Misfit's new Phase watch is simply smart

Misfit's new Phase watch is simply smart

One of the great paradoxes of technology is that the more it winds its way into our lives, with promises of simplifying and improving them, the more we seem to resent it. Raise your hand if you are out of bandwidth (both literal and figurative) for yet another app meant to help you book a flight, catch a fish or save a marriage.

As the encroachments become more pervasive, consumers will continue to crave true simplicity. That's something the new Misfit Phase watch gets right: It looks like a watch and tells time like a watch — and in this day and age, that's really kind of nice.

December marks the first holiday push for Misfit since it was purchased by Fossil Group for $260 million in 2015, and its first smartwatch, which retails for $175 to $195, appears decidedly — gasp! — analogue, with a traditional-looking steel face and leather strap.

But this being a smartwatch, the Misfit Phase has goodies. Instead of a touchscreen, it features a button on the case edge that lets users toggle through different modes to help you keep track of your day and your health.

The Phase can track your steps, distance traveled and calories burned. It also lights up and vibrates for incoming text and call notifications. With no touch display, the Phase indicates who's trying to reach you through the minute and hour hands, which point to the hour numbers you've assigned to your contacts. So if your buddy Alex (aka 4 o'clock) texts to say she'll meet you at the burrito place, the watch hands will move to the 4 o'clock position when the message comes in.

Smart button integration lets users do things like take selfies and connect to the Misfit Bolt, a wireless "smart bulb" that creates personalized room lighting with color-mixing technology. Plus, the Phase lets users create IFTTT recipes, like logging your physical activity into a Google spreadsheet or keeping track of your sleep hours in Google Calendar.

The Phase can also switch songs on a linked smartphone and nudge the office-bound to get up and move if they've been stationary for too long. And it's waterproof up to 164 feet.

"But how's the battery life?" comes the sobering cry of the masses. In short: It's good. It runs on a normal watch battery, which can last up to six months.

Like the people who use them, wearables are treading over constantly shifting terrain. Fitbit has been trading at 70% under its IPO from summer 2015, with North American sales slow in recent months. Apple is hoping to increase its 40% market share of the smartwatch industry with the recent release of its Apple Watch Series 2.

In this market landscape, the Phase has the potential for crossover success, appealing to traditional watch enthusiasts and those who like sleek technology without too much overload. It's not for everyone — "We are not for everyone," is literally a statement from Misfit's brand manifesto — but if you're looking for a smartwatch that keeps it simple, the Phase can help you navigate an already busy day, without constantly interrupting it.

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