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Beautiful Hardware, Pretty Useless Software A User Experience Review of Misfit’s Shine

Disclaimer: This is my personal review of a device. I represent only my own views. I am not endorsed by or connected to Misfit in any way. While I do have some expertise in the world of Experience Design, this is just one person’s opinion so please read it as such.

Misfit Wearables’ Shine is another in a long-ish list of wearable technology that allow for tracking of personal activity. The Shine promised to be more thoughtful about the hardware design, to track more activities better than any other technology on the market, and to “help you lead an active life”. And there was promise there, great promise in something people would actually want to wear all the time. Promise in something that was fashionable, but was incredibly useful, but Misfit broke those promises. First it was launch dates. Then it was the second launch date. Then dropping support for Android. Then using bluetooth instead of some new technology to which they alluded. Then accessories starting missing launch dates (and haven’t made it to market yet). And then we got the thing in our hands and we were the most disappointed yet.

It’s the software. It’s just plain useless.

The Hardware

But let’s start off on a good note. The hardware, it’s beautiful. Really. Everyone that has seen it talks about how damn pretty it is, and they are right. On it’s own the Shine is small and sleek. It’s made of a high grade metal and feels good in the hand. It’s smooth and has wonderfully strong magnets, too strong actually, but we’ll get to that. The Shine feels and looks expensive. Like your first iPhone, it quickly becomes precious and you check on it constantly, partly to make sure that you didn’t loose it and partly just to feel it. Sure, that new gadget smell goes away and the device starts to blend into your everyday life, but even after several weeks, and scratches, it still looks and feels awesome.

Shine's iPhone Application as of August 2013
Shine’s iPhone Application as of August 2013

At first glance the software looks great. It’s simple and easy to visually parse. There is a great use of circles and lightness to the app that feels like part of the Shine “family”. Animations and small interactions within the app are great, playful even. Syncing works well, and seems very stable after an App update. There is a nice graph and the entire App is useable and friendly. But, that’s it. That is where everything stops and starts to fall apart, not entirely, but enough to notice, enough to change the entire experience of the Shine.

The Experience

Let’s be honest, I was an early supporter of the Shine jumping on theIndiegogo campaign as soon as I heard about. There was just so much promise in being able to track multiple activities, being able to wear the device in a myriad of ways, and being fashion forward. All of these things are places where every other wearable tracker has failed. Every other tracker is flawed in some large way, but the Shine promised to change all of that. I was excited. I was hooked.

Misfit's Shine with magnetic clasp
Misfit’s Shine with magnetic clasp

Unfortunately real life and real usage turned out a bit different. First, it really is beautiful and the strong magnets allow it to clip well to my clothing in various places (jean pockets, vests, waistband of the gym shorts, etc). However, several times the Shine’s magnets have been too strong, flying off my person and attaching itself to some metal gate, a door handle, a chair, and other objects. The Shine also has a set of LED lights that are placed around the outer edge, which create a ring of lights. These lights are the primary feedback mechanism for the Shine, and they work very well. The Shine has a really great animation for completing goals, and the progress meter makes plenty of sense as well. These LEDs also allow the Shine to display the current time in a fairly understandable fashion, something most other wearable trackers have missed (but maybe don’t need, I’m not sure yet). However, in trying to switch my activity I find it hard to understand the current mode of my Shine. Tapping the Shine at least three times displays another fun animation of the lights, which informs me that it’s doing something, but there is no real indication of what mode you just switched into. Did I set this to track my sleep? My running? Or did I get it mixed up and when I wanted to track my sleep I instead took it out of sleep mode and into it’s basic tracking mode? It’s really confusing. Further, while the Shine promised to be able to track multiple activities, it can only be switched between two modes. So, if I want to track a run and my sleep I have to sync the Shine with my phone and manually change the activity to track. Another promise unfulfilled. Another disappointment.

The real crux of the entire experience however hinges upon the ability to help me change my habits over time and become a bit healthier. And that my friend is where everything fails. While the Shine seems to track everything well, the app fails at giving me any insight into my life. Sure it tells me when I was active, fairly active, and really active, but it doesn’t help me to change anything. Yes it gives me points and I have a point goal, but that isn’t enough. Should I try to be more “fairly” active, or do I really need to kick it up and go for a run? Was my walk to work this morning something that helped me feel better, or did it make me tired and not walk the rest of the day? If the Shine can track my activity and my sleep, it should tell me some correlation between the two. Jawbone UP got this right through their “insights”, but most of those were not entirely useful. I understand this might be a hard problem to solve, but at least take a stab at it. And that’s my biggest problem with the Shine, it doesn’t take any meaningful action on my behalf to help me improve my life. It’s really just a dumb tracker, a really beautiful and dumb tracker.

It’s not all over yet for Misfit though. Given some time and hard work I think they could take the Shine to somewhere awesome. The have the hardware mostly right (though multicolored LEDs and a vibration motor would be welcome), now they just need to spend some quality time with the rest of the experience. I know this is hard, and building a physical object at scale isn’t easy, and I’m sure Misfit has some incredibly smart people working with them, but we all have to face the fact that the first version of the Shine is a bit of a failure. I’m sorry, and I certainly hoped for more, but it’s true.

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