Review: Diving in and popping out with Misfit’s Shine 2 (Swimmer's Edition)

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We jump in with the Speedo-powered Misfit Shine 2 (Swimmer's Edition)(Credit: Simon Crisp/New Atlas)

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When Misfit launched a swimming-focussed version of its Shine fitness tracker, it was a hit with those who get most of their exercise in the pool rather than on land. The Misfit Shine 2 Swimmer's Edition is an enhanced follow-up which we recently spent some time trying out. Read on to see how we got on with it.

The Misfit Shine 2 updated the original with new features such as call and text notifications via vibrations and the updated halo of lights which can now display a variety of different colors. The Shine 2 also gained remote control abilities like those on the Misfit Flash Link.

The new US$120 Misfit Shine 2 Swimmer's Edition builds on that model by offering the same sort of swimming-focused update that the Speedo Shine added to the original Shine. This time that includes a lap-counting feature which uses a Speedo-approved algorithm for accurate in-pool tracking, and a countdown swim timer which lets you know when it's time to get out of the pool. Current Misfit Shine 2 users can get the same features via a $9.99 in-app purchase.

In the hand, the Misfit Shine 2 Swimmer's Edition – which is sometimes called the Speedo Shine 2 – looks much like the Misfit original, and the Shine 2. Unless you flip the aircraft-grade, anodized aluminum disc around and see the Speedo logo on the rear you'd be hard pushed to tell them apart. However, when it lights up, the 12 upgraded multicolor LEDs shine to reveal that this is the new model.

Users are not limited to wearing the device on the wrist, and can choose how to wear the tracker depending on what they are doing. It comes with a sports band strap, along with an action clip to stop it falling out (more on that soon!) and a clasp which allows it to be clipped onto clothing. There's also the ability to wear it around the neck like a necklace thanks to an optional extra.

While the disc itself is uber stylish and well made, the same can't be said of the bundled straps. You get black and white sports bands in the box, but these don't feel anything like the quality of the disc itself. Luckily there are smarter optional extras like a leather strap which makes the Shine 2 feel more like a quality watch than a cheap activity tracker.

During our time with the Misfit Shine 2 Swimmer's Edition, we found that it was lightweight enough that we were able to wear it all day without issue. Even wearing it overnight was comfortable, and with a six-month rechargeable battery you don't then have to worry about finding time to charge it. As the LED lights can flash with hours and minutes to display the time to within five minutes, it can also replace a watch – though we found this took a while to get used to, and never stopped feeling slightly pretentious.

The device is, however, ridiculously simple to use for fitness tracking. Once you are wearing it, you simply go about your day as it counts your steps, distance and calories. This is then converted to Misfit points to chart your progress towards an activity goal. If you want to check on your progress throughout the day, a quick double-tap on the Shine 2 will let you know via the lights. If they all shine, you have met your target.

We set a goal of 2,000 points which equates to 3.5 hours of walking, running for 1 hour, or swimming for 1.5 hours. However, daily goals can range from 100 (a 10-minute walk) to 5,000 points (3 hours of running), with 1,000 points (a 2-hour walk, 30-minute run, or 45-minute swim) being the suggested level to aim for.

The Shine 2 is able to auto-detect periods of activity which are logged and can be accessed on the Misfit app (iOS, Android, or Windows Phone). These will automatically show up as light, moderate or vigorous activity. You can then edit the entry to better log what you were doing, if it was one of the selectable activities of swimming, cycling, running, basketball, soccer or tennis.

If you want to log the exercise yourself as you embark on it, there are a couple of ways to do this. The most comprehensive way is to use the app to add an activity from the aforementioned list, plus walking, yoga, or dancing (so you can claim that evening hitting the dance floor was for exercise, not fun). There's the option to start and stop the activity as you go, or to record the times you were doing it.

You can also set the Shine 2 to log a specific type of exercise when you tap it three times. We used this option for swimming, where we didn't have our phone to hand. While the Misfit Shine 2 Swimmer's Edition doesn't try to be as clever as some rival fitness trackers – there's no heart rate monitoring or GPS – it is surprisingly accurate. When logging a run, it did a good job of matching steps and distance info with other trackers like the Garmin Vivoactive HR which use more sensors to gather its data.

Most people looking at this waterproof and Speedo co-branded tracker will be doing so because they get a good portion of their exercise in the pool (open water swimming isn't tracked). When logging a swim, you use the app to enter the length of the pool you are swimming in and then jump in. A Speedo-approved algorithm then works to count your laps, and does a good job of it. In our tests the lap count was always within one or two of the tally we were keeping in our head. A countdown timer which vibrates can also be used to tell you when you've been in the pool for a set time.

This is great if you want to know how far you have swum, but it's important to recognize what it's not. The Misfit Shine 2 Swimmer's Edition doesn't tell you your individual lap times, or stroke count, and neither will it identify what stroke you were doing. If you want that sort of functionality, you are still better of with a swim-specific tracker like the Garmin Swim.

That said, the Misfit Shine 2 Swimmer's Edition does have another couple of non-swimming features worth noting. Sleep tracking will log your periods of light and restful sleep, and it does it as decently as most other wrist-worn trackers. There's also an inactivity alarm to tell you when you've been sitting on your butt too long, and a silent alarm which is good for waking you up in the morning if you don't want an audio alarm also waking your bed-mate.

The ring of LEDs on the Shine 2 can be used to notify you of incoming calls and texts from a paired smartphone, though obviously are less informative than a screen which can also display text. Finally, a neat trick of the Misfit is to act as a remote button – like the Misfit Flash Link – to take a photo on a paired phone, control music playback, or even control an IFTTT trigger. We used it to turn off the living rooms lights at night.

While we enjoyed our time with the Misfit Shine 2 Swimmer's Edition, we encountered one big problem, and ridiculously it was due to the most simple part, the wrist band. On a good six or seven occasions during our month with the tracker, the aluminum disc fell out of the wrist band. This happened when we were putting on a jacket, swinging a backpack over a shoulder, and once, when running.

This had been a known problem with the original Shine, and we'd hoped Misfit had sorted it with the addition of the action clip – a bit of plastic designed specifically to hold the disc in place. But it hasn't. On one of the occasions the disc fell out (while using the action clip on the band) we didn't initially notice and had to resort to spending 90 minutes retracing our steps while running a Misfit Finder app to locate it.

The fact these apps exist probably tells you all you need to know about how common a problem this is. Misfit tells us this is something the team is working on, and that adjustments are in the works with accessories. We'd suggest that until this issue has been sorted, you might want to hold off buying one.

This is a shame, because if it hadn't been for this problem we'd be saying that the Misfit Shine 2 Swimmer's Edition is a good option for people who want a simple-to-use waterproof activity tracker, without sacrificing on style. At $120 it does the basics well, and makes it easy for people who don't want to get bogged down in settings and excessive exercise data … if they can manage not to lose their tracker.

More serious exercisers who want to do things including monitor their heart rate, know their running cadence, or check maps of where they've cycled, will still be better served by devices like the Garmin Vivoactive HR or Samsung Gear Fit 2.

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