Nike+ FuelBand review

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As we come to the close of another year, I am reminded that this is the time to start thinking of my New Year’s resolutions. Last year, my resolution was to lose weight (not an uncommon, often repeated and failed one for me).  I was determined to do so, but what I needed was some sort of motivation, especially in the exercise department. Enter the Nike+ FuelBand.

The Nike+ FuelBand is a multi-functional, activity-tracking device designed to be worn on your wrist like a watch. The FuelBand tracks your activities in three separate ways: Nike Fuel, Calories and Steps. The step and calorie tracking seem straight forward and common for this type of device.  The uncommon factor here is the Nike Fuel function. Nike Fuel is Nike’s proprietary calculator of your activities that measures your progress not only against your set goals, but also against your friends.

Now before I go too far in this review, let me hit on a few things that may be considered shortcomings of the FuelBand, with the first two possibly being non-starters for some folks looking at the FuelBand as a workout device. The first issue is that the FuelBand is made to be worn on the wrist like a watch, so if you are an avid cyclist you wont get enough motion from your arms to get the full benefits of the FuelBand. (The FuelBand uses accelerometers as a means of gathering the data it uses). The second issue is that the FuelBand is not waterproof; it is water-resistant, so you can get it wet and shower with it on, but you can’t go dunking it in the water for long periods of time.  So if you are a swimmer, you may not get the benefits of using the FuelBand. The third issue for me is accuracy.  As a pedometer (and with my limited understanding and use of pedometers), I would be interested to see how accurate the step count would be against other pedometers that are worn on the belt. Since the accelerometers measure all of the movement in your arm, I would think you may be getting credit for steps you do not actually take. I also have a little issue with the FuelBand’s calorie counter (or for any calorie calculations from simple devices). As a base calorie counter, I can agree that the calorie count in general is close, but the issue here is that the FuelBand’s calorie counter doesn’t take into consideration other factors in your workouts, such as hills or lifting weights – true factors in how many calories one actually burns. All that being said and understanding its limitations, I do love my FuelBand as a motivational tool.

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Since the FuelBand is worn on the wrist, Nike added one more feature that makes it more functional then other pedometers, which is its ability to be used as a watch. The FuelBand’s watch can be set to operate in a 12- or 24-hour mode during set up and can be changed using the provided software.  The watch feature is especially useful when you are exercising and need to keep track of time, but the lack of a stopwatch function or even a seconds display does limit its usefulness for folks who like to use timers during a workout.

The FuelBand is operated while on your wrist by pressing the button on the top of the device. Nike has kept the operations on the band simple by having one button that is used to scroll through the various available functions. One thing that may be annoying to some is that the FuelBand’s display is only readable when the button is pushed and only stays illuminated for about 4 seconds,  That being said, the display on my black FuelBand is readable in all light conditions. Along with the regular readout for the regular functions, there is a series of colored lights under the regular display, ranging from red to yellow to green, that will give you an update on your progress towards your daily goal. (Red means you’ve just gotten started; yellow means you’re making progress; and green means you’re almost there or have reached your goal.) After you reach your daily goal, the FuelBand will flash a message letting you know you have accomplished your goal when you next use the button on the FuelBand.

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The FuelBand itself comes in 3 basic sizes (Small, Medium/Large, and Extra Large), and with the included band extenders, it should fit just about anyone’s wrist size. At the time of writing, the FuelBand comes in 3 colors: White Ice, Black Ice, and Black. I have the Black, as it was the only option available when I bought mine.  It is made of polypropylene, magnesium, and stainless steel – but mainly polypropylene. The FuelBand comes with 8mm and 16mm links, a sizing tool, USB charging cable, and a little charging stand that holds the cable and the FuelBand. The fit and finish on the FuelBand is great, and the materials seem to be first quality and durable (as should be expected from a product from Nike and at a $149.00 price tag).

My FuelBand came with the 8mm link already installed. Sizing the FuelBand was simple and straightforward.  After reading the instructions, I ended up removing the 8mm link for a perfect fit on my wrist.

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Before you can synch your FuelBand to your computer, you will need to go to the NIke website and download and install the Nike+Connect software. The first time you plug your FuelBand into the synching cable connected to your computer, it will launch a setup module and allow you to set up your FuelBand by asking questions such as height, weight, and how many Fuel points you want to set as your goal. It will also ask you what arm you will be wearing it on and allow you to set the time. The computer interface also has settings to reset your FuelBand and even to change the orientation of the display 180 degrees. Once plugged in, your computer will also launch a browser to the Nike website asking you to register so you can track your FuelBand stats online. After you’ve registered and created an account, your tracked stats will update each time you plug the FuelBand in to the computer to make it easy to monitor your progress.

Nike has also developed a mobile app for the iPhone and iPod touch; it can also be used with an iPad, but the app isn’t optimized for the bigger screen and the interface looks clunky on the iPad – another disappointment. With this app, you can update your stats via mobile interface to your Nike page. The mobile app also lets you track your progress on a daily, weekly, and monthly time frame.  I don’t know if there is an Android version of this mobile app.

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The synching cable is also how the FuelBand is recharged. Nike’s website says that the FuelBand should be able to hold a charge for about three days, so you will have to recharge it within that time frame. I tested my FuelBand for 2 days between charges, and the battery indicator on the FuelBand’s display (displays as a “battery” when charging) indicated it was still half full. I have not tried running the FuelBand down to zero to see if it will retain the data.

The battery in my original FuelBand did start to fail, so I had to return it to Nike for a new one. I must give Nike credit; the return process was simple, fast and good.

I have been using my FuelBand almost every day (other than when waiting for the replacement, as explained above) since I bought it in September, and I have to be honest and say I miss it when I am not wearing it. The FuelBand is a constant reminder that I want to reach my goal for the day, and besides tracking my Fuel, Calories, and Steps, I use as my main timepiece. The watch feature alone offers a level of versatility that most other pedometers don’t offer and adds to the cool factor of this gadget.

Over all I would give the FuelBand a 7 out of 10 as a fitness tool, not only for the gadget factor, but the cool factor as well.

 

Product Information

Price:$149
Manufacturer:Nike
Pros:
  • Tracks steps and calorie expenditure
  • Functions as a watch
  • Available in sizes that should fit most every wrist
  • Can update tracked stats from your computer or from an iOS mobile device with the Nike apps
Cons:
  • Cyclists won't get full benefit from the device because it tracks arm movements
  • Not waterproof, so won't work well for swimmers
  • Questions about how steps and calorie burn are calculated
Posted in: Health, Fitness, Sports, Reviews

{ 9 comments… add one }

  • anson January 2, 2013, 11:33 am

    i’ve been wearing mine religiously since june, and it does indeed suck that cycling cannot be calculated since that is my activity of choice. Infact, because of the way the accelerometer works, i doubt any non-impact activity will gain you any nike+ points.
    I enjoy the way the band syncs/interacts with my iPhone and web, and it’s fun to compare activity charts with my other friends on Path (app) timeline.
    My other gripes are that it is not waterproof, and that I need to recharge the band every otherday (3-days max), otherwise i risk losing my data when it runs out of juice :(
    This is definitely one of my favourite gadgets of 2012 that i use daily.

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  • John January 2, 2013, 3:58 pm

    Interesting…I can usually go a week without charging.

    There is a battery indicator buried in the iOS app in its Settings if you dig for it. Would be nice if it was easier to get to or see on the device itself.

    My coworker has one too but I suspect one of us has a bum unit since our daily point totals seem to be vastly different…either that or he’s just a big hand talker and racks up the points that way.

    Optimistically hoping for a firmware update that adds more features to the display like seconds, a timer or even custom text.

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  • Gameboy213 January 3, 2013, 5:39 pm

    For cycling I place the band on my shoe by hooking it to my laces.

    Works great.

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  • anson January 3, 2013, 9:46 pm

    @Gameboy- i will give it a try next time on my stationary trainer. I fear it will get lost or torn apart when i go mountain biking :(

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  • Josie Gardiner June 25, 2013, 9:00 am

    I am a personal trainer and have been using the Nike fuelband and I am really not happy with it! You can cycle, walk and not move your arm, and do many other activities and the band does not measure any activity. I think the calorie counter is really not accurate! What is the fuel anyway? A measure of you level of activity? No one at Nike can give me the the formula used to calculate the activity?…

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  • Julie June 25, 2013, 10:19 am

    @Josie that’s why I like the devices that mainly count steps and stairs. I know if I get at least 10,000 steps a day, that I’m being active.

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  • Larry Geisz June 25, 2013, 10:52 am

    @Josie I accept the shortcomings not only of the FuelBand but of most similar products. What I mainly use them for is to motivate me and to track my activities for constancy.

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  • Fran July 20, 2013, 7:15 am

    I have had my band for some time now. The argument that the band doesn’t pick up data for cyclists is not entirely as true. Though the purpose of the band is for motivation and not for hardcore data collecting. The band should motivate you to do more, so for example an hours bike ride give you 400 fuel points then in theory a 2 hour cycle should give you 800 points, pushing you to cycle, run and bounce about like a mad idiot more.

    http://i.imgur.com/00i5iSa.png Here is a screen shot of a day I went out cycling. The first peak is my workout. It was insanely hot for Scotland so I could only manage a 45 weight/cardio workout. The next bump is of a two hour bike ride. As you can see with the flat line, I forgot to put the band on, meaning I had more work to do to reach my goals. With my workout and cycle combined I smashed my target for the day of 3000 fuel points (What Nike see as an active day). The band was on my wrist the whole time, so I am happy with how it picks up my movement when cycling.

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  • Larry Geisz July 20, 2013, 11:12 am

    @Fran I believe the main complaint with cyclist is that the FuelBand uses accelerometers to help determine the calories and Nike Fuel points. Although you may get some points from cycling while wearing the FuelBand on your wrist, the general consensus is that the amount of calories and Fuel gained from this method is well short of what you would get if you had attached the FuelBand to your shoe or ankle in some manner.

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