Misfit Flash activity tracker
Rain, sweat and the washing machine: the natural enemies of the activity tracker. But no more! There is a waterproof one, it is affordable, has automatic sleep recognition, and can recognize several different sports. Small as it is, you can even put it on a shoe. The Misfit Flash seems perfect.
Before the first use, a Misfit account has to be created. It only requires entering an email address and a password from the Android app. There is one privacy setting: share everything, or not, but it is unclear how to set it. The control is by default a gray colored switch set to the left (off?), which turns red when switched to the right (on?).
But first, a test: taking it out for a run. The Flash is a round disc that comes with a clip and a wristband. The clip is excellent for mounting it on a shoe. (The other shoe pods in the picture above are ANT+ sensors for temperature and running speed.)
During this first test-run, steps will be counted by the Flash, a Garmin FR60 with ANT+ foot pod, and an ordinary pedometer. Overall distance will be measured by GPS (Garmin Fenix 2).
Plenty of time during the run to ponder the usability and privacy aspects of the Misfit Flash. It can only sync directly to the Misfit webservice, you can’t delete any of the data yourself, or remove your own account (it requires helpdesk intervention). The alternative is: ask Misfit for the API specification to communicate with the device, and write your own app (I did ask for the device API 2 weeks ago, and they have not yet replied).
The Misfit website offers a dashboard, but has no settings at all. Exporting data is not possible.
The phone app’s dashboard is configurable to show a bar graph or a circle, and also creates a “storyline” per day which lists types of activity and duration. It shows achievements primarily as points, but steps are also displayed. A bit like Nikefuel; an alternative unit of “activity”.
If your goal is simply 10.000 steps, you will have to fiddle to set a goal that is roughly equivalent to that number of steps, which can only be an approximation, because running results in more points than walking the same number of steps.
Background image and colors can unfortunately not be changed, the contrast is quite low on some screens, and that would be easily fixed with a different font color.
Back from the run, the simple pedometer showed 8371 steps. Minus the 148 it had at the start, that makes 8223 steps.
Conclusion: it counts steps really well, much better than the simple pedometer, and the distance accuracy is impressive.
But before the Flash’s metrics were known, it had to sync.
And that proved to be pretty hard. Persistent retrying finally rendered success. It certainly shows how vulnerable this solution is; without an internet connection, the Misfit Flash is just a disc with flashing LEDs.
The hardware is great. It is small, solid and waterproof (I have been swimming with it for an hour, still works perfectly). There are reports that it leaks though. Swimming is displayed as a supported activity on the box, but it recognizes the swim as a walk, so no distance or stroke count or other swim metrics. The strap and clip seem good quality (caution: used it for only a week) and are comfortable to wear. You can wear the Flash on a sock, a belt, shirt collar, wrist.
It works, and works well. The stepcount is accurate and even the distance it calculates is correct. It works on a CR2032 watch battery that lasts months. No charging needed.
Sleep tracking works well (compared to another sleep tracker: roughly the same pattern). The device stays put very well in the wrist band, without being in the way.
It could really have been perfect. But it won’t work offline, not at all. It can’t sync when there is no internet connection. It’s no use to take the Flash with you on a vacation out and about where there is no internet. It has no display to show numbers (only a ring of LEDs), so it is not very informative in itself.
And even if you don’t mind having very personal activity and sleep data in the Misfit cloud, it might be worth waiting for an overhaul of the app. It is not intuitive (unexplained settings sliders), the contrast is low, it hangs quite often and syncing frequently requires multiple attempts (which is probably due to network quality issues). Offline caching of data on the phone would solve this. Perhaps Misfit will improve the website over time and offer data correction, deletion and exporting.