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Misfit Flash Link review: ​A bargain fitness tracker with a split personality

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Sarah Tew/CNET

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7.0

Misfit Flash Link

Pricing Not Available

The Good

Extremely low-cost; water resistant for swimming or showering; built-in progress meter display; replaceable battery lasts up to six months; has bonus smart-button features

The Bad

Choosing between fitness tracking and smart button functions involves toggling between two apps; some smart button features don't work as advertised; rudimentary display and single-button operation can get confusing for advanced functions.

The Bottom Line

Misfit's entry-level fitness tracker gets the job done at a supercheap price, but its 'smart button' functions leave a lot to be desired.

If you look at the box for the Misfit Flash Link, you'll see it claims to be a "smart button" -- a sort of one-off remote for toggling music remote controls and smartphone selfies. In actuality, it's a fitness tracker -- and a good one. But for some reason, Misfit doesn't want to you to easily know that.

So, if you choose to get Misfit's new super-affordable wearable, here's my advice: use it as a fitness tracker, sync with the Misfit app, and ignore the "smart button" secondary app, Misfit Link, altogether.

In fact, the $20 Misfit Flash Link is really an earlier product, the Misfit Flash, that ships without that model's wrist band. The Flash, which was already one of my favorite low-cost activity trackers at $50, now costs just $30. So, you're really deciding whether to get the Link -- which just comes with a clip for your pants, shoes, or keychain -- or get the Flash for $10 more, which comes with the clip and the band.

Button, and clip: that's it. Sarah Tew/CNET

Whichever one you pick, know that the Flash is plastic, water-resistant for swimming, has a battery that lasts six months, and has a ring of twelve LEDs on the top that tell time by blinking, and also show how much of your fitness goal you've achieved by slowly filling a ring. The Flash and Flash Link come in various colors. They're simple. And they're a little easy to lose if they fall out of their clip or band.

What's so weird about the Flash Link is that Misfit wants you to pair to a new Misfit app called "Misfit Link" that adds programmable smart button features to the tracker. You can only pick from a few: music controls (volume, track skipping, play/pause), selfie remote (snapshot and burst), and a presentation remote (which didn't work with Keynote). It can also work as an activity tracker...but, with this new app, I wasn't able to get it to sync properly.

Selfie remote. Sarah Tew/CNET

Meanwhile, Misfit still has its original app, called "Misfit," that already does activity tracking and does it quite well. And yes, you can pair the Misfit Flash Link to that app, and it works as well as the Misfit Flash...because it's the same device. You can't stay paired to both Misfit apps at once, however. So, bottom line: skip the Misfit Link app. Pretend it doesn't exist. It's not worth the pain. Just use the Misfit app.

By the way, the plain old original Misfit app also has smart button functions, but for different apps: Spotify, Yo, IFTTT and Harmony. Confused yet? I know I sure am.

Misfit app: doesn't have all smart button features, but use this app instead! Sarah Tew/CNET

I can't understand why Misfit didn't just combine both apps into one Misfit-pairing app. Track fitness, add some smart button features. It's not complicated. You can only set up the Misfit to work with one smart button function at a time, which means you'll be fiddling around in the app to change its function either way.

Go read my original Misfit Flash review. Now, decide whether you want a band on your wrist or can live with a clip-on. The included plastic clip feels like it'll snap easily, but it can go on your belt, your pocket, or your shoe. I wouldn't use it in a keyring despite the hole in the clip, because the Flash easily falls out of the clip unless it's clipped onto something. You could always buy extra Misfit Flash accessories later if you change your mind.

LED lights: 12 of them. Josh Miller/CNET

The Flash Link's step counting is anywhere from 500 to 1500 steps off my phone or Apple Watch readings, which isn't great for accuracy... but it does work as a general activity monitor. And automatic sleep tracking works surprisingly well...but I prefer tracking sleep using a wristband, versus clipping the Flash Link into my pajama pants.

At $20, this is a perfect low-key way to explore fitness tracking. If you're a more serious fitness devotee, look into investing towards a Fitbit, Jawbone Up2 or even the Apple Watch. But none of those costs as little as the Link.

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7.0

Misfit Flash Link

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 6Battery 9Performance 7Software 6Features 7