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Misft Debuts the Phase Hybrid Smartwatch

TECH

Misft Debuts the Phase Hybrid Smartwatch

Analog wristwatch design with advanced activity-tracking functionality

by David Graver
on 18 October 2016

Plenty of companies in the wearable tech world have shied away from embracing traditional watch design in lieu of bands, bracelets or necklaces. As a relatively new product category—in the grand scheme of things—it's allowed for a clean slate of design sensibilities. And then, a substantial number of brands both in the watch world (like Nixon) and outside of it (Apple and Google) have attempted to overhaul traditional watches. Misfit (which was acquired by Fossil last year) has now made a leap into the hybrid watch world—and the resulting Phase is uncommonly good. Traditional analog watch design gets fused with an array of useful activity-tracking features. The piece itself isn't bulky or ostentatious, ultimately making it very wearable. The brand's previous offerings (like the Shine and Ray) were embraced by the fashion community more so than competitors. These alternative imaginings of wearable tech accessory factor heavily into their debut hybrid watch.

Regarding its wearable tech components, the benefits are two-fold. First, the Phase offers activity-tracking including steps, distance and sleep duration. Misfit attributes the accuracy of the watch's readings to a three-axis accelerometer, comprehensive algorithms and a scientific library. Second, the watch communicates with the wearer's phone. This allows for BlueTooth app connectivity and more. The watch receives text, call and app notifications, all of which appear through subtle watch face activity and vibration alerts. Users can also customize their notifications.

"This is more than our first watch," Timothy Golnik, VP of Product and Design at Misfit explains to CH. "It was the first anyone on the team had designed. We had to go back and understand the history and terminology of watchmaking. It was a huge learning effort first." Golnik notes that it was helpful that they had Fossil so close to their own organization. After extensive multi-brand research and in-depth involvement in the production processes of everything from springs to crystal, they started sketching. "We looked at all the individual components and asked ourselves, 'How do we not just make another watch?'"

One of Phase's most notable features happens to be a hollow minutes hand. Golnik explains this "came from the fact that we wanted to use the hour hand and minutes hand in concert together for the notifications. The minute hand is really only complete when hour hand is covering. This was a way to differentiate it more than where one is longer than other, as seen in traditional watches. Here, it makes them look like they wanted to be nested together." Golnik and his team balances the functional with the whimsical and this flourish was the result. To expand upon this, more than indicate time, these hands, when triggered by one of the pushers, can show activity tracking progress (and they do so together).

Diana Chang, the lead designer on Phase, draws attention to the lugs. She explains that design thinking inspired their "very durable, hardcore hiking gear kind of look." While researching the feature, she asked, "'Why does a watch need to have traditional spring pins in the lugs?' This challenged what we brought there, with more advanced technology and fewer limitations." The resulting sculptural feature, connecting the watch and strap, feels both similar and distinct.

The Phase launches in six colorways, and Golnik explains that he's a man of simple taste. "I like a nice clean colorway. We found a lot of success here was inspired by what we’ve done with our other wearables, where color, material and finish are king. That's what we have to work with." Again, they incorporated visual queues from both the Shine and Ray, but Golnik concludes, "Phase is about a contrast of materials, from the outside aluminum bezel with satin finish, which protects the more delicate polished stainless steel inside. Misift stands for something that is clean, elegant and durable. And our colors speak to that."

The Phase automatically updates the time in each time zone, which is a great feature for frequent travelers. It also boasts a six-month battery life and is water-resistant. While we hope for heart-rate monitoring from Misfit devices one day (movement-tracking is useful but once heart-rate is added, the depth of insight increases substantially) the Phase makes for an ideal entry piece into the world of wearables, especially for people accustomed to wearing a watch. And at its price point, it's hard to beat.

The Phase will be available for purchase via Misfit on 7 November, starting at $175.

Images courtesy of Misfit

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