Sunday, August 12, 2012

Nike FuelBand Review

Goal attained!

  I'm an admitted Nike addict. And a tech-junkie to boot. So a Nike gadget? You bet I had to get my hands on a Nike FuelBand!

  I managed to get my FuelBand about three weeks ago. And while I knew I wanted to put together a review, I also wanted to give it a sufficient 'go' before I jumped to any conclusions. Three weeks is plenty of time to form an objective opinion, don't you think?

  First, a quick rundown of Nike's history in the tech biz, and the FuelBand's predecessors. (If you're here solely for the FuelBand, scroll down a few paragraphs!)

Nike+ iPod
  Nike started their journey into the tech biz when they joined forces with Apple several years back to develop Nike+ iPod. I was a beginning runner then, but quickly became a Nike+ participant. It consisted of an oval shaped sensor you put in the sole of your running (or walking) shoe, along with a small receiver that you plugged into your iPod Nano (at the time, Nike+ iPod  was only compatible with the Nano. But now it is available for every iPod model).

Nike+ iPod
  You simply calibrated your stride, and the sensor would accurately keep track of your pace, calories burned, and time elapsed, and displayed it for you to see on your Nano. When your workout was over, you could upload your workouts to Nike+ simply by syncing your Nano to your computer.

  It was a simple way to track results, and turn your workouts into a game. If you needed a little extra incentive to get out there and run, or run a little faster, Nike+ iPod was there to provide some motivation.

  It wasn't super high-tech by today's standards (this was released in the early 2000s, after all), but Nike was still working out the kinks, and working towards a larger goal.

Nike+ Sportwatch GPS 
  Last year, Nike got into the GPS watch business with their Nike+ Sportwatch GPS. Powered by TomTom, the Nike Sportwatch tracks your location, time, pace, distance, and calories burned. Just like with the Nike+ iPod, you sync the Sportwatch to your computer (via USB port, or wirelessly) to upload all your information to Nike Plus.

Nike+ Sportwatch GPS
  But now, with GPS in the game, you can review your routes online, and easily track your progress. On Nikeplus.com you're able to view mapped-out routes, detailed pace data (mile time splits), and changes in elevation of all the workouts you have done while wearing the Sportwatch. The accuracy of your pace is also improved since you no longer are relying on a calibrated sensor.

  As an avid runner, I love the Sportwatch. I believe it has made me run faster, farther, and more often. And the watch isn't bad looking either. Many times, GPS watches are big and bulky, and you never want to wear them. But the Nike+ GPS Sportwatch has a nice design (not to mention fun colors)! 

Nike FuelBand
The first FuelBand?
  Since February of this year, the FuelBand has been a hot commodity on Nike shelves. During the first few months, getting your hands on a FuelBand was a tough task. But now that it has been in the public for close to six months, the FuelBand is becoming easier and easier to come by.

  But let's start with the obvious: it's cool. Who doesn't want to wear a digital wristband, complete with 20 LED lights and a matrix display?

  To be honest, when I first saw the FuelBand, I immediately thought of Star Wars and the Ewok Adventure movies from my childhood. In my eyes, their life monitor bracelets were the first FuelBands.

  The FuelBand is meant to be worn throughout the day. No matter if you're working out or not. The digital bracelet simply tracks your physical activity and movement on a daily basis.

  It tracks: Fuel points earned, calories burned, steps taken, and also serves as a watch.

My all-time high. So far.
  Now, what are Fuel points? Unlike calories, which are dependent on, among other things, the size of a person (if a 135 pound person, and a 190 pound person, both walk for 20 minutes, the 190 pound person will burn more calories, based on size alone), Fuel points are a unique unit to measure activity.

  They are equal for everyone, and have no correlation to calories burned (if the same 135 and 190 pound people walk 20 minutes, they will earn the same amount of Nike Fuel points).

  This allows for fair competition between friends, colleagues, family members, and teammates. Who can earn the most Fuel points per day? The FuelBand measures how much you move. Period.

  Or how much your arm moves. My biggest complaint with the FuelBand, is that it only registers movement when the arm you're wearing it on moves. Obviously, when you walk or run, your arms naturally move in unison with your legs.

  But say you're on a stair-machine, or riding a bike. Unless you put it around your ankle, the FuelBand will not register any movement, even though you are clearly moving.

Mid-day Fuel check.
  The FuelBand comes in Small, Medium, or Large sizes. And also has removable spacers to give the band a better fit to your wrist.

  In a perfect world (or maybe the next release), there would be an ankle spacer as well. Since I know many of us partake in spin classes, bike rides, workouts on the stair-stepper, and other lower-body based activities, having a way to easily attach it to your leg would increase the accuracy of the FuelBand.

  My second complaint is that there seems to be no value for intensity. Running and walking for an hour gets you relatively the same amount of Fuel points. And similarly, I wore my FuelBand for an hour and 15 minute long shooting (basketball) workout, and got more points than I did when I played pickup for the same amount of time. 

  Like the iPod sensor and the Sportwatch, the FuelBand, easily syncs to your computer. Using the same account on Nikeplus.com, you're able to track your daily progress. It's here where you personalize your FuelBand and set your daily Fuel goal.

  At the end of each day, plug the FuelBand into your computer and watch your results pop up right in front of you (or wirelessly, via an app). Syncing to a computer also recharges the FuelBand (it usually only needs 20-30 minutes to fully recharge).

The Payoff
  The FuelBand doesn't lie. If you've sat at your desk, or in front of the TV for too long, the FuelBand will tell you that it's time to move. It won't literally tell you, but on several occasions, I've been enjoying an easy morning, only to check my FuelBand and see a measly 200 Fuel points. That means it's time to go!

  Also, on one or two occasions, I've found myself doing jumping jacks at 11 o'clock at night because I'm a few hundred points short of my Fuel goal. The FuelBand gets you moving, that's for sure.

  It's fun because it makes being active, and being mobile, a game. We all love competing, so whether it's competing against your previous best, or against your best friend, the FuelBand will get you moving!

  In our society, where we seem to need a little extra push to get moving, I think the FuelBand is an excellent motivator, and actually, a reality check as well!

  If you don't need motivation to move, maybe the FuelBand isn't for you. But if you're active, and want to see your results displayed in front of you, or seek extra competition; or you're inactive, and trying to move those legs a little bit more, then I think the FuelBand is a great investment ($149).


  (Two side notes: 1) If you're deciding between the GPS Sportwatch, and a FuelBand, and you're a runner, go with the Sportwatch, hands down. Having the GPS capabilities is an incredible tool for runners. And the Nike Plus software is an added bonus! 2) It is not recommended to swim or shower with your FuelBand on. It is water resistant, not water proof.)

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