30 Days With the Nike+ Fuel Band (review)

so "LEET!"

so "LEET!"

When it comes to my own personal quest for fitness, I’m all for adding elements into my daily life that keep me cognizant about being (and staying) active. It is far too easy to take the close parking spot or wait for an elevator. We as people seem to forget just how much convenience eventually affect our waistline. To open this up, that was what I absolutely loved about this device.

yoga... chicks dig bendy boys yeah?

yoga... chicks dig bendy boys yeah?

So what is the Nike+ Fuel Band? I call it a sexy pedometer; think less Great Aunt Esther and more Lance Armstrong. With the popularity of those rubbery bands (thank Livestrong for that), Nike capitalizes on that and also delivers a device that is the first successful (think Jawbone UP) of its kind. I mentioned the Jawbone UP and won’t mention it much further, other than stating that the Jawbone UP was ambitious but fell short of many of my expectations. Anyway, back to the lecture at hand (perfection is perfected so I’ma let ‘em understand). The Nike+ Fuel Band is this black band that you wear around your wrist and an internal accelerometer tracks your movement. Before getting started, you set up an account with Nike+ and create an online profile, entering in your age, weight, height, and gender. That, coupled with the data from the accelerometer, spits out your data. Calories burned and steps taken are delivered in a sleek “nerdgasm” inducing way via 120 LED lights that seem to pop from this unassuming black rubbery band. The interesting part isn’t so much the data, but what the device does with it.

An internal proprietary algorithm takes your calories burned, steps taken, age, height, weight, and gender and determines just how “active” you were and rewards you with fuel points. Since the work that one has to commit to is different across the board, it puts middle aged (hopefully former) couch potatoes on a fairly level playing field with Mister GTL. That being said, none of my friends use this device so I have no one to compete with… but my biggest rival is myself, so beating previous goals and actively hitting my “Fuel goal” is a daily obligation. You can set a Fuel goal (as long as you do so before midnight) and it remains the same until you make changes. This can be achieved via the website or your mobile device (after syncing the device to it).

Functionality wise, the device is sleek, comfortable to wear, and syncs effortlessly (via Bluetooth). The iOS app actively shows your total fuel points earned (and your to-be-achieved goal) right on the home page. Calories burned, steps taken, and a daily average are displayed directly below.  Additionally, the activity page relays information about how active you were during the current day, week, month, and year with each tab featuring a slick visual representation of your activity. The “Friends” page is useless to me since none of my friends use this device… yeah… lazy asses. The final page is your personal profile. Here you can view your achievements and make changes to your goal or profile. You can also share and link to social networking accounts from this page.

Blame it on my craving of visual affirmation! I love earning achievements and trophies. When I hit a daily goal or go on a streak, I receive an achievement complete with a short little animated bit with a Nike+ mascot cheering me on. These achievements and trophies can be easily shared on your social networking sites and sure as hell expresses less (if any) douchebaggery than posting status updates complete with mirror images in front of the free weights rack (you guys know who you are, no one cares about your “killer bulk by the free weights” bro!).  The mobile app and online HUB have a simple ease of use that makes updating progress less of a chore and more intuitive (like breathing).

Now, despite the love fest, I have to be straight with you. This device does fall short in a few key areas, namely the steps and calories. I view this data with a grain of salt and have noticed that the total steps always seem to be about twice as much as the number should be. I actively counted how many steps I took on a short half mile jog and the total number of steps logged in that period of time was about twice as many as the number I counted in my head. It seems to also calculate steps while I drive, sit at my desk, play video games, or do anything that involves the movement of my hand and arm. To this degree, the total number of calories burned in a day will also be a bit skewed. I use the Fuel Band as a reminder to stay active rather than as an accurate reading of my activity. If my number is running a bit low, I’ll actively take the stairs rather than an escalator or park farther away to walk a few extra feet. Ultimately, winning my fuel score of the day, especially if I’ve beaten my goal from the previous day, is the most gratifying experience yet.

In my humble opinion, this device lacks several useful features.  A heart rate monitor and/or connectivity to a telemetry strap would help gain more accurate readings of calories burned and even attribute to the fuel point algorithm. I’ve stayed tightly in tuned with the rumored tech on what the coming Fuel Band 2 would feature, and one feature that is largely viewed as the most likely rumor is a heart rate monitor. I also wish the application had a way to set programs. It can be cumbersome changing the fuel score every day. Say for example, you know you’ll be taking a Cross Fit class three days a week and doing general fitness or just lounging about on the remaining days of the week. It would be nice to be able to set an achievable yet challenging goal to hit on your Cross Fit days. I’ve had streaks broken by setting my goal to 5 or 6k for a Cross Fit day and forget to change it back to 3 or 4k for the next day, and I just don’t hit it. It’s a small complaint but one that I think the developers of the app should incorporate into their UI.

Overall, the Nike+ Fuel Band is a fun device that keeps you active while actively reminding you to hit your daily activity goals. This is great for the casual gym rat or couch potato. Anyone seeking something more precise or seeking clear and relevant data may find this device leaving much to be desired.


Good but not great 3.5 out of 5

+ Sleek/Sexy design
+ Seamless app syncing
+ Fun way to stay active

- Inaccurate calories and steps
- No heart rate sensor
- Inability to set schedules