In 2012 I reviewed Nike’s Fuelband. For the most part I liked what I saw, though, and this was met with controversy, I didn’t believe it was all that accurate. Largely, because the first Fuelband counted my steps even while I was driving. Now the company is back with the second edition, otherwise known as the Fuelband SE.
What is the Fuelband SE
So what is the Fuelband SE? In short, it’s a pedometer. Inside is an accelerometer, and when worn on your wrist, it measures your steps. Then through a calculation, it can display your calories burned, or Fuel consumed – Fuel is Nike’s own proprietary calculation that is presumably based on age, weight, height, and gender. In short, it’s a universal point system and allows for competition amongst those with different attributes.
Displaying all of this info are two things: an iOS only app and a set of LEDs embedded into the band. The LEDs, and all together design of the Fuelband make it a wow product. And when it was first announced it justifiably garnered a storm of media.
Push the single button and a set (100 in total) of LED lights illuminate and work together to create a text read out that is viewable in direct sunlight. And sitting just below it are 20 colored LED lights that indicate what percent of your daily Fuel goal has been attained. The entire band is coated in a rubber finish, however, it’s not waterproof, but water resistant, enabling it to go into the shower, but not a bath. The clasping system contains a USB plug and allows it to be charged using any USB port, either on a computer or an adapter plugged into the wall.
First VS SE
So, not much has changed from the first Fuelband to the second iteration, though there are a few notable updates. Nike says they’ve updated the circuitry to improve flexibility – I never had a problem with the first. Bluetooth 4.o, or Bluetooth Low Energy has been added, which allows the band to be more consistently connected to the iPhone without reducing battery life too much. And while just a software update, there are now Sessions and Win the Hour.
Sessions are effectively a logging system that allows you to track your workouts. Just hold the Fuelband button until “Sessions” appears, tap again, a 3 second clock counts down, and the session has begun. Sessions can also be activated within the app by hitting the Stop Watch button. If needed, Sessions can be modified after the workout, which is handy if you forget to start one at the beginning of your workout.
Win the hour is a bit more straight forward, as it notifies you to get up every hour and move around. Nike doesn’t say how long you have to move, but I’ve read that 5 minutes of consistent movement will satisfy the goal.
Does it work, is it worth it?
So the Fuelband has been criticized for not being entirely accurate in terms of counting steps. That I still believe, though the SE version seems to do a much better job at reducing false positives – you can’t just flick your wrist and increase your steps, which was viable in the first.
Accuracy aside (and I have another point below regarding this) I believe the Fuelband is one of the best pedometers on the market. Why? First and foremost, the industrial design is unparalleled. Nothing says wow like 100 LED lights. Fitbit attempted to overcome this shortcoming with the Force, but it’s still hardly as radical. Moreover, the Fuelband’s clasp doubles as a USB plug, allowing for it to be charged almost any where. Competitors either require a proprietary cable (Fitbit) to power its battery, or use a non-rechargeable watch battery (Misfit Shine).
But, that isn’t to say the Fuelband is devoid of wrong doing. The rubber finish is prone to marring – a slight caveat in the grand scheme of things. The battery life seems to be largely the same, though it can be connected to the app full time unlike the first version. The app, while easy to read for “at a glance stats”, doesn’t plainly spell out how to use the social components and in turn add a greater level of gamification. In other words, I might be more apt to get up and move around if it plainly spelled out what others were doing throughout the day.
Lastly, the Win the Hour feature – a great idea by the way – is hampered by the fact that the Fuelband can’t vibrate, but only illuminate when it’s time to move. Moreover, a Push Notification is supposed to display on your iPhone, but I found this inconsistent.
The two biggest new features are, from what I can tell, simply a software update. I understand why Nike didn’t provide them to the first Fuelband simply because of the economics of the matter, but I still find it frustrating that they wouldn’t reward their existing users with these and instead head for a quick cash grab. That aside, I still love the Fuelband.
The clasping system doubles as a USB port, rarely comes undone unlike some other pedometers, and looks amazing doing it. It’s unlikely that you’ll garner questions or inquiries by wearing it, after all it is another rubber wristband and that fad as worn off.
As to the accuracy argument: it’s a bit moot. The Fuelband provides a strong indicator of activity through out the day, and that’s well represented in a graph in the app. Gamification could be improved socially speaking, but at the end of the day, much like all of the other pedometers I’ve tried, it tells me when I’m being a sedentary POS, and you know what it, it’s the most useable and coolest looking of the bunch.