Nike Fuelband (Original)

Summary:  A minimally styled, wrist-based fitness and activity tracker that is tied to Nike’s substantial online social fitness offerings.  It provides many of the standard capabilities for fitness trackers, such as steps taken, distance moved, and calories burned, while including a clock and fitness measurements specific to the broader Nike solution set.Intended Market: Fitness enthusiasts who use social connections to compete and motivate each other, especially those who are already embedded in the Nike training and fitness ecosystem, or those people who
simply must have a wrist-based tracker, who wear a watch, and do not want to have than one device on the same wrist.

Sub-optimal market:  Either those individuals whose major purpose is to lose weight and thus need nutrition awareness and calorie intake counting or those people who find sleep tracking to be very appealing.

Considerations:

  • Fashion:  for fashion conscious persons, this device can be difficult to mesh stylistically with their wardrobe due to it’s matte rubber coating and plain construction
  • Sleep Tracking:  this device and associated apps do not have sleep or nutrition tracking
  • Software Unreliability:  issues during initial setup.  However, these may already be corrected by the time this review is published.
  • Cross-Platform Low Priority:  The original Nike Fuelband, the device reviewed here, was compatible with only one mobile platform, the Apple iOS platform.  The latest Fuelband version, the Nike+ Fuelband SE, is compatible with most late model Android devices that support Bluetooth 4.0. Windows Phone is not yet supported.
  • Mac and PC Synching REQUIRES USB Connection:  To sync directly with your computer, rather than a mobile device, the Nike+ Fuelband requires a USB wired connection to your computer.

Requirements (any one of the following):

  • PC (Windows XP, Vista, 7, or 8)
  • Mac (OS X 10.5 or higher)
  • Apple iOS Devices (e.g. iPhone 4s / 5 / 5s, iPhone 6/6+, iPad Air / Air 2, 3 / Mini / Mini 2, iPod Touch 5th gen,

Approximate Retail Price:  $180

Purchase Link (Amazon):  UNAVAILABLE

Unboxing Experience and First Impressions

The Nike+ Fuelband is cleanly packaged with the device, small manual, sizing adaptors for different wrist sizes, pin for removing sizing adaptors, and a USB charging / synching dongle for connecting to your Mac or Windows PC. The packaging is black, minimal, and focused on presenting the device. Due to the design of the device, it has the fewest small pieces to lose, and as such is welcome for those users who tend to be forgetful and / or misplace smaller items.

The Nike+ Fuelband itself is a round, semi-flexible wristband, coated in a matte black rubber. There is one other color option available, called White Ice, which is coated in a white, translucent rubber instead. There is one button on the device, along with a screen of widely spaced LEDs. The button is used for initial synchronization setup with mobile devices, as well as synching on an ongoing basis, and switching between the various screens shown on the device.

Setting up the Fuelband was difficult at first, as there were significant setup problems on my Mac (and a Windows 7 box).  After downloading the latest version of the Nike+ Connect software from the Nike web site, I proceeded through the installation process.  Things proceeded well until the end of the installation.  Specifically, setup would not complete until after I performed a system reboot.  Unfortunately, there was no warning or recommendation in the setup software that a reboot was necessary.  Please note that this is likely to be corrected by the time this review is published.  After the software was set up properly, it was simple to connect the device to my computer via USB and set it up.


In Daily Life

When using the Nike Fuelband, upon waking up I would connect the device back to my wrist.  As it has no sleep tracking function, there was no need to keep it on my wrist at night.  The device, as is the case with most fitness trackers, is not waterproof, so it needed to be removed prior to my morning shower.  There are some devices that are more water resistant and may be worn in the shower, but the most that can be done with this device is hand washing or washing the dishes.

The material that the Fuelband is constructed from is not breathable.  As such it captured sweat and heat, requiring that I move it from time to time to allow for airflow to the previously covered area of my wrist.

I would wear the device attached to my wrist throughout the entire day, where it would proceed to record my walking movements. From time to time I would view my daily progress on the screen of widely spaced LEDs. I was able to view my steps taken and estimated calories burned.  In addition, Nike has added two elements unique to their systems:  fuel points and a clock.

The clock is a handy addition that allows this device to take the place of standard watches.  For those people who don’t want their wrist getting crowded, this is a nice feature.

Fuel points are a unique Nike way of measuring the effort of various types of activities, so that runners can compare effort with walkers and those who participate in sports where distance is not considered to be a critical, or even measurable, component.   As such, for those people who are already invested in that ecosystem, or those who find exercise independent measurements of effort appealing, the Fuelband will be a good choice.

Readers should note that the Nike+ Fuelband, as a wrist-based device comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages:  For example, while wearing the Nike Fuelband and Jawbone Up attached to my left wrist, and the FitBit One attached to my pocket, I was able to get an accurate reading of steps taken while mowing my lawn from the FitBit One, but not from the other two devices. The logical explanation is that any device attached to a wrist is not going to be accurate at recording activities where the wrist does not move, such as pushing a lawnmower.  For those whose primary activities involve stationary hands, such as biking, the Nike+ Fuelband will likely not be the optimal choice.

The device held a charge for some time, averaging around 8-10 days prior to needing a charge.

Anytime throughout the day that I pushed and held the button on the Fuelband, it would  synchronize my activities from the device to my mobile iPhone.  Some other fitness trackers, such as the FitBit One automatically synchronize with their “parent” mobile phone or computing device.  In addition, I could manually initiate a synchronization by opening the Nike app on my iPhone.

At night I would remove the Fuelband from my wrist and place it on my night stand.


Integration – What Does it Work With?

As the main purpose of the Nike+ Fuelband is to track fitness activities for active individuals and share those activities within the Nike ecosystem, the device works solely within the Nike set of solutions.

The Nike+ Connect App

At the time this review was made, the Nike+ Connect app was only available on iOS.  However, the app was made available on Android.  The app is available for all iOS devices manufactured in the past 4 years, while the Android app is available for most android devices manufactured in the past two years with support for Bluetooth 4.0 LE (e.g. Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5).

As the app is not available on Windows Phone, BlackBerry, or Symbian, users of these mobile devices must use their computer, either Mac OS X or Windows, to synchronize information from the device and thus track progress and activity levels.

The app allows for social sharing of steps, calories burned, and FuelPoints earned, as well as viewing of that data.  No data may be manually changed in the app.  The social sharing capabilities include features such as creating links with your friends as well as goal setting which can have the effect of pushing the user to attain his or her own personal goals through encouraging reminders.

 

Major Features

The major capabilities of the Nike+ Fuelband are focused on enabling the tracking of various activities, by already active individuals, that require arm movement including:

  • Steps Taken
  • Calories Burned
  • FuelPoints Earned
  • Social Connections with Friends*
  • Goal Setting, Reminders, and Encouragement*

* NOTE: These features are accessed through the FuelBand app or website, NOT the device itself.


Important Considerations

Fashion

As this device was designed to provide active individuals with a means of tracking and comparing their activity level with other active people, fashion design was a secondary consideration in creating this device.  The FuelBand is built with a pliable, matte rubber coating, which looks great with active wear, but can look jarring when paired with formal wear or business attire.

Sleep Tracking

This device and associated apps do not have sleep or nutrition tracking.  As such, this device may not be the preferred choice for individuals who highly value sleep tracking or who are using the device as a tool to assist with weight loss.

Mobile App Availability

The original Nike Fuelband, the device reviewed here, was compatible with only one mobile platform, the Apple iOS platform.  The latest Fuelband version, the Nike+ Fuelband SE, is compatible with most late model Android devices that support Bluetooth 4.0 LE.  That said, FitBit continually exceeds Nike with support for additional mobile platforms:  for example, the FitBit now supports Windows Phone 8.x.  If a broader commitment to mobile platform compatibility is important to you, the Nike device may not be your preferred choice.

No Wireless Connectivity to Computers

The USB connection to a computer is required in order to synchronize data.  As such, synchronizing with your computer may be more inconvenient than with other devices.

Pros

More Water and Sweat Resistant:  While not completely waterproof, this device is capable of being worn while washing dishes, hand washing, and heavy exercise.

Clock:  A clock is available for display on the FuelBand, providing extra convenience and potentially eliminating an extra wrist-based device.

Battery Life:  the Nike+ Fuelband has substantial battery life, lasting over 9 days between charges during my real-world test during a six month period.

Cons

Accuracy:  due to the wrist-based placement of this device, the Nike+ Fuelband may be less accurate than the FitBit One, which is placed on the hip.  This concern may not be that important to users who do not perform aerobic exercise with their arms stationary (e.g. biking).

Fashion:  due to its construction materials, this device is most appropriate for use with active wear, as the plain, black matte construction can look jarring when paired with formalwear and business attire.

Lack of Sleep and Nutrition Tracking:  makes this device less than optimal for sedentary individuals looking to become more fit. In order for this purpose to be met, at a minimum the user would need to avail themselves of a separate nutrition tracking solution.

USB Required for PC Sync:  decreases convenience since one would need to manually connect the device each time one wanted to synchronize it directly with one’s computer.


Target Market – Who are they trying to sell this to?

The Nike+ FuelBand (Original) is designed to be a Health and fitness activity assistant, pushing the user to attain his or her fitness goals and compete against other active users.  It provides significant capabilities for fitness enthusiasts to use social connections to compete and motivate each other, especially those who are already embedded in the Nike training and fitness ecosystem, or those people who simply must have a wrist-based tracker, who wear a watch, and do not want to have than one device on the same wrist. This device is marketed towards highly active individuals and professional athletes.

Sweet Spot

The Nike+ FuelBand is best suited for a person whose lifestyle contains two or more of the following characteristics:

  • A professional athlete or highly active individual
  • Needs to track activities that enable the arms to keep moving (e.g. running and walking)
  • Routinely wears active wear
  • Wants to be motivated to attain higher fitness levels by connecting to friends
  • Uses a Windows / Mac computer and/or an iOS or Android device

Sub-Optimal Market – Who should think twice about purchasing this device?

Either those individuals whose major purpose is to lose weight and thus need nutrition awareness and calorie intake counting or those people who find sleep tracking to be very appealing.  In addition, those persons who are not heavily invested in the Nike ecosystem of running and walking products, or who primarily exercise with activities that are unsuitable for a non-waterproof, wrist-based device (e.g. swimming or biking).

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s