Misfit Vapor first look: Designer looks with a sporty interior

The days of Misfit only making fitness trackers are over. That doesn’t mean it’s abandoning making more Rays or Shines, but since the startup was bought up by the Fossil Group, it’s turned its attention to smartwatches. It’s already launched the Misfit Phase, its first hybrid smartwatch. Now it’s getting more ambitious with the Misfit Vapor, a full-fat smartwatch that’s moving firmly into Apple Watch Series 2 and Samsung Gear S3 territory.

The Android and iOS-friendly Vapor is a circular smartwatch with a full touchscreen display. It’s packed with fitness focused features including built-in GPS and an optical heart rate monitor. The most interesting aspect here though is that Misfit is making its own operating system. While the hardware is pretty much good to go, it’s the software that Misfit tells us still needs some work before it launches later in 2017.

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Building on the design cues of the Phase and clearly taking some inspiration from Fossil’s legion of watch brands, it’s no surprise to find that the Vapor looks great up close. It’s one of the best-looking smartwatches I’ve seen for some time and reminds me a lot of the Moto 360, with its sleek stainless steel frame and stylish interchangeable straps. Unlike Motorola’s Android Wear smartwatch, there’s no sign of that ugly black tyre at the bottom of the screen.

Misfit Vapor first look: Designer looks with a sporty interior

There’s just a single physical button on the side and that’s essentially your means to turn the 1.39-inch OLED display on and off. When it’s on, it’s an absolute beaut with rich, deep blacks that really help the Vapor’s UI stand out. While it’s virtually impossible to notice, there’s also a touch bezel surrounding the screen that creates a Samsung Tizen-esque feel to navigating the OS and it feels very slick.

The only other redeeming physical feature to mention is the optical heart rate monitor, which is around the back of the watch. Now we know that wrist based heart rate sensors have been more bad than good in terms of accuracy. The Vapor doesn’t go big on data like heart rate zones and Misfit says we shouldn’t be comparing this to high end performance sports watches. That to me suggests that it may well face some of the same issues we’ve encountered with other smartwatches when the heart rate sensor is really pushed to the limits.

Misfit Vapor first look: Designer looks with a sporty interior

It does at least have a good array of fitness focused hardware with the standard 3-axis accelerometer on board and waterproofing matching the Ray and Shine fitness trackers for resistance. While there’s the potential to offer the same swim tracking features found on the Misfit Speedo Shine 2 and the Ray, it’s not been built in just yet.

And so to the software. Misfit has decided to go it alone, which seems like a bold move and could ultimately dictate whether the Vapor is smartwatch success story in the making. It’s an operating system that promises applications, notifications and the ability to transfer music over to the watch.

The problem is that we don’t really know how all of the aspects of the OS will work just yet. What we do know that the UI looks clean, apps launch quickly and it mirrors a lot of the good work Misfit has done with its companion smartphone app.

Misfit Vapor first look: Designer looks with a sporty interior

There’s elements here that we’ve seen on other smartwatches as well, like the ability to press down on the screen to quickly change watch faces and there’s also widgets. You can swipe around the display as well to circle through native apps for weather, contacts, music, checking on heart rate and launching run tracking.

Ultimately though, there’s still a lot of questions to be answered on the software front. And until we know more, it’s difficult to know if Misfit can really give Apple, Samsung and Google’s Android Wear partners a run for their money. It certainly looks the part and I’d definitely wear it. I just hope that that Misfit can deliver on everything else to really give it a chance of succeeding.