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Hands-on: Misfit’s Vapor GPS Watch

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Here at CES, Misfit has significantly upped their activity tracker game by diving into the GPS watch realm.  The company, known for their lightweight and fashionable wearables, announced a new $200 GPS sport watch set to release later this year.

I got a bit of hands-on time earlier this week, getting the chance to poke at the watch and see where it stands – so let’s dive right into it.  Just to be super-clear though first, this isn’t a review.  Nor anything like it.  It’s just an early and brief look at the unit in very beta form.

The Tech Details:

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The first thing you’ll notice about the Vapor is the stunning display on it.  It has the visual appeal and color vividness that you see on an Apple Watch.  It really is impressive.

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The 1.4” AMOLED touchscreen displays apps within the watch, which are arranged on a rotating menu along the top.  The watch, which is based on Android (but not Android Wear), doesn’t support 3rd party apps within the menu at this time.  Misfit says they’re focused on the core watch experience for now, inclusive of fitness and non-fitness apps.

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For example, the unit has a workout app (i.e. for running), as well as apps for music, contacts, calendar, messages, and weather.  The running app, like a number of apps, wasn’t complete/functional yet on the unit I tried.  So there wasn’t any method to dive into the GPS any deeper.

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In the case of music, the unit has 4GB of internal storage, of which about 2GB is usable for music (roughly a few hundred songs).  Vapor doesn’t contain a speaker, but instead connects to Bluetooth devices such as headphones or speakers.  They were able to demo this part to a nearby portable Bluetooth speaker and it worked pretty well.

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The watch has a microphone on the side, enabling you to take voice notes.  You can’t however use it for completing calls (à la Apple Watch).  Like other activity trackers, you’ll receive smartphone notifications – though it’s just for reading.  There won’t be a method to respond natively on the watch to them.

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Of course, with such a stunning display you’re going to take a solid whack on battery life.  The watch comes in at 2 days of battery life, which is basically in the same ballpark in real-world usage as many Android Wear watches, or the Apple Watch Series 2 units (+/- 8 hours).  With Vapor, the company is aiming for 5 hours of GPS-on time.  Their goal there was to allow a user to complete a marathon, and 5 hours will cover most folks.

You may remember Misfit’s integration and partnerships with Speedo on some of their past devices, both in terms of software as well as branded models.  Whether that integration will occur for Vapor hasn’t yet been decided upon by either company.  Though it sounds like one way or another Misfit will ensure indoor swim support is covered within the software functionality, similar to how it was previous to Speedo’s involvement.

Wrapping up the sports piece, the Vapor does include an optical HR sensor on the back which will primarily be used for sports/workouts.  The degree to which it might be used for 24×7 mode is up in the air still.

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At the planned $200 price point, it would be one of the lowest priced mainstream options inclusive of music, GPS, and optical HR.  Right now that feature-set puts you in the $250-$300 range for brands like TomTom (Spark 3) and Polar (M600 – Android Wear), as well as some of the other Android Wear players.

Of course, ‘later 2017’ is a heck of a long ways off, and there are numerous companies that have announced products recently or here at CES (such as New Balance) that are going to be competing for those same dollars, but doing so a whole lot sooner.

Hands-on Video:

Wanna check out that pretty display in full 4K glory?  No problem – I’ve got you covered.  Below you’ll find how I spent some of my hands-on time with the unit, as well as a look at a portion of the 200+ other watch models that the Fossil group is releasing this year.  You know, in case you need more variety in your life.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the channel, ensuring you get all the latest video goodness as soon as it hits!

Going Forward:

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It’ll be interesting to see if and how Misfit’s able to move this device from beta to shipping.  There are certainly a number of skeptics, and some for good reason.  Making a sport GPS watch isn’t as easy as it sounds, and getting traction in the crowded wearables market is even harder.  Having a product launch ‘later 2017’, is a heck of a long time away.  And having the name Vapor doesn’t help (given the common term vaporware for unreleased products that never make it to fruition).

Still, with Misfit being owned by Fossil now, they certainly have the financial resources to make this happen.  It’s whether or not they have the engineering resources that’s more the question.  Fossil Group’s wearable experience for smartphone connected devices is strong, but they simply don’t have anything in this same ballpark when it comes to complexity.  Building their own user interface instead of just leveraging Android Wear 2.0 seems like a risky move.

But more competition in this marketplace is good – especially well priced competition like this.  If they can succeed and introduce a stable product later this year in time for the holidays, that could do quite well – especially given Misfit’s broad reach in distribution, including big box stores like Best Buy.

With that – thanks for reading!

Don’t forget to check out all the CES 2017 coverage, as well as continual updates throughout the day on Twitter.  It’s gonna be a crazy busy week!

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29 Comments

  1. Pang

    Hi Ray, it’d be great that you clearly state if the hr function works with swimming earlier in your reviews. I think this is a deal-breaker for many swimmers. Please consider this and us. Thanks.

    • Yup, when it’s known, I do always state it in the review within the appropriate section.

      In this case, it’s not a review – and the company themselves doesn’t yet know.

      Cheers.

  2. Slowmo

    You should tag all CES related posts identically, especially if you are linking to tag CES2017 at the end of each post. For example this post is tagged ces2017 instead of CES2017 and previous one about Suunto watch is tagged ces-2017. I’m monitoring CES2017 tag for changes to get notified whenever there are changes, but this does not work well, if tag is different for each post.

    • Hmm, I show them all as identical.

      Each post is tagged with both CES, and CES2017 (no spaces or dashes, I never use dashes). The only exception appears to be the GoPro Karma one, which I forgot to tag with either tag (just fixed).

      What app/platform are you using for tag notifications? Wonder if there’s something quirky going on there.

    • Slowmo

      It’s a browser based plugin, but I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with it.
      Click on CES2017 link at the end of this post and the one with Suunto, and look at the URL.
      In Suunto’s post URL is link to dcrainmaker.com
      And even ces2017 and CES2017 tags are treated as different tags.

    • I see CES2017 and ces2017 as identical, unless I’m missing something.

      I do see the issue with the Suunto post having a space in between for some reason. Reset that back to CES2017. My guess is that WordPress sees the space and puts a dash in there. Either way, it was the only post using that odd tag.

      Thanks!

  3. Sal

    I’m still waiting for the first running-watch that gives you audiofeedback (time, distance, pace, hr) after every km/mile like any running-app can do.
    This is not THE watch I was waiting for?

    I think a lot of ppl running with samrtphone+app do it because of audio-feedbacks. I can’t understand why any running-watch-manufacture didn’t implement this feature yet.
    Actually only “apple watch 2 + nike app” do it.
    Anything around at CES ? Running-watch with audiofeedback?

    • Long Run Nick

      +1. That was about the only thing I liked about the AW2 Nike +app. I hope Garmin introduces the feature, adding avg lap pace, HR, etc.. I guess I am getting lazy as I get older, the downside for me at 73 is my hearing isn’t what it use to be, I blame the Army:)

  4. John

    Does this watch connect to Ant+ devices?

  5. Nigel

    Is optical HR really serious?

    • Not sure what you mean. Optical HR is these days the defacto standard on wearables. You don’t have to use it, but every company is going to put it in there for basically any product above $125.

  6. giorgitd

    I know that every wearable manufacturer wants to be in on the health monitoring business. I am guessing that Misfit/Fossil is included in this group. But why sports-related features? OHR? This is a misfire or a joke. There is *no way* this device will generate significant market penetration. They are way behind, a year out and have what appears to be a relatively undistinguished product. The music component is relatively unique, but this will be a money pit and never launched, I think. Uncompetitive now and more uncompetitive in 12 months.

    • Misfit has always been activity tracking and sport focused (Fossil less so). They were one of the first to actually do swimming support in a wearable that didn’t have a watch face.

      While I agree that the road seems bumpy and confusing going with a random Android fork (vs Android Wear), a $199 price point will sell well if executed correctly. Plus, they’ve got big box retailer support in Best Buy, etc…

  7. Joe

    Sounds similar specs to Amazfit Pace, but more expensive and worse battery life. Display seems nicer though.

  8. Darrin kinney

    Any chance you can review all the gps enabled smartwatches that have flooded the market. Im dying to buy one, example gear s3. But finding a proper review and information about how it works for running is totally missing.

    • Reviewing ‘all’ the watches would be a wee bit tough. But I tend to pick and choose which ones have the most interest.

    • Nedim

      RunIQ seems interesting, if I may put in a request.

      Vapor has pleasant optics and is priced low enough. Going through the thought exercise of buying one it seems more like a women’s watch. Playing it out further out, I am not sure how either one of my girls would like it since they now have “serious” Garmin’s. I think the key for acceptance would be if they can adjust the screen datafields to match what they used to, and their runs show up automatically on Strava like they do now.

      I wonder if the Android fork will be Fossil Group’s new watch OS vs. Android Wear. The likelihood of supporting two competing watch OS’s long term is low. Interestingly, the Wear device price-points are much higher.

    • The New Balance folks are working to get me a unit in the next few weeks.

      Meanwhile, I did play with a unit briefly at CES. It seemed to me like more or less any Android Wear watch. Meaning, at first glance I’m struggling a bit to determine how it’s much different than something like the Polar M600 (Android Wear).

      Has a custom run app like Polar, though does come with Strava app pre-loaded.

      Not saying it has to be different, just providing a bit of clarity following some albeit short hands-on time. Unfortunately the main product team had left CES by time I got to the booth, and the folks running the booth hadn’t seemed to have ever even touched it before. So I’m looking forward to spending more time with it and getting more details.

    • Sal

      I read that the New Balance RunIQ GPS watch gives audiofeedback. That would be awsome!
      But while looking for details on their website I wasn’t able to figure so out. They sell a bundle with wireless headphones by Jabra called NB PaceIQ and say that they fully integrate with RunIQ to give you on-demand running stats.
      So I’m not sure if the watch gives audiofeedback or if that feature is integrated in the headphones or if you only get audio-stats while connected to a smartwatch.
      I hope NB sends you the bundle and am waiting for your hands-on :-)

    • Sal

      In the meantime NB’s support-team answered:

      “To tell you the truth, as long as you have the “Audio Feedback” turned on in the watch interface, you will receive automatic updates straight to the either the PaceIQ or any set of bluetooth headphones that you have connected.

      The button on the PaceIQ is actually going to be something that is dedicated that you can press any time to check your vitals and time.”

  9. Petter

    Hi Ray,
    Realise this is offtopic, but just wondered why have you not reviewed Gear S3 Frontier yet?

    • Honestly haven’t seen much interest for it by readers.

    • Nedim

      I vote for it.

    • Albert

      Petter – for what it’s worth, I did purchase this watch from Best Buy and tried it out for 2+ weeks. I ended up returning it because of the poor software design and the lack of support. I have the Vivoactive HR and went back to using it because the HRM is more reliable and the fitness tracking is far superior.

      Keep in mind that I wrote this review on 12/24/16, so I was using the beta version of the iPhone software. I believe Samsung released the official Gear app for iPhone within the past week. So I can not confirm whether the Samsung Pay is now included or not.

      Here’s a copy/paste of my review on Best Buy:

      Overall summary:
      Beautiful OLED screen watch with above average battery life and very mediocre app and sport activity support. If you are an android user and do not care about tons of apps or sport activity features, I would recommend this watch. Otherwise I would skip it.
      I purchased this watch after reading reviews about how beautiful the watch is and how the battery life is good and it will eventually be fully compatible with iPhone.
      I used an iPhone 7Plus for about 1 month with this phone. I installed the beta version of the iPhone Gear 3 app. Here are my findings:
      Pros
      – imo it’s the best looking smart watch out there, the OLED is absolutely gorgeous
      – watch exterior design looks nice, like a watch, not like a toy or too bulky
      – the battery lasts 3-4 days with ~30m-1hr usage
      – intuitive rotating bezel interface
      – many great looking watch faces
      Cons
      – Basic workout functions are extremely limited. I did normal run, the watch stopped recording GPS after 45m and told me congratulations. This was during the middle of a 1h30m training run.
      – the golf GPS would not let me select the proper hole on a golf course with 2 nine hole courses.
      – the optical heart rate monitor is functional at rest, but during activities it is “approximately accurate at times”. It’s worse than my Garmin Vivoactive HR in accuracy. On a scale of 1-10, Scosche Rhythm+ being 10, VAHR is 7, S3 is 4-5.
      – no Samsung Pay option for iPhone app
      – when announcement is made, it said iPhone app compatibility. I waited 1 month, but still no software released.
      – may be too bulky for some (it’s slightly smaller than the Garmin Fenix 3 HR)

    • Ryan R

      I’d like to see a review of the Gear S3 as well, or even a brief hands-on type article. The reviews that exist for Gear and Android Wear watches tend to gloss over fitness features pretty poorly (like “has GPS so it’s great for runners” and that is the end of the coverage).

    • Topher

      In most reviews I’ve seen the S Health app is fairly sub-par in comparison to the host of apps we’ve become accustomed to (endo, strava, etc…). The form factor of the S3 looks great but I’m hoping a manufacturer gets a similar form factor model out in Q2 that runs AW 2.0 so we can take advantage of fully functioning apps.