interest obsession of tracking my workout activity recently pushed me to look for wearable exercise gear. I pre-ordered the Fitbit Flex in early February but it had not shipped. When my Ironman watch died a couple of weeks ago, I searched for a device that could display time and I settled on the Nike+ FuelBand.
The Nike FuelBand is simply a fancy pedometer. Like the Fitbit Flex and Jawbone Up, it tracks your movement using an accelerometer. It also dispenses “fuel” points based on your activity using a proprietary algorithm. No — it isn’t about how often you shake your wrist — but the more active you are, the more fuel points you earn! I’ve worn the Nike FuelBand now for two weeks and I’ve rarely taken it off. In comparison, I would take my watch off and lay it on my desk at the beginning of each day alongside my iPhone.
The Nike FuelBand features that I love are:
Overall design. The electronic “guts” of the band are hidden inside a semi-flexible rubber material that is bound by a stainless steel clasp. The clasp opens up to allow the user to slide the band over their wrist. It also protects the charging terminal. In comparison, the wraparound design of the Jawbone Up allows it to easily fall off your wrist if it is put under tension.
Solid battery life. The FuelBand takes about 30 – 45 minutes to fully charge, which is inline with other wearable bands. The band has surprisingly been running for almost two weeks now without requiring it to be recharged. I’ve also spoken with another Fuel Band owner that happily reported that his band lasted for about 30 days without requiring a recharge but he also indicated that his band was lightly used (infrequent data display and sync).
Wireless data transfer. Workout data from the band is transmitted via bluetooth to the Nike+ FuelBand iOS app. Nike recently indicated that a smartphone app for Android is not on their current roadmap.
Durability. Data on the band can also be viewed via a push-button LED display. The band will display whichever stat was last accessed (aka, time, fuel, calories, steps) if the button is pressed once, or it will show the next stat if the button is pressed multiple times. The glass display on the Nike+ SportWatch GPS is susceptible to cracking if it is accidentally dropped on a hard surface.
Continuous motivation. I’ve previously written on how mobile can enhance the gym experience. The Nike FuelBand app notifies me when I reach my goal. The app also allows me to challenge others with Fuel Bands, but unfortunately I’ve not had a chance to test out this feature.
Open API’s for developers. Nike has exposed the profile data and points accessible via a web service and a mobile SDK. Since Nike won’t release an app for Android, hopefully a developer will take on this challenge.
Overall, the Nike Fuel Band is awesome. The only two misses are a higher price tag over other comparable devices and the lack of a smart alarm/silent wake alarm that monitors your sleep cycle and shakes you awake at right moment. I’m looking forward to getting more use out of it in the coming months.