At first sight the Nike Fuelband appears to be little more than a black plastic wristband. If you explore further you’ll find a button, and on pressing you will discover an array of colourful LED lights. It’s quite cool and it tells the time (for a brief moment) but I’m not sure this level of excitement will encourage you to part with £149.
Of course it’s neither a wristband or a watch. Its a daily activity tracker wrapped in a slick Nike package.
When I first saw the ads for the Nike Fuelband, I didn’t think I was interested, I’ve worked my way through a number of body monitors and activity trackers such as the Ki Fit (my KiFit blog review) and the Fitbug pedometer and they are all flawed in some way. These things aren’t 100% accurate or even close actually. You can sit in your armchair and shake your accelerometer device of choice and will eventually record your target number of steps or fuel without budging more than an inch. That is obviously not in the spirit of things and in fact, as a motivational device and as a guide to your activity levels they can all be quite inspirational.
If you are driven by personal goals and like a little virtual pat on the back or social media awards when you achieve the goals, you are likely to increase your activity levels just by wearing this innocuous band.
I really like getting a silent cheer from my wrist. When I reach my target and press the button I get a colourful waterfall of lights and the word GOAL flashing. It makes me feel good.
Although the fuelband will record steps and calories and distance, Nike’s main currency is FUEL. I don’t really know what that is but it has some relationship to movement and an assessment of work or effort expended and supposedly sets an equal playing field so that an hours running around on the football pitch scores the same FUEL award whether you are a weekend warrior or David Beckham. It strikes me as a suitably unfathomable currency but that was probably more by design than accident. Regardless of what it is, you set a daily target of FUEL and work your way towards it by whatever means required.
To give an example of my days:
Day 1: Typical desk based office job required a 30 min treadmill run at the end of the day to hit my target.
Day 2: A mid afternoon 15km run shattered both me and my target and I closed the day with 6256 fuel points.
Day 3: A whole morning spent on the allotment, digging planting, watering and then an afternoon doing similar in the garden. My target was reached before I did any “exercise”.
Day 4 – I felt robbed today. I walked all over the place and managed a whopping 12000 steps but I couldn’t seem to hit my FUEL target. I whacked out a 20 minute rowing session in an attempt to crack the target but indoor rowing proves to be a fairly poor Fuelband exercise. I was quite sulky and ready to quit but was spurred on to greater things and further 20 mins of partner medicine ball exercise did the trick. Playing catch with a 4kg ball seems to be a very effective form of Fuelband exercise.
Being a gadget fiend I have multiple sports gadgets and will use a GPS device to provide detailed analysis of my activity – calories, distance, pace etc, but as my example days show you, that is only a very small part of the picture. Somehow, despite all the running and rowing I still manage to stay fat. Gadgets such as the Nike Fuelband which stay on all day, help to explain part of the missing link and that is, when I’m not partaking in official exercise, I am practically comatose. I’m very good at staying still and this simple target based monitor encourages me to move just a little bit more.
I think its interesting that Nike have moved into the market of activity monitoring and challenged the likes of Fitbit Ultra, Jawbone UP and Bodymedia’s Ki Fit. These monitors are likely to appeal to those in need of motivation to move either for fitness or weightloss rather than the performance athlete but I have to say that Nike have done an exceptional job.
The Fuelband works seamlessly with the free iPhone app called Nike+ FuelBand, all the screenshots above are taken from this app. The syncing occurs via Bluetooth so you don’t need internet access. I’m forever updating mine so that I can see the activity distribution across the day and love the fact that I don’t have to wait until I get home to upload my data. The only flaw that I can see is that the friends function doesn’t seem to work yet, although it says on the website that they are working on it. They need to get that sorted pretty smartish as this gadget is designed for competition and rivalry and I’ve just been out to buy Lynn one so we can have an in-house show down.
The cost of the Nike Fuelband is high at £149 but comparable with the others and I particularly like the fact that it is a one-off purchase. The KiFit and many of the pedometer style monitors require a subscription and the costs mount up very quickly, it’s also cool while the KiFit armband made me feel like an escapee from a young offenders detention centre and I didn’t really want to be seen wearing it.
Activity is only ever part of the answer. If you are concerned about health, fitness and weightloss you obviously need to concern yourself with food intake as well. The KiFit offers nutritional monitoring as part of their subscription package while Nike ignores this side of things. I actually prefer to keep the monitoring separate and track my intake with yet another app, that way I am in complete control.
So in essence I think the Nike Fuelband does an admirable job of tracking activity and rewarding me for going the extra mile. I’m happy with that. What it doesn’t do is track my fuel intake and nor does it accurately collect a whole host of stats relating to my dedicated exercise such as GPS trail, heart rate etc. To me that is not a deal breaker, I have all those other elements covered by other apps and other sports gadgets and I’m really happy to have a cool band sitting on my wrist and collecting data all day without me having to remember to switch the on/off button.
So, the question is, do you want one?