Tag Archive: reviews


shine3

Fitbits. FuelBands. UPs. The market for smart, connected activity trackers continues to get ever-more crowded. And yet, there’s not an obvious winner yet.

Misfit Wearables’ Shine is a new entrant in the space and they may have the most beautifully-designed piece of hardware yet. The company behind the Shine is itself a homage to Apple founder Steve Jobs’ famous “Think Different” campaign and the famous 1997 commercial that began with the line, “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits.

Backed by Founders Fund and Khosla Ventures, the company was co-founded by Sonny Vu, who built up a glucose-monitoring business called Agamatrix that had the first official medical device add-on to the iPhone, and former Apple CEO John Sculley. For a small startup, they have an impressively multi-national team with industrial designers in San Francisco, data scientists in Vietnam and manufacturing in South Korea and Japan.

The Shine is a tiny circle not much larger than a quarter that’s made from Japanese metal or aircraft-grade aluminum. It has LED lights beneath the surface that glow through minuscule holes on the metal itself. Those lights form a ring, indicating how far a person is toward completing their activity goals for the day. You tap the Shine twice to see how much progress you’ve made. If half the lights shine, you’re halfway done. If they complete a circle, then you’ve hit your goal.


I had a chance to test it out for a week or so, tracking everything from regular walks to dancing and downhill mountain biking.

Overall, I love the product. It looks like a piece of jewelry in many ways, and while I’m not an industrial designer myself, several other friends who work in hardware were impressed by the make and form of the Shine.

It is not plastic like a Fitbit. Then because it doesn’t have to be worn as a bracelet like the FuelBand or Jawbone UP, it looks a lot more elegant, especially if you’re a woman and want something more discreet. The Shine is comparable in price to its competitors at $99.95. The Fitbit is about $99.95, the Jawbone UP is $129.99 and the Nike FuelBand is about $150.

The Shine has four different accessories: a wristband, a necklace, a watch and a magnetic clip that makes it easy to attach anywhere, from your shoe to your sleeve to your shirt. My preferred accessory was the magnetic clip, but I didn’t have a chance to try out the necklace or watch.

Throughout the day, the Shine tracks how much you walk or run. It also handles sleep, swimming and cycling, but you have to program it. To do that, you tap the Shine three times, and it will recognize whichever activity you set up in the paired app. Unfortunately, like the other activity trackers, it doesn’t handle yoga (and as someone who practices pretty much every day, the Shine and other competing products are missing out on an hour of physical activity).

The tapping is a bit hard to learn. Sometimes I would tap with two fingers and sometimes with three. Sometimes the Shine would misinterpret a few taps as a signal to record a different type of activity instead of showing me my results so far. You can also use it to tell time with different lights glowing to represent the hour and minute hands of a watch.

“The data science to get the double tap is hard,” Vu told me. “There is no on and off button for the Shine and everything is powered by sensors.”

Indeed, the only way to turn the Shine off is for the battery to run out or for you to remove it.

That underscores the huge benefit of the Shine, which is that it doesn’t need to be charged every few days or weeks. It has a simple coin cell battery that needs to be replaced once every four to six months. It’s also waterproof to a depth of 50 meters. I dunked it in a river in the Sierra Nevadas this weekend and it came out fine, but you could theoretically scuba dive with it, too.

The data transfer to the iPhone is also beautiful. You can see how it works below. The Shine uses a simple Bluetooth connection, and the app directs you to place the Shine on a circle on the iPhone app’s screen. Circles radiate outward before the iPhone picks up the activity data in the Shine.


The paired app tells you how many points you’ve achieved in a day. The Shine doesn’t do “steps” because it would be hard to swim in steps. The middle-range goal of 1,000 points per day requires walking for 1.5 hours, running for 35 minutes or swimming for 25. You can move points higher as you please.

Overall, I was really happy with the product. It is just that much more beautiful looking than the standard Fitbit or FuelBand. For women who are turned off by the look of the bracelet trackers, it’s probably the ideal choice.

The Misfit Shine is only compatible with the iPhone for now, which was surely disappointing for Android-using supporters of the Shine who backed it on Indiegogo.

The company had a successful campaign on the crowdfunding site late last fall where they racked up 8,000 supporters in 64 countries, hit their goal in nine hours and went on to raise $850,000. That was nearly nine times as much as they targeted. Like many other hardware startups, Misfit Wearables used crowdfunding more as a marketing strategy than as a capital source. Misfit had no problem raising from some of the Valley’s better-known VC firms, and this product shows why.

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When Apple said it had a lot to cover today, they were not kidding. In addition to unveiling a new iPad mini and releasing Mavericks as a free update, among other things, the company also revealed new versions of iLife and iWork for its desktop and mobile operating systems.

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Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, took to the stage today to introduce the refreshed iLife and iWorks apps, saying, “This is the biggest day for apps in Apple’s history.”

All apps have been redesigned to take advantage of OS X Mavericks and iOS 7, and have been updated to 64-bit and integrated with iCloud. The new software will be free with the purchase of any new Mac or iOS device.

ILife, iPhoto, iMovie and Garage Band now offer a simpler and cleaner design. Of the apps, Garage Band received the biggest update. Garage Band for iOS now supports 16 tracks (up from eight). If you have an iPhone 5s or a new iPad, that number jumps up to 32. You can also share songs via AirDrop or work on tracks on multiple devices via iCloud. On the desktop version, a new feature called Drummer adds a variety of drummers that can play along with your songs.

In iPhoto, you can now create photobooks on your mobile device and then have a hard copy shipped to you from Apple. Meanwhile, a feature in iMovie called Movie Theater allows you to watch your iMovie clips across multiple devices as long as they’re stored in the cloud. On the mobile side, you also get picture-in-picture and split-screen options, the ability to speed up or slow down clips and other editing tools.

On the productivity side, the new iWork, which includes Keynote, Pages and Numbers, brings full file compatibility and the ability to collaborate with others via iCloud – a move that puts Apple closer in step with Google and Microsoft in this area.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fitness bands are a dime a dozen these days. Everyone has one, it seems, from audio manufacturers like Jawbone to upstarts like Fitbit and Basis. Now the EB Sports Group, a company that makes fitness devices under a number of brands including Everlast and Men’s Health. I’ve historically been wary of “no name” bands like this one – bands that are created to cash in on a trend rather than from an effort to create a software/hardware ecosystem, but I’ll give this unit a pass for a few reasons.

The most interesting aspect of the Burn is its 1-year battery life. As a regular Fitbit user, I would kill for a device with a fully readable screen that can last longer than two weeks, let alone 365 days. The device is basically a digital watch and is about the size of the Pebble smart watch. The button on the top right controls the readout – you can tag workouts, see your hourly energy expenditure, and see exercise history. The lower right button activates the sync features which, in turn, activates a low energy Bluetooth transmitter.

There is a central button on the bottom of the watch that doubles as a read-out control and heart rate monitor. You can scroll through calories burned, steps taken, and miles walked. If you press and hold the button, however, the watch measures your heart rate. This, in turn, helps estimate calories burned. It’s a wonky system and you have to press fairly hard with your thumb to get a reading but – and this is important – it works 99% of the time and helps conserve the battery.

The Burn is a product of trade-offs. It is a unique product – a quick visit to Alibaba didn’t turn up any similar, unbadged watches – and I’m pleased with the battery life and simplicity of use. To really get the most out of the device, however, you can sync it with an app called MapMyFitness, a free app (with a $29.99/hear training add-on that comes free with the watch for six months) that tracks your runs. By syncing with the app you can simply add your daily walks to the MapMyFitness database. You essentially get a screen like this:

Obviously this isn’t much better than any similar pedometer product but the heartrate monitor built in puts it on par with more expensive devices, like the Basis, and the lower-priced, $99 Withings Pulse. At $130, however, I’m hard pressed to recommend this over, say, a Fitbit Flex or the Pulse. Because of the odd choice to support only MapMyFitness, a popular but not particularly well-integrated piece of software, and the weird method for actually measuring the heart rate, the watch could end up being more trouble than its worth.

I used this primarily as a pedometer, checking my heartrate rarely during the day. To sit there and press and hold a thumb on the sensor is unfortunately too distracting while, say, taking or a walk or going to the gym. I far preferred the Basis’ always-on sensor or even the Fitbit’s overall passivity.

In terms of styling the Burn looks like any other sports watch with a nice red and black color scheme. The screen is a bit dark and unreadable at acute angles but I always enjoyed being able to read my steps taken with a simple direct glance at the watch, something almost none of the other fitness devices offer.

What’s the bottom line? If you’re a fan of MapMyFitness, this could be a solid addition to your regimen. If you’re a fan of a more developed ecosystem I’d recommend the Basis, Nike+, or Fitbit over this device. It’s a clever, nicely built sport-watch/fitness band but it just doesn’t have the depth of data and support afforded by other devices.

E-Reader vs. iPad

Q:

My wife started reading e-books downloaded from the library on her iPad 2. Indoors the print is very readable, but it loses some of the sharpness in bright light. Some of her friends suggested the Kindle Paperwhite as a better reader in all types of light. What is your opinion?

A:

All current color tablets use a screen technology that washes out in sunlight and can become almost unreadable in direct, bright sunlight. The Kindle monochrome e-readers, including the Paperwhite, use a different technology that does well in all kinds of light. However, I have never noticed any degradation of screen readability on iPads or other quality color tablets in bright indoor light.

Q:

Is it fair to say that the iPad Air, like its predecessors, is designed more for content consumption than content creation, and that someone who really needs a computer but also wants a tablet (and can’t afford both) would do better with something like the new Surface?

A:

The iPad can be a fine productivity and creativity tool, with or without an accessory keyboard, depending on the app you are using. Business email and calendars, or the editing of office documents, work fine on the iPad, as do many drawing applications. You can even sign legal documents on it electronically. However, if you are looking for all the functions of a PC, a full Windows 8 tablet like the Surface 2 Pro would be a better choice, because it runs all the programs a Windows computer does.

Q:

In the new Mac OS X operating system, Mavericks, it appears it is not possible to sync Notes, Contacts and other data using iTunes via a cable connection. Is this true?

A:

Yes. Apple says: “In Mavericks, OS X syncs Contacts, Calendars and Notes using iCloud.” (That’s Apple’s Internet cloud service.) The company adds that, if you make changes to your data and don’t have access to the Internet, OS X will sync the data the next time an Internet connection is available.

Email Walt at mossberg@wsj.com.

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