“The older you get, the harder it is to stay in shape,” stop me if you’ve heard this before. I can certainly relate, which is why for the better half of the past five years I have taken up running with various degrees of success. While it is still possible to go to the gym and work up a sweat without any form of technology, I found that I was more motivated by doing so. First, as is common, I ran with my iPod. Listening to music seemed to get me to run just a little bit harder. Then when I finally took the plunge and bought my first smartphone I started trying out GPS based apps. They not only mapped my runs but also showed me how fast I was running. I still use these applications today but I have added some exciting new technology into the mix, the Nike+ Fuelband.
Nike first released the FuelBand in February of 2012. It is worn on the wrist and its main purpose is to provide its user with information on how active they are on a given day. Nike does this by using their own propiertary measurement, NikeFuel. It takes a little while to get used to but given time you start to learn what constitutes an active day for yourself. Out of the box Nike tells you that 3000 NikeFuel points is what they consider to be active.
When first unboxing your Nike+ FuelBand you must connect it to your computer via the USB chord supplied. This is where you set up your daily goal for the first time. Listening to Nike, I stuck with 3000. This means that every day I reach 3000 points my FuelBand lights up with a cool little graphic. Along with Fuel, the FuelBand also shows how many calories you have burned, steps you have taken, and the time of day by pressing the button on the band.
This product sounds pretty great on paper, so how well does it work?
NikeFuel: Once you get the hang of it NikeFuel seems to be calculated very consistently. By using this measure I can tell how active I have been compared to other days. I simply will not get close to my goal when I sit at a desk all day for work and don’t make an effort to work out or take a long walk in the evening.
Design: I wear mine on my left wrist and it doesn’t interfere with any of my day to day tasks. Most of the time I hardly notice it is there until I look down. There are three sizes to choose from and Nike does a good job on its website helping you decide. I do tend to take it off while I sleep and shower but every other waking moment it is being put through the paces. Nike says that it is water resistant and I have showered with it before with no issues but I rather be safe than sorry.
Battery Life: I have read some reviews that complain about the battery life but I have to strongly disagree with them. The FuelBand charges via USB and does so quickly. It has always taken right around an hour to fully charge from a low battery. I frequently go 4-5 days without charging it and I haven’t run out of power yet. Charging it once or twice a week while you are sleeping, and therefore not moving much, is not a hassle for me in the least bit. The one thing I still can’t stand about most smartphones is that you always need to think about having a charger around. With the Nike FuelBand, worry not.
iOS App: The iOS app is free and adds a lot to the product. Yes, you can sync via the web if you have another type of device, but synching via bluetooth straight from your wrist to your phone in a matter of seconds is what this product was designed to do. Stay motivated by keeping track of your progress over the weeks, months, and years. You can even compete against friends who are also a part of the Nike+ ecosystem.
Accuracy: This is kind of a big one. If you want a product that is going to give you the most precise information when it comes to steps or miles, The FuelBand isn’t for you. My miles tracked are underestimated pretty substantially and my actual steps are even more of an issue. When compared to what I found to be a more reliable product like the Fitbit Zip, my steps were nearly halved.
Price: When you compare the FuelBand to its direct competitors like the Fitbit Flex ($99.95) and the Jawbone Up ($129.99) it is the most expensive ($149). Some may argue that is a hefty price to pay for a glorified pedometer and I find that tough to argue. There are other products like the Fitbit Zip ($59.95) that do most of what the FuelBand does for a fraction of the price. If you are looking for the most bang for your buck, you may want to look elsewhere.
Non Runners: Since you wear the FuelBand on one of your wrists it does the majority of its job while your arms are swinging back and forth. But what happens if you prefer riding a bike or swimming? You may be out of luck. I did register some Fuel riding a bike, but it wasn’t much. For the most part my wrists stayed sedentary on the handlebars, it was as if I had stayed parked on the couch instead. Swimming is a different issue. Fully submerging your wrists on every stroke is just asking for trouble.
So, do I recommend the Nike+ FuelBand?
Yes, I do. But there are some things you need to think about first. There have been rumors that Nike is testing a second generation FuelBand with bluetooth 4.0 that is both thinner and lighter. There is no way to know when this product will be released, but if the thought of not having the latest and greatest bothers you it may be best to hold off.
Still interested in buying? If you say yes to the following questions I highly recommend buying a Nike+ Fuelband:
Are you a runner? If you’re not, don’t bother.
Do you have an iPhone or an iOS device? Remember, there are no native Android, Windows Mobile, or Blackberry Apps. If you have one of these devices you lose the ability to upload your information quickly and easily to your phone.
That likely weeds out many prospective buyers. If you didn’t answer yes to all of those questions it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t enjoy owning the FuelBand. I am just not sure it is the best device for you.
The Nike+ FuelBand is far from perfect. It is a first generation product and I am sure some of the issues I mentioned above will be worked out in the years to come. But that does not mean it is not a valuable piece of technology that I enjoy using every day. The design is sleek and can be worn in any setting. If you are already conscious of your exercise habits and want another way to make reaching your fitness goals more fun and exciting, I trust you will be happy with your purchase.