How many fancy fitness watches can the market sustain?
Building the basics of fitness tracking into everyday watches has been happening for several years now. The Withings Activite, Garmin Vivomove, and several of Fossil's watches already do it, and higher-end watches from others are getting into the same game.
Misfit announced the Phase, its latest fitness tracker, and it's going for the same idea. A roughly 42mm-size round watch with analog hands has automatic step and sleep tracking (no heart rate, though). The watch is water-resistant to 50 meters, and uses a replaceable coin battery to last six months. It syncs automatically via Bluetooth to your Android phone or iPhone. The watch straps snap out from the back and can be replaced with any NATO-style 20mm field band.
To check fitness goal status, one of the two buttons on the case makes the hands spin around to show your percentage (on other competing watches, a second, smaller dial is often used). Another button triggers Misfit's smart-button controls for connected devices, just like its other trackers.
The Phase vibrates, and it also has a notification indicator of sorts: a small cut-out hole that turns various colors. Called a "color window," it's not an LED light. It's literally a mechanical part that swaps out color discs. Odd, yes? Eventually, these will be able to be customized in Misfit's app to correspond to different sources. If one of three contacts calls, the minute hands will spin to one of three locations, and the color eye will turn a certain color. It's like something out of a weird '60s spy movie.
The Phase will cost $175 when it debuts in November. But the problem is, there are already so many watch-like fitness trackers being released lately -- including some from Fossil, which acquired Misfit -- that unless you're smitten with a particular design, you're better off passing. The Phase has a clean design, and a thick but nicely built watch case. But it's also more expensive than many alternatives like the Withings Activite Steel and Garmin Vivomove. We'll review one when we get one later this fall.