The Fuelband is Nike's all-day activity monitor/pedometer bracelet, meant to track total daily steps and reward you for being active.
I've worn more pedometers and activity monitors than most people on the planet. In the first week of wearing the Nike+ Fuelband, I was doubling my workday steps to get to my NikeFuel goal each and every day.
Why? Because when I did, the bracelet goal indicator flashed rainbow colors, and a cartoon guy jumped, somersaulted, shot off lasers and fireworks and unfurled a banner on the Nike FuelBand iPhone app and at NikePlus.com. And so I found myself marching in place in front of the TV just to get to my goal. Every. Day.
Nike rolled out the updated FuelBand SE in November, 2013 and will be phasing out the original FuelBand. The SE tracks not only all-day steps, but also allows wearers to track exercise sessions and intensity and gives incentive to move each hour with Move Reminders and counting hours with activity. I ordered one immediately to wear and review.
>> Full Review of Nike+ FuelBand SE: see the new features in the FuelBand SE.
Using the Nike+ FuelBand
The Nike+ Fuelband is a bracelet that you wear all day. It contains a three-axis accelerometer pedometer to detect motion and speed and to count steps. It has a built-in USB connector for uploading data to your computer and recharging its battery. You can also upload data to a smart phone app via Bluetooth.
Set-up: The Fuelband comes with almost no instructions. I could have used some instructions on how to open up the bracelet (push the button on the stainless steel part above the Swoosh). Login to Nikeplus.com, download the connection software (PC or Mac) and plug your FuelBand into a USB connector to charge it. You create your online account or tie it to your existing Nikeplus account. I have an account for using my Nike+ iPod sensor, for example, and I simply used that account. When you first set it up, it asks for your height and weight in order to estimate calories burned and distance.
Set Your NikeFuel Goal: The NikeFuel number is based on speed and duration of movement. It's Nike's way of counting all activity - running, walking, shooting hoops, tennis, etc. Everyone gets the same point value regardless of their size. I set my goal at the "normal day" of 2,000 NikeFuel. I can generally achieve that with 8,000 to 10,000 walking steps, or even fewer steps if I move faster.
Get Moving: The FuelBand automatically starts counting steps for the day at midnight. By pressing a button on the band, you can see your current step count for the day, active calories burned, NikeFuel total for the day and the time of day. Progress toward your daily NikeFuel goal is shown with a line of dots that moves from red through yellow to green.
The display automatically adjusts for brightness depending on the ambient light. It is easy to read with my aging eyes; no reading-glasses needed.
Goal! Once you reach your goal, the word GOAL shows, flashing and dancing. But keep moving. You get extra rewards for achieving 1.5 times your goal (Water - soaked your goal) or doubling your goal (Ice - shattering your goal). To see the little FuelBand guy dance, you need to go to the iPhone app or the website.
Accuracy: The step count with the FuelBand was a little inflated for me each day, compared with a pedometer that edits out junk steps. I doubt the accuracy of the calorie read-out because walking calories depend very much on how much you weigh and much less on walking speed. I would take the calorie read-out with a grain of salt and check it against my pedometer-steps calorie calculator. I found it often credited me with twice the calories that others pedometers gave me for the same number of steps.
Power and Memory: A full charge on the Fuelband should last three to four days before recharging. The company recommends plugging the device into your computer's USB port for three to four hours a day, with the computer on. I find it charges fully in about an hour. It has a low-battery indicator and a good visual charging graphic as it charges. There is an unspecified limit on how much data it will hold before maxing out its memory without syncing to the iPhone app or the website.
Fit: The Fuelband comes in small, medium or large, and it has two links to adjust for a better fit. I have never liked wearing a bracelet other than a watch. The Nike Fuelband was comfortable enough for me. And after I fell in love with its goal dance, I was willing to tolerate even the slightest annoyance.
No Swimming: The band will tolerate getting damp, but immersing it in water or other fluids is a bad idea. You'll have to track your swimming activity in some other way.
Viewing Your Data on NikePlus.com
To upload your data via USB and recharge the Fuelband, you open the bracelet and plug it into the USB adapter. The NikePlus.com site opens and you can see your daily results.
In addition to an hourly activity graph, it tells you your average NikeFuel per hour, total steps, total active calories burned, and Hours Won (by moving at least five continuous minutes in that hour). Prior to the update in November, 2013, the site also estimated your distance and active time, but those measurements are no longer displayed.
The graph marks your most active hour, with hourly NikeFuel totals if you mouse over the line.
You can share your graph and achievements on Facebook and Twitter.
On your NikePlus dashboard, you can see how your NikeFuel total compares to Nike+ users in your gender/age group and Nike+ users overall.
You can review past days, weeks and achievements.
But best of all, you can see the little NikeFuel man dance, jump, roll, shoot off lasers and sparks to celebrate each of your achievements. I don't even like cartoons, but this makes me smile and feel great about myself. You can replay his celebration as often as you want.
iPhone App with Bluetooth Connection
The free iPhone app lets you pair your FuelBand with your iPhone and upload your data wirelessly. You can watch the little NikeFuel man dance for you on your iPhone! The FuelBand SE uses low power Bluetooth 4.0 and syncs continuously.
Data uploaded to the app also transfers to NikePlus.com.
With the iPhone app, you can view your graphs and data, share them on Facebook or Twitter, and connect with friends who are also using the FuelBand.
Bottom Line on the Nike+ FuelBand
Lest this become too glowing of a review, here is what you don't get with a Nike+ FuelBand that you do with some other activity monitors:
- You can't track specific workouts with the original FuelBand, although you can by using the FuelBand SE and/or the iPhone app. However, it does not give you a step count, distance or speed estimate for a workout.
- It has no diet-, weight- or nutrition-tracking features, such as you get with Fitbit or SLIMCOACH.
I was skeptical about the FuelBand, as I have tried dozens of activity monitors and pedometers and settled on Fitbit as a favorite. But Fuelband motivates this jaded old walker to put in the steps to get the little Fuelband guy to dance every day. I've stopped making excuses and started doing whatever it takes to make it to the daily goal dance.
Warranty Service: The Fuelband has a one-year warranty. After 230 days, my first Fuelband just stopped working. I called Nike Support and we tried rebooting with no effect. They offered to either ship me a new one, or I could take it to my local Niketown retailer to get a free replacement. I did so and it was a quick and easy process. The replacement had button-failure after 341 days. Because I had the receipt, I easily had it replaced. Nike publicity says the FuelBand SE is more durable. Frankly, I'd prefer that it break during the warranty period rather than a few months later.