(Page 2 of 2)
calculate how far you traveled and how many calories you burned. (I’ve found the results to be questionable at times. One day, according to the app, I walked 3,642 steps and burned 2,469 calories. The next day, I walked 12,878 steps—more than three times as far—yet the app said I used only 2,923 calories. I guess it takes more exercise to burn off a calorie than any of us would like, but it was still hard to believe that those extra 9,236 steps required only 454 calories. [Update 8/24/13: See comment section below.])
The Shine’s design embodies decisions that Vu and his team made early on to ensure that people would wear the device all day, every day. One of those was to minimize the fuss around charging. The Jawbone UP, to name one competing device, must be recharged weekly using a USB cable that connects to a computer. “One of the top reasons people stop wearing these trackers is that they forget to charge them,” Vu says. Under normal use, the watch battery inside the Shine will supposedly last about four months. (I’m sad to report, however, that mine only lasted about two weeks. My Shine is dead at the moment, waiting for me to head to Walgreens to pick up a new CR2013 battery.)
Going with a non-recharging battery led to tradeoffs, such as the Bluetooth issue mentioned above. Because computation takes power, the Shine doesn’t really try to discriminate between different kinds of activity; to tell it you’re taking a bicycle trip or going to sleep, for example, you have to tap it three times to create a “tag” for that activity in the device’s records. “There are more signal-processing tricks we could do” to classify different motions, says Vu. “But we slimmed down the feature set and the complexity of the algorithms to get a long battery life.”
Like many software-driven products today, the Shine will get better over time. New versions of the “firmware” inside the device are delivered via Bluetooth when you sync the device. “Both the firmware and the app are in many ways very 1.0, and there’s a ton of performance improvements to be made just in the next several weeks,” Vu says.
But he adds that every choice the Misfit team makes comes back to two things: simplicity, and conserving battery power. “Our goal is to get as many people as possible wearing it for as long as possible, and we think you accomplish that through wearability and long battery life.”
Which brings us back to my original questions about today’s fitness trackers: how useful are they? Is an accelerometer alone enough to give consumers the kind of feedback they need to exercise more?
Vu argues that helping people be more active isn’t always about data. “A lot of people just want to be reminded that they are committed to being more active,” he says. “The inspiration and the motivation aren’t coming from the information they are getting, but from the wearing experience.”
I’ll buy that. But the big question is how many aspiring fitness freaks will be happy with this unobtrusive variety of positive reinforcement, and how many care about split times, maps, voice feedback, and the other features that the smartphone-based fitness-tracking apps provide.
“A phone has a gyroscope and a GPS chip, and it’s hard to beat that,” Vu says. “But if you just want to go running, and you don’t want to carry your phone, then wearables are currently the only thing you can do in terms of technology”—at least until smart watches come along.
I’ll probably keep wearing my Shine, if only because syncing it and seeing my daily activity on a chart gives me a little squirt of dopamine. Also, it’s cool-looking, which makes it a conversation starter. But I’d like it even better if it replaced some other gadget in my life. It doesn’t, so I can’t say whether it will have an indefinite claim on my wrist.
By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.