Misfit sets precedent by launching Shine 2 fitness band in Beijing as global shipments of wearables tipped to hit 45 million in 2015
Company is first US maker of wearables to debut a device in China, says country makes up 1/3 of its global sales
Misfit, a maker of smart wearables based in Silicon Valley that started out mainly targeting female consumers, launched its new fitness and sleep tracker in Beijing on Wednesday.
Dubbed the Shine 2, it marks the first time a US wearable manufacturer has launched its flagship product in China.
“The reason why we launched our [Shine 2] here is because the China market did so well,” said Sonny Vu, CEO for Misfit.
“China accounts for roughly one-third of our market,” Vu added.
“In China, we outsell other competitors that usually outsell us in other countries.”
Misfit's name pays homage to a quote by late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who famously saluted "the crazy ones" for their pioneering spirit and willingness to explore new things.
Its latest device is an upgrade of the company's original Shine, launched in 2012.
The first device allowed users to track the number of steps taken, as well as periods of light versus restful sleep, and of course it told the time.
Its successor retains these functions but adds new features such as coloured LED lights that visually notify users of incoming calls and messages when the Shine 2 is connected by Bluetooth to a smartphone. Other new elements include a vibration feature for alarms.
The device will retail for US$100 in America and 799 yuan (US$126) in China upon its commercial release in the country on e-commerce site JD.com next Wednesday.
It doubles as a remote so consumers can use it to control compatible household devices like Misfit’s smart light bulb. It can also act as a selfie button for a smartphone camera.
The Shine 2 runs on a watch battery, thus giving it six months of battery life on a single charge, the company said.
Despite the various upgrades, however, the new wearable has already been criticised for the size of its display, which detractors say is too small to display a sufficient amount of information.
According to Vu, a larger screen will not be added to its wearables line anytime soon.
“I think a lot of people don’t want to wear screens on their bodies – they want something more beautiful, more like a fashion accessory than a technology product,” said Vu, adding that, technically, adding a screen is fairly straightforward.
Apart from being one of Misfit’s biggest markets, China is also the manufacturing ground for its products. The company has also set up a software team in Shenzhen, in southern Guangdong province, to capitalise on the wealth of software and engineering talent in the industrial city.
But Vu cited hiring personnel as one of the challenges his company is facing.
“It’s hard to recruit in China these days because there is so much competition,” he said.
Moving forward, the company hopes to move deeper into the smart home space. Currently, it has two smart home products including the Misfit Beddit, a sleep monitor that fits directly on a mattress.
“Home is a [place] where a lot of … behaviour happens. We are still [making] a lot of products to improve health and fitness,” said Vu.
“The challenge is how to connect the two seamlessly.”
Misfit faces competition from industry leaders like Fitbit, the global leader in wearables, as well as Jawbone, which ranks as world No. 5, according to data by research firm IDC. Both US companies specialise in fitness and sleep trackers.
Apple ranks as the second-largest wearables maker thanks to its popular Apple Watch, of which it shipped 3.6 million units in the quarter ended June.
China’s domestic market-leading smartphone vendor Xiaomi ranks third with its low-cost entry into the wearables market, the US$13 Mi Band, which also tracks steps, sleep patterns and sends basic notifications.
In China, the wearables market is predicted to reach 11.49 billion yuan (US$1.8 billion) by 2015 and grow 47 per cent next year to approach 17 billion yuan, data from market research firm iResearch shows.
Other Chinese companies such as social and gaming king Tencent and electronics maker Huawei have also jumped on the wearables bandwagon.
In April, Tencent unveiled an operating system made especially for smart watches and wearables. Huawei has since launched its US$349 smartwatch in Western Europe, the US and Australia.
Globally, shipments of wearables will total 45.7 million units this year and triple to almost 126.1 million units in 2019, according to data by IDC.