The Nike+ Fuel Band
Watches used to be popular, I had worn one since I was a little kid and continued to until about 5 years ago. I didn’t stop wearing one because it wasn’t useful. I stopped because I started carrying something that already had the time displayed. My phone. And now many of us pull our phones out of our pocket click a button to light up the screen, then put it away. For me that movement has become almost as efficient as twisting my wrist up to look at the face of a watch. With that, there would have to be a good reason for me strap a watch back on. I had hoped the Nike+ FuelBand would be that watch.
The Nike+ FuelBand is a highly anticipated watch that is designed to monitor, record, and display your activity data throughout the day. You just put it on and the built in accelerometer tracks your every movement and uses a special custom algorithm to calculate what they call Fuel Points. These points tell you how active you were during your day. The watch has a few more tricks though, you also get a pedometer and calories burned count to go along with the Fuel Band’s crazy led display. Oh, and the current time of course.
I don’t want to write something that talked about each of the features of the Fuel Band in detail. There are plenty of other articles that do that, check out this article from The Verge. I just want to put my thoughts out there for how the watch worked for me.
I was most excited when I got home from work and plugged it in. The watch’s 20 led display lit up and pulsed with a unique glow I had never seen from a wrist watch. It’s like something out of the future. At least the look of it. Once it was charged I used the Nike+ website to set up which wrist I wore it on, my height and weight, and how many Fuel Points I wanted as a goal for the day. I started at an ambitious 3000. After that I connected it via Bluetooth to my iPhone so the Fuel Band app could track my progress throughout the day. Easy.
Then. Well, I wore the band for over a week, and the longer I wore it the more I became dissatisfied. It’s not comfortable. The watch is a fixed hard plastic band with a smooth rubber coating that’s nice to the touch but doesn’t bend with your movements. Could just be my boney wrists but I was constantly aware that it was strapped on. I first tried a medium sized one but it was too big and felt like a woman’s bracelet (which just wouldn’t do). Then I had it replaced with a small and it fit well unless I became active when it would dig into my wrist. It comes with extra links to customize the fit but no combination seemed to work for me.
But the fit of the band wasn’t what really made me dissatisfied. It was what the Fuel Band was meant to do and what, in my opinion, was reality. The idea of Fuel Points is interesting, you earn points video game style for real physical effort. It’s all tracked with the app and on your Nike+ account online. Viewing these stats will give you some insight into how you spent your day. You can look back and see when you were most active, or, when you just laid there like a cat in a sunny window. But, at least to me, this only served to “gamify” your activities without providing anything truly useful. Accuracy really seems to be an issue, especially for those that talk with their hands, or drive in anything but a Cadillac. Every movement is registered, maybe not exactly as a FuelPoint, but each minute twitch of your arm is eventually added to your total daily score. Look at Day 2 below and you will see what I mean.
Let me be clear, the Fuel Band is not an all bad product. But it does cost $150. And at that price, from a company like Nike, combined with the promise of accuracy, I would expect more. The market for fitness products is huge, and many are trying to get a piece of it. Nike’s offering with the Fuel Band is unique but not incredibly useful. The design is beautiful, but not comfortable. If you are a runner and don’t mind the accuracy issues then it might give you some insight into your day as a whole, and how your run impacts your overall activity level. But if you work out in a way that doesn’t make you swing your arms then you will want to look elsewhere for something to track yourself.
If you don’t mind the price and you want something fun to monitor your day then it could be for you. Just make sure you are ok with the comfort. For $150 just know that you can buy a heart rate monitor + GPS watch combo that will probably be more useful. As for myself, the watch has been returned and the refund is in my account.
- Wore on right wrist
- 3000 fuel point goal, earned 3525 for the day
- Went to the gym with trainer (weight training)
- Worked a regular desk job day
- 1114 calories burned
- 9187 steps taken, seems like a lot, will compare to iPod nano tomorrow
- Noticed that steps were counted while typing at the computer and driving a car
- Medium may be too big
- iPhone app animations are really good (they get redundant quickly)
- iPhone app could use finer graph design to better show specific activity results
- Social stuff is not useful at all
This day I counted the amount of points earned for specific activities throught the day.
- Wore on right wrist
- Wake up and shower = 177 points
- Brushing teeth and rinse = 26 points
- Shaving - blade razor = 26 points
- Drive to work- 25 miles = 43 points
- Medium too big, exchanging for small
- 2:47 pm. At desk most of the day earned 1379 points so far.
- Drive home - 25 miles = 186 points
- Pound metal posts in backyard = 552 points
- Walk dog - 1.5 miles = 300 points
- End of day steps
- Fuel Band 9790
- iPod Nano 6398
- 3414 points total for the day