Misfit Ray review: Fashion-forward fitness, but it's not as good as Fitbit
A revamped design isn't enough, but the Ray tries to look like something that isn't tech at all.
It looks like a bracelet, or some space-age tube. But the Misfit Ray's a fitness tracker. One of a vast number of track-your-steps, pair-with-an-app gadgets that keep popping up. Fitness trackers -- the standalone ones that aren't smartwatches -- have started shrinking down to aspire to be jewelry, sort of. That's been Misfit's formula for years. But now, that formula feels a little commonplace.
The original Shine, a metal disc that automatically tracks steps and sleep and has good battery life, was innocuous. But also, easily lost. It could pop into accessories and be worn lots of places. I liked the Shine a lot when it first debuted in 2013, because it was unique and small. But there are more fitness trackers now, and most of them are unnecessary. The Shine 2 only made a few advances over the Shine. Its main appeal -- being simple and automatic -- has been adopted by many other competitors, including the king of the hill, Fitbit.
Now the Ray is the same idea as the Shine 2, but in a tube. Like those earlier Misfit products, the Ray tracks steps, sleep and short activity sessions. It can be worn as a bracelet (it comes with a band), or turned into a necklace pendant. But it's not really attractive enough that you'd wear it if you weren't "using" it.
It looks like something someone crafted out of a piece of metal at an indie art shop. It is, at least, water-resistant enough to shower with, if you get a non-leather band. But yeah, it doesn't look like a gadget. That's probably the idea: human, versus "techie." But it felt uncomfortable on my wrist, the band way too small. Maybe it's meant for someone other than me. Or I'm not appreciating that it's a fancier variation on a basic band like the Jawbone. But that's the problem. Why not just get a Jawbone on sale...or anything else?
At $100 (£72 UK, or AU$141), this isn't a bargain. And the Misfit app, which handles basic steps, sleep and swim tracking, isn't nearly as good as Fitbit's. The Ray can become a smart button of sorts by linking to a separate Misfit Link app. But you need to triple-tap the metal tube to turn it into a single-purpose function: music remote, selfie shutter or one-function roles in a few connected apps supported by Misfit (Harmony, IFFT, Yo or Misfit's multihue Bolt light bulbs).
The Ray feels worse than the Shine 2 in some ways: While it has the same six-month or so battery life, its battery replacement system is awkward, involving unscrewing its tube and sliding batteries out. I ended up jamming mine and needing a paperclip. But the band stays on my wrist more securely, avoiding the pop-out problem the Shine 2 originally had for me (although a redesigned action clip solved those issues on Shine 2). Also, the Ray only has one glowing light, which doesn't do much. It loses the clever 12-LED design of the Shine, which showed activity progress in a ring and even the time with a simple tap, acting as a basic display.
I'd suggest a Fitbit instead. Or, look at a Pebble, which can track steps and sleep too...and is a watch...and even has a Misfit app. Or, consider that Fossil -- which acquired Misfit last year -- has many trackers that do similar things as well. Fossil has already promised hundreds of wearable products, many of them powered by Misfit technology. So, why choose Ray?
The age of high-design, minimal, single-purpose fitness accessories doesn't feel like it makes sense on my wrist anymore. Maybe you feel otherwise.