So as part of my New Years "lets not die too soon" resolutions, I've vowed to get into somewhat better shape, and am starting to train for my first 5K. As a non-runner, but someone who has lost a good amount of weight over the last couple years (Admittedly putting some back on in the last few months) I feel it's a reasonable goal - but one that I'm going to need some help to achieve. As a geek, toys and reward-based goals are a great motivator for me, so I was looking at all the various "exercise wearables" out there today. I hadn't really made a choice yet, but found myself in an apple store today for some other stuff and decided to bite the bullet and pick up a Nike Fuelband SE to see exactly what it could do for me.
Easy as pie. Login to your nike+ account on a computer, install the application, connect the fuelband via the included USB cable. Firmware updates and voila, it's all ready to go to track your information. You can also connect it to your iphone via bluetooth (not sure if it works on android, but presumably it does or will soon).
Overall it's not a bad looking device. I got the black and red model - the red is really only on the inside and a thin line at the clasp. Oh, something worth mention about that clasp - be really, REALLY careful when closing it. The first time I put the band on I pinched my forearm hard enough to draw a little bit of blood.
The band also comes with a clip so that you can extend the size of the fuelband by a few mm. I have a fairly average sized wrist for a man, and while the fuelband fit out of the box on my left arm comfortably, I had to put in the extension to get it on my right arm (since I wear a pebble on the left, this seemed like a logical thing to do).
First, lets talk about Nike +
So for starters, Nike +. It's the system that drives the fuelband, as well as the (in my opinion far more useful) Nike+ running app on my iphone. It's a simple enough matter to get started - go to the website, create an account, and voila, you're off and "running" if you'll pardon the pun. The goal is to earn nikefuel - seemingly random "points" that are given to you based on your level of activity.
Now I started my training a couple of weeks ago and have been using the Nike+ running app on my iphone to track things like distance, average speed, time and so on. It's a pretty full featured app that taps into the phone's GPS to pull down a ton of data - it also does give a calorie readout, keeps track of things like your fastest and furthest runs, actual courses run (laid out on a map for you to refer back to) and can upload them to facebook and a few other social media websites. Overall it's a pretty good app and has kept me motivated. The ability to play my music while it's running is nice as well, and the regular announcements when I've crossed over mile markers (mind you I'm only jogging a mile and a quarter or so at this point) is a nice driver to keep me going.
So that's Nike+ running, but what about the fuelband?
Well I'm glad you asked that. I openly admit I hadn't done a lot of research before hand, but my natural assumption (a foolish one) was that the fuelband would replicate the features found in the app on my phone, hopefully without the need to carry my phone on my jog. At $149 I figured this thing would be more than a glorified pedometer, but at the end of the day that is essentially what it is. It counts your steps, gives you "nikefuel" and gives you a calorie count out...but here's the thing: it doesn't track distance since it doesn't have GPS built in (or the ability to tap into the phone's either apparently), and it doesn't track speed for the same reason. So while the step counter may come somewhat close, the calories burned can't be in any way accurate if you are doing anything more than meandering - if I take 1000 steps at 3 MPH, and then 1000 steps at 6 MPH, there should be a difference in calories burned in real life: but not from the fuelband's perspective. Looking at my 1.2 mile jog, the nike+ running app says I burned around 200 calories while my fuelband says I burned far fewer.
So, if it's a pedometer, why do you need to pair it to a phone?
The answer, honestly, is that you don't. You can sync the fuel band to your nike+ account by connecting it via USB cable. That is the main thing that the fuelband app and pairing do - it automatically updates your account with your activity level and assigned fuel points. Even more irritating - you need a whole separate app to do this - the nike+ running app has no knowledge or interest in the fact that you're wearing the dopey band on your wrist.
There's some other features on the thing, and this is why I classify this as a couch potato device. It will remind you if you haven't been active for a set period of time (you can configure the time period, awake hours, and whether or not you want this feature via the application installed on your computer). It has some LEDs that come on as you get close to your nikefuel goals (again, set through your nike+ account) and that's really about all she wrote. Oh it also shows the time, as one would expect.
Now it's worth mention that Nike has updated their software so that you can manually set the intensity of whatever activity you're doing...so if I'm running I can tell the fuelband that via the app on my phone. They have a long list of activities that you can select that will apparently change how the fuelband reads your activity level. I've honestly not tried any of those just yet, but will try to on my next outdoor jog (will likely be a few days as a new arctic blast is heading our way). Truthfully I don't see myself doing much with that - I'm not interested in tracking the steps I take to go from my car to my office and vice versa - I'm interested in tracking my distance and time, period.
Should you get one?
It all depends on what you're looking to do I suppose. The truth is, the trophy/nikefuel point system and the like don't really do much for me. I'm a fairly active person in my "day to day" and what I was really looking for was something that would enhance my training practices as I start to jog slightly longer distances - this thing is not it. At $149, you need to understand that you're getting something that is, truthfully, not much more useful than a 7 dollar pedometer and a pen and paper...
For example, DMC-03 Multi Function Pedometer tracks your steps taken, distance and calories, likely using a very similar algorithm to what the fuelband does (in other words, there is no "calibration" for step length, nor is there anywhere to input speed)...and the pen and paper would, obviously, be to track how many steps you've taken in a given day...which is ultimately the only moderately accurate measurement that the fuelband will give you.
So should you get it? It depends. Are you a loafer who needs something to remind you to get your ass off the couch a few times a day and walk around? If so, this will do that. Are you someone so out of shape that you consider walking around your apartment to be exercise and want to know just how many calories you burn doing it? Then this thing is most definitely for you. Are you someone who is relatively active and is, perhaps, training to get into more/better shape? If so, skip it. The Nike+ running app and an armband for your phone will provide you with far better, more accurate, and more useful data and data tracking. In case I haven't already said it (and I know I have), all you're getting with the fuelband is a pedometer that synchronizes to the web.