I could tell the Misfit Ray was gonna be trouble when I couldn’t figure out how to turn it on.
Misfit is taking slim and sleek fitness trackers to the next level with the newest addition the lineup, the US$100 Ray. The band resembles a futuristic androgynous bracelet and doesn’t have a screen, which is why I couldn’t figure out exactly how this activity tracker that doesn’t look like an activity tracker was going to track my activity. The smart part of this bracelet is an aluminum cylinder, which comes in black or rose gold. It's also detachable from its band, as I soon learned.
After trying in vain to pair the Bluetooth Ray to my phone, I realized I was missing something: batteries. Three tiny button cell batteries were buried in the Ray’s packaging, when I stupidly thought they were already placed inside the device. Batteries in hand, I stared at the band. How do I get these little coins inside this little bracelet?
One video tutorial later, I was in business. The Ray was flashing its joyful, multicolored LED light at me, and the thought of using this bracelet to track my activity and sleep for eight months without having to charge it—because the last thing I need is another proprietary charger—should have put me in a cheerful mood.
But the irritations continued. I’ll get to those in a minute.
99 problems but a screen ain’t one
Once it’s powered on, the Ray is easy enough to personalize. In the Misfit iOS app, you set activity and sleep goals and toggle on vibration alerts for calls, texts, alarms, and move reminders. All the vibrations are the same, but the LED lighting on the Ray changes to signal what it’s vibrating for. The Ray is designed to look like an unobtrusive piece of jewelry, so it doesn’t have a display. These lights are how the device communicates with you when you’re not staring at the Misfit app. So how do you know which color corresponds to which alert? Well, finding that out as pretty easy, but remembering it—not so much. Every time my wrist vibrated, I checked my phone to see if it was a text or call. If it wasn’t, I guessed that it was a move reminder. Eventually I just wanted to shut off notifications altogether.
As far as fitness apps go, Misfit’s is one of the most beautifully designed that I’ve used. Your data is synced and laid out as a daily story that you can manually add information that the device doesn’t track, like weight and food intake. Like a journal, you can glance back at data from prior weeks to see if you’ve been meeting your goals.
The Ray just isn’t that accurate at collecting that data. You specify in the app how you’re wearing the device, which can be strapped around your wrist like a normal fitness tracker or removed from its band and worn on a pendant around your neck. You can also swap out the sport band for a leather one, for an extra US$20. Tracking movement from around the neck would be a little dicey, I think, but even worn in typical fashion on the wrist, the Ray never nailed my sleep times or running mileage. Instead of the 3.2 miles I usually run in the morning, the Ray overestimated my mileage by a lot—3.7, usually. I would move around before bed so the Ray knew I wasn’t sleeping, and yet it would still peg my bedtime as being hours earlier than it actually was.
I’m accustomed to wearing fitness trackers to bed to get an overview of my sleep (which is almost disturbingly peaceful). But the Ray kept waking me up in the night, because I could feel aluminum cylinder pressing into the skin on my wrist.
The bottom line
As far as undercover activity trackers go, the Ray is definitely more subtle than the Fitbits and Jawbones of the world. But sacrificing accuracy for the sake of style just leads to irritation.
I prefer the subtlety of fitness bands that look like analog watches—the Withings Activité Steel is a particular favorite of mine. A useful fitness tracker shows you your progress with just a glance at your wrist. If it tells the time, even better. A vibrating alarm and text notifications are the organic cherries on top of a super-healthy sundae made with frozen yogurt instead of good ice cream.
I get what Misfit is going for. I just don’t think the Ray is the best US$100 activity tracker on the market—not even for the style-conscious.