Nike+ FuelBand review

Getting a little bit tubby? Feeling that you should be doing a little more walking and a little less sitting on the sofa watching television or video games? Nike believes it has the answer with the Nike+ FuelBand. But can a bracelet really get you off the sofa and out moving around. We've been living with the Nike+ FuelBand to find out.

Design

Looking like a slightly fatter and more rigid charity band that you might already be wearing, the waterproof matte black band clips around your wrist and locks in place with a very rock-solid clip. Although the Fuel Band comes in only one size, there are different spacers in the box allowing you to expand it to your wrist size. We had ours to the medium option and have been happy.

In a clever move the locking mechanism is also the USB dongle that lets you plug the Nike+ FuelBand into your computer for syncing and charging. Because of the design the USB dongle is always hidden when you wear it, so while you clearly are a geek, you don't have to share that knowledge with everyone else. You will need to charge it every four or five days depending on how active you are.

The band is interactive and displays some information at the press of the only button. The bright LED display appears as if out of nowhere to tell you the relevant information and is very clear and easy to read. It works in bright sunlight, and gives the band a very cool design feel to it. This isn't some tacky bit of plastic.

How it works

Slap it on your wrist, and start moving. It really is that simple - although you do have to sign up to Nike+ first. The hardware inside is basically an accelerometer that you find in your mobile phone that measures movement and the speed of that movement. Using that data, it then calculates how many Nike Fuel points you are earning, a rough guess at the amount of calories you are burning, and how many steps you've taken.

The information is stored on the device until you sync it either with your PC or Mac by plugging the Fuel Band in, or via Bluetooth to the dedicated iPhone app. The inclusion of Bluetooth means that if you have an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad (it's not designed for the iPad screen, however) you don't ever need to faff with a computer. Nice.

Analyse this

There are two ways of accessing the wealth of data that you are capturing. One is via a dedicated iOS app the other is via the Nike Fuel website once you plug in to your computer.

The website and the app are incredibly easy to use and packed with stats to make you feel like you're achieving something.

There's the chance to see how you've performed with colourful graphs that chart your movement values, how you compare, whether and when you've met your goal target, and basically how you are doing.

Do well and you get rewarded with animated videos of a little man dancing around. It's cheesy, but if you're easily pleased, you'll love it.

Filling up

The power of the Nike+ FuelBand is all in the concept of what it is trying to achieve. As to not get bogged down with BMI or calories, or measuring steps (it roughly does the latter two), Nike has created a Fuel points system that allows you earn points by doing exercise regardless of what that exercise is.

Nike believes that if you and a professional football player were to run around on a football pitch for 30 minutes you have both done the same amount of exercise and therefore should be rewarded the same amount.

That's a very different attitude from what many in the sports fitness industry think, which is that the footballer would get more credit because his is no doubt more efficient and has probably burnt more calories.

What all that means here, is that you can set yourself goals to beat, can measure yourself against your friends easily, and for Nike it gets around the fact that you can get a higher Fuel tally by just waving your arm - hey you are still moving.

Goals

When we tested the FitBit Ultra we loved it, but the novelty quickly wore off because we couldn't see what to do with the data after the fact. Yep, it is great to know that you've walked 10,000 steps today, or that you have climbed the equivalent of 16 floors, but like those electricity monitors, you start to think, "So what?"

Here Nike has opted for setting you a daily goal - which you can manage - to give you a constant reminder that you are doing this for a purpose. The Band features a strip of coloured lights from red to green and where you set your goal will affect how quickly you make it to the goal line.

The software allows you to set the daily goal target between 2,000 Fuel points and 99,999. To give you some idea, a rather busy day walking around London will get to about 5,000 points.

It's time to start moving

All this theory is great, but what about actually wearing and using it. Well that's what we did. Since getting the Fuel Band we've been wearing it almost 24/7 to see if it can get into our psyche - we did take it off to sleep.

In that time we've walked around London, gone on a couple of runs (about 12 miles in total) played tennis, gone to the pub, sat on the sofa, worked at a desk, basically all the usual stuff you might do in your life. 

At first it has to be said that it was fairly uncomfortable. It's a buckled strap that has little movement so something dangling and moving on our arm was unusual. If you are used to wearing a charity band we doubt that you would notice much difference, only that this bracelet is a bit more "solid".

Pressing the button on the top of the band reveals the information. It's good that you press it only once, and it stays on that statistic. So if you want to use this as a watch, as we found we have, you only have to press the button once to get the time each time.

Whenever you press the button you are reminded of how well you are doing in achieving your goals with those lights. That's a really powerful motivator.

Also a powerful motivator is that you can see it, you are constantly reminded and reminding others that you are someone who is trying to get more aware about exercising. That's a very different approach to the Fitbit Ultra that is hidden out of sight.

The software allows you to customise what is accessible on the go and if you can't be fussed with Calories or Steps you can remove this from the band - we have.

It is a motivator, for us at least, that works. We hate to admit it but once or twice we've been sitting on the sofa, realised that we aren't going to get enough points to meet our target and then got up and gone out for a walk or a run. Scary.

There must be a catch?

Yep, there is, the Nike+ FuelBand isn't a toy and because of that it costs £139.99. That means you've got to be serious about wanting to track your movement and feel that a device like this will help you mentally to change your approach to getting out or even just using the stairs, rather than the lift.

There is also the fact that the Fuel Band offers little other than tracking your Fuel points. You can't use this to anaylse your running, or any part of any exercise other than that you were moving, and in some cases moving fast.

Likewise, compared to the Fitbit Ultra, the Nike+ FuelBand won't calculate your steps as effectively, or the number of stairs you climb, nor will it let you monitor your sleep patterns - yet it is almost twice the price.

Nike Fuel will be coming to the Nike+ GPS Watch and that will be the better option if you are already training for something and need a very comprehensive aid. 

Verdict

We really like the Nike+ FuelBand. It appeals to our inner competitive streak, and gives you enough of a push to get you moving. More so than Fitbit because of the goal element.

We also like that the iPhone app lets you see your friends on Facebook who also have the Fuel Band, so you can challenge them, gloat, or just feel you have to do better when you see their daily score.

But ultimately you do have to ask yourself whether you need the extra push.

If you are energetic already then you this isn't probably for you, but like a nagging Mrs Pocket-lint asking you to takeout  the rubbish on bin day, sometimes you need that little extra push, and from what we've experienced first hand, the Nike+ FuelBand will do that for you nicely.