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The Misfit Phase is a simple yet classy analog watch that has a few hidden tricks. It will track your steps and sleep, notify you when you get a call or text on your phone, and even provide limited control over some smart home devices. Despite some intriguing features, however, there are other smart analog watches that perform many of those same tasks better.
From the outside, Misfit's new Phase smartwatch offers more watch than smarts. The model I tried out had a black case and leather band, accented with a rose gold-lined bezel and traditional watch fastener. The rose gold color was closer to copper, which I prefer to a pinkish tone, and I found the whole package attractive but simple, complementing dressed-up and dressed-down outfits.
Like the Withings Steel HR, the Phase has physical hands that show you the time. Two low-profile buttons activate smart functions on the watch, and a tiny window at the 6 o'clock mark changes color to indicate what type of notification you're receiving.
The Phase’s thickness, at a 0.51 inches, gives it away as a smartwatch. Inside, there's a vibration motor for notifications, an accelerometer to track movement, Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone and a coin cell battery that Misfit says can last up to six months. The case is also waterproof and can withstand being submerged in water to about 164 feet deep. Still, it's a pretty thick device; the Withings Steel HR, which is a hair thinner at 0.5 inches, manages to fit in a heart rate monitor.
I found that the biggest downside, designwise, was that I couldn't see the time in the dark, but that's the case for other analog watches as well.
The Phase’s list price is $175 with a sport band or $195 with a leather band. You can buy sport bands separately for $25 each. Leather bands cost $40, and a three-strap pack goes for $60 and includes leather, woven nylon and silicone bands in a variety of colors.
The buttons on the right side of the Misfit Phase give you access to the features that are really smart. When you press the top button, the hands glide into a position that shows you what percentage of your daily activity goal you've reached. A double press will show you the time when your next vibrating alarm will go off.
There are preset control modes that let you use the bottom button to perform certain tasks with a single, double, triple or long press. In the app, you'll set whether you want the button to control audio playback, act as a remote control to take a picture from your smartphone, or to start and stop tracking an activity that you set as your favorite. You can also set the button to control certain smart home functions, such as triggering an activity from a Logitech Harmony hub, launching an IFTTT applet or changing a Nest thermostat to Home or Away.
MORE: Best Smart Home Devices
The Misfit Phase can alert you to calls, texts, emails, calendar events and updates from Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and other social networks. You'll receive them as a vibration, and the color showing through the window at the 6 o'clock mark will change.
The app lets you color code different notifications so you can tell a text notification from an email notification, for instance. You won't be able to change the color code for calls and texts, but you can set up notifications for specific contacts and pick a color to indicate other notifications. You'll also see the watch arms waving back and forth at you near the 10 and 2 marks when you receive an alert — a little feature that I found endearing.
The watch's vibration level seemed just right, as well; it wasn't so intense that it made a lot of noise, but it also wasn't so light that I might miss it. The Withings Steel HR’s small display also shows a person’s name and number when you receive a call or text, which is much more helpful.
The Misfit Phase tracks steps, distance traveled and estimated calories burned. Instead of aiming for a specific number of steps per day, like you would with many other devices, you'll be prompted to set an activity goal earning between zero and 3,000 points per day. When I set up my Phase, I used the suggested goal of 1,000 points, which equates to 1 hour, 40 minutes of walking, 45 minutes of running or 33 minutes of swimming, according to the app. While 1 hour, 40 minutes of walking sounds daunting, all of my steps added up throughout the day, so that my walks to and from the subway and a walk during lunchtime got me close to that goal. The Phase overcounted my steps though, logging 520 steps when I took 500.
You can log other activities manually in the Misfit app, where you can choose from cycling, swimming, soccer, tennis, basketball, yoga and dancing. You'll specify whether your performance was mild, moderate or intense to get a rough sense of how many calories you burned, since — unlike the Steel HR — there's no heart rate monitor to automatically measure and factor in intensity.
Since the Phase lacks a heart rate monitor, it relies solely on an accelerometer to track your sleep quality. Based on the movements that it picks up, Misfit automatically estimates how much time you've spent in light sleep, deep sleep or up at night. If the Phase records the wrong times you went to bed at night and got up in the morning, you can adjust your sleep hours in the Misfit app.
Sleep estimates seemed off, however, when I compared sleep logged with the Phase vs. a Fitbit Charge 2. According to data picked up by the Phase on a particular night, I slept 7 hours, 30 minutes — significantly more than my own estimate. The Fitbit, which uses both an accelerometer and heart rate monitor to detect when you’re sleeping, interpreted my sleep duration as 6 hours, 32 minutes, which was closer to reality, since I woke up, but stayed relatively still, a few times before the crack of dawn.
MORE: Best Sleep Apps
The Misfit app was a bit confusing to navigate. Unlike the more streamlined app that works with the Withings Steel HR, I had to really dig through it just to find out how to change my activity goal. It's hidden in an untitled drop-down menu that you have to tap on in the Profile tab.
Once your goal is set up, the first thing you'll see when you open the app is the number of points you've earned so far for the day. You'll also see the approximate distance you've covered, calories burned, steps you've taken and how much more you need to walk, run or swim to reach your goal. A separate view will show you a chart with the times of day when you earned the most points.
When viewing a list of your activities during the day, there's an option to minimize the view of each activity by tapping on the icon next to those stats. The app defaults to the expanded view, however, which requires more scrolling. There's also no clear indication that the view can be minimized.
You can also see a chart of your sleep for the night, which differentiates light sleep from deep sleep and time spent awake.
A handy Ring My Phone feature in the app lets you "call" your phone with your watch to find it, though you'll have to have the sound on to hear it from under a pile of clothes or papers.
Unlike with Fitbit’s devices, you'll have to manually sync the Phase when you open the Misfit app. Misfit says that to preserve battery power, there's no option to sync in the background, which is a minor inconvenience.
The Misfit app syncs with Google Fit, MyFitnessPal, MapMyFitness, Runkeeper, Lose It and others, so you can keep all of your data updated in each app.
The Misfit phase runs on a CR2430 coin cell battery that should last about six months, according to the company, so you technically don't have to take it off at all during that time. To let your wrist breathe and to clean the watch, however, you'll want to.
The Misfit Phase is an attractive, minimalist, analog watch that gives you smartphone notifications and may be especially handy for those who have smart home devices linked to a Harmony hub, but its lack of a display and having to rely on your smartphone every time you receive a notification could be a turnoff for some. While it can’t control smart home devices, the $180 Withings Steel HR can also track your heart rate and deliver smartphone notifications in a smaller, sleeker package.
Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's Guide; Screenshots: Misfit
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Althea Chang is Associate Director of Content Development for Consumer Reports and was previously a Senior Writer for Tom's Guide, covering mobile devices, health and fitness gadgets and car tech.