We’ve been waiting patiently for the launch of the Misfit Vapor, its first full screen smartwatch, all year and now it’s nearly upon us with a release date now slated for October.
When we first encountered the device, it was (rather excitingly) running a fresh Misfit OS and boasted specs and features including built-in GPS, activity and sleep tracking and 5 ATM water resistance.
Now it’s an Android Wear watch, with Misfit activity tracking, no sleep tracking and connected GPS that relies on your phone. That might disappoint some spec heads but the end product might also win over some more fans, particularly existing Misfit fans.
On Fossil Group’s IFA stand, we bumped into Preston Moxcey, VP and general manager at Misfit as he was prepping his smartwatch wares for the expo crowds.
We asked him to take us through a few of the changes and if you’re looking for one reason, it’s battery life. Want a second? Misfit decided it wasn’t building a 24/7 tracker or a standalone sports watch.
Care about sleep? Get a tracker
“When it comes to sleep, the reality is that people charge their watch every night,” he told us. “The Vapor’s kind of big, it would be literally the most overbuilt sleep tracker on earth. And it turns out sleep tracking is quite hard, it’s like activity tracking but dialled up to 10. You have to be really sensitive with the sensors. So we took them out and it’s for battery. We wanted to make it last a full day.”
Later in our chat, Moxcey cracked the joke that “it’s also good for our business. If sleep’s important to you, have an activity tracker.
“Part of our thing of always on is tracking all day, there is no display smartwatch which can do that. So we thought that sleep was something we could still do in activity trackers, all the hybrids still do it and they do that well because it’s low power. But we couldn’t get it to work to the level we’re happy with here.”
Misfit users run with their phones
Then to the feature that a few of my colleagues on the site are a little miffed about – built-in GPS has been swapped for connected GPS.
“We’ve talked to a lot of people and the reality is – how many times are you not going to have your phone with you?” said Moxcey. “It’s actually fairly rare. And we know – a much bigger complaint which everyone wants to talk about with all Android Wear watches, all smartwatches is battery life.
“If I want to see a map without getting my phone out, that’s valuable and Android Wear supports that. But actually not taking my phone with me? Most of our consumers are female, most of them feel more comfortable having their phone with them anyway. They basically said – we take our phone, don’t make it do stuff it doesn’t need to do, we’d rather it last every night.”
There are gains to be made making chips and software more efficient but the Misfit GM points out that battery technology hasn’t changed in decades: “GPS is a nightmare, I’m sure you notice on your phone, it gets hot. An iPhone battery loses 15% on one Uber interaction, imagine what this thing [the Vapor] does. We’re getting there but it’s also about listening to consumers.”
Android Wear with Misfit touches
Anyone who was taken with Misfit’s slick-looking OS from our original hands on with the Vapor will be glad to know that there are a few Misfit touches alongside Android Wear.
“We started a long time ago, we thought we were doing some things ourselves.. The funny thing is a lot of it has stayed,” he told us. “There’s some things in here that we actually kept. We have a touch bezel. In Android Wear, when you touch an app, you cover it and can’t see it.
“People only have one hand when they’re wearing a watch so the idea of using the edge of the glass, it’s nice and that’s still there. The way we do activity tracking as an app and not just Google Fit, is still in there and the way that we do weather as a circle as opposed to listing a bunch of cities, is still in there.”
Moxcey explained how this should still feel like a Misfit device, despite the switch to Android Wear: “What we did is we took some things we liked, the circular interface, the way we do activity, weather, the way we do music, all that’s still ours and sitting on top of Android Wear but with their watch faces and apps as opposed to a full stack OS. Which is OK. They’re preloaded, there isn’t anything on the app store you have to go do, it’s our little app sitting in the watch and our watch faces are there anyway.”