a wristband and clasp (for hooking to the all-important bra strap, naturally) – although being designed with fashionistas in mind, it’s also possible to buy a necklace, a leather band, and a various other accessories so you can wear it however suits you.
Now, a word on this. I started off using the clasp, which is magnetic and attaches to the Shine itself – because it’s more accurate when it’s kept on your bra strap or neck, plus it’s easily hidden from view on the days when futuristic mysterious technology doesn’t quite fit with your outfit.
However, I did this after a particularly sweaty yoga class, and managed to lose it, forcing me to trek back to the studio to track it down again. It’s a strong magnet, but one that doesn’t seem quite as secure as it might – so, I prefer the security of having it on my wrist, even if there is something of a compromise to be made in terms of how accurately it actually measures your movements.
For me, one of the big selling points of this particular tracker is that it’s really low-maintenance. I have enough technology demanding to be charged, shut down, restarted, updated, and so on – but this thing uses a battery that only needs to be replaced once every four months. Plus, it’s waterproof – so using it, for me, has been a case of strapping it to my wrist, and carrying on with my life. Good times.
The point of these activity trackers is to measure your steps, and your activity levels, over the course of the day. They’re like the pedometer on crack – counting up how many paces you’re clocking in, but with a variety of other features that measure your all-round activities, too. It’ll tell you how many calories you’ve burned, how far you’ve travelled, and how many ‘points’ you’ve earned – a figure you can share with other Shine users, if competition is your bag.
For me, personally, that side doesn’t really interest me, so I didn’t find the points hugely engaging (although when you hit your target and all the lil’ lights flash to celebrate, I’m all over it) – but the level of detail this lil’ thing goes into without much effort on my part really is quite impressive. Looking back over a day, you’re able to see exactly what you were doing, and when – which makes for interesting reading:
It also measures your sleep quality, giving you an idea of how much deep sleep you got, and when:
You’ll notice that these screenshots are from days when I hit my target, and was generally awesome. But the really interesting thing was how difficult I actually found that on a regular day. I found myself trying to squeeze in extra bursts of activity in order to get closer to the goal, even though I’d picked the target arbitrarily from the automatic setup menu. I’d go out and buy lunch from shops further away from the office; I’d jump off the bus a couple o’stops early, just to get in some extra steps; and I’d get stuff done more readily than I perhaps would if I weren’t trying to up my activity levels.
In other words, it did exactly what it’s supposed to do – it made me get more movement into my life.
And it does a number of other little things, too – you can create photographic food diaries (although only at the time – as yet, there’s no option to retrospectively add your meals in, which I would find more useful), and you can also select from certain activities to allow the Shine to count up your points differently. However, these are pretty limited at the moment – and not being into basketball or tennis, I can’t vouch for how well these work, but it’s pretty cool to have the option in the Labs section of the app.
In this respect, to me, the Misfit Shine feels like a bit of a work in progress, rather than a finished product – although I suspect as it develops, it’ll become something very cool indeed. It’s already got a number of beta features that I imagine could be fantastic given time – and the way the app is set up to be totally transparent about the Labs area and the beta features is oddly endearing, and has made me hold off on this review because I’m genuinely excited to see what else it can do.
It’s a great little product, and one I’ve grown quite attached to over the last few weeks. And if you’ll excuse me…
I’m going out for a walk.