Misfit often gets overlooked. Maybe it's because the company doesn't have the legacy of Garmin or the scale and reputation of Fitbit, but either way, it's not a company that should be written off. Fossil Group recently acquired Misfit, and the acquisition makes sense. Misfit's products have always been minimalist without sacrificing the basic features that all activity trackers are expected to have.
The company's $99 Ray is no different—in fact, it's Misfit's most stylish tracker. It doesn't have the necklace chains or wrapped bracelet attachments that the Shine 2 has; instead, it's a simple band paired with a module that masks all of its connectivity. With the Ray, Misfit is still sticking to what it knows best: small, subtle trackers that do all the basics. But as more companies try to strike a compelling balance between fitness and fashion, Misfit has strong competition to live up to.
The Flash and Shine trackers have always been small and simple, but the Ray steps it up in terms of design and materials. Its tubular module is made of aircraft-grade aluminum, and it supports TPU and genuine leather bands. The Ray's bands are arguably the thinnest of any current fitness tracker, making it look and feel more like a bracelet than a typical device. In the coming months, Misfit will release more bands for the Ray—in addition to necklace attachments so you can wear the Ray around your neck.
The Ray is water-resistant up to 50 meters, and the three biggest pieces of tech inside it are the tri-axis accelerometer, the single multicolored LED, and the vibration motor. Its battery is a small button cell that sits inside the tube, and it will last about four to six months depending on how many alerts you use daily. Since it doesn't have a heart rate monitor, there's no need to wear the Ray uncomfortably tight around your wrist. I like wearing bracelets loosely, and I was able to stack the Ray on my wrist along with a few other bracelets.
The small LED on the Ray is the only thing that would really give it away as a smart device; it could otherwise pass as a piece of jewelry. Companies are struggling to make devices that are more fashionable and wearable than traditional activity trackers. For example, Fitbit's recently released $129 Alta has a rectangular module at the center (with a full touch display) and can be worn with a number of silicone or leather bands that get snapped into either side of the module. The Alta and the Ray look similar, but you can immediately tell that the Alta is a device of some sort—it's the display that gives it away. The Ray matches better with the rest of my jewelry.
You definitely lose some functionality when you remove a display (in the Alta's case, the display lets you tap through the time, steps, calories, and distance), but something like the Ray is meant to complement your other wrist-bound accessories—not replace them. I have the freedom to wear my favorite watch, a bracelet, and the Ray all on the same wrist, without any one object looking out of place.
Misfit packs all of the essentials into the Ray. The device monitors steps, calories, and distance on a daily basis, and it automatically recognizes whenever you're doing one particular activity for an extended period of time. After I got home from the gym one morning, I found multiple activity durations recorded in the Misfit app; it recognized when I was walking to and from the gym and when I was on the stepper and treadmill. Unlike the Alta, which uses Fitbit's SmartTrack to categorize those recorded activities by exercise, the Ray can only see whether you've been exercising at all—it can't differentiate between running, cycling, or other activities. However, you can label each recorded workout in the app afterward.
You can set alarms and fully customizable inactivity alerts, which are delivered by a singular LED and a vibration motor. Currently, the Ray only receives call and text alerts from your smartphone, so you won't be able to get calendar alerts like you can with the Alta.
It might seem odd to pit the Fitbit Alta and the Misfit Ray against each other. They're not the same price—the Ray is $99 and Alta is $129—but they do similar things, and they're both meant to be "stylish" alternatives to more conventional fitness bands. And the Alta can only do a few things that the Ray can't: the Alta can recognize exactly what activity you're doing automatically, it can receive calendar alerts, and it can display the time and current stats on its touchscreen.
I used both of the devices while reviewing the Ray, and they both work well and do exactly what they claim to do. I can see how the touch display would be enough for Fitbit to charge $30 more, but aside from that, I don't think the other differences are that major. If you prefer your fitness tracker to have a display that you can use to quickly glean stats and time from, you'll feel a little lost with the Ray. Nonetheless, anyone who has considered the Alta should give the Ray a good look, especially if having a fashion-forward device is important to you.
That said, both the Ray and the Alta are limited in fitness features when compared to the $79 Moov Now. That device is made to train you to be better at certain activities, including running, boxing, and swimming, with its live voice trainer and interactive app. It also looks quite like Misfit's Shine 2—a round disk held on your wrist with a stretchy band. The Moov Now is definitely the device to go with if there are specific workouts you want to perfect.
Misfit made the Ray compatible with its Link functions as well. Link basically turns the Misfit trackers into multipurpose remote controls—you can set functions for double- and triple-taps of the device. By default, a double-tap will make the Ray's one LED light up to show your activity progress for the day, but you can customize the triple-tap function. Link lets you connect to apps like Harmony, IF, and Yo, and you can also control Misfit's Bolt smart light bulb, your smartphone's music playback, and camera. I programmed mine so that every triple-tap would make my iPhone 6 ring so I can easily find it around my apartment. The Link app does have to be running in the background for these extra features to work, so don't exit out of it completely.