Nike was early in the personal fitness market with its Nike + iPod accessories. Its latest creation, the Nike FuelBand, functions as a standard pedometer but uses "gamification" tactics such as awarding badges to lure sedentary people into an active lifestyle. It also measures activity with the new Nike Fuel virtual metric. But can a smart sports wristband really be motivational? Read on to find out if the FuelBand has the stuff to inspire you.
The FuelBand is a somewhat thick, rubber-feeling band that wraps around your wrist, secured by a metal clasp. I was immediately struck by its simplistic design: a single button for scrolling through the categories, a large row of 100 white LEDs that display the readouts, and a smaller line of 20 color LEDs that change from red to green as you get closer to your stated goal. You push the button to get the Nike Fuel score, and push it again to rotate through calories, steps, and the time.
While it's somewhat bulky, I found the wristband wasn't distracting during my physical activities, in this case a run through Central Park and an hour of tennis. Both times, I barely noticed the device was on my wrist, at least until I looked down to check my score. The design also caught the attention of my friends, who particularly liked the LED readouts, so if nothing else, it makes for a unique fashion accessory.
The FuelBand comes with additional spacers that can lengthen or shorten the circumference of the band for different wrist sizes. Its circumference is 5.79 inches at its smallest and 7.76 inches at its largest. It weighs between 0.95 ounce and 1.13 ounces, depending on the spacers.
Because of its tight, circular design, the FuelBand doesn't fall off even if the clasp gets undone. Instead, it just hangs on the wrist, handy if something knocks the clasp open during a run or game.
As with most fitness devices, the FuelBand is fairly rugged. It's water-resistant, so you can shower with it or take it out in the rain. But it isn't durable enough to handle a swim.
Simplicity really is the key to this device. Aside from the button, there are no other ports or extras. One end of the FuelBand is actually a USB connector, so you need to undo the clasp to connect it to a computer and sync your data this way.
The FuelBand also has a Bluetooth connection through which you can send data to your iOS device using an application found in the App Store. Simply hold down the button on the band until the "sync" notification comes up, and it sends data to your iOS device, which then uploads the data to the Nike+ Web site. Unfortunately, the FuelBand only works with iOS right now, although Nike says an Android app is in development.
Once synced, the app tells you your Fuel score, which is the prominent metric used, for better or worse. A different page shows your activity throughout the day, week, month, or year, as well as a reading of your calories, active time, steps, and total distance for the day. You can use Facebook to share your posts, although I opted not to. The last section, titled "Me," is where the FuelBand's motivational tools are located. You get a total count of your Nike Fuel, as well as banners like "Best Day" and "Longest Streak," plus trophies for hitting benchmarks like 10,000 Fuel points. After you pass certain benchmarks, a little mascot does a jig or pulls down a banner in your honor. The gamification of fitness has arrived.
The Web site offers more of the same stats, but with greater detail. You can check on how many Fuel points you've accumulated hourly, the only real way to see how active you've been during a specific activity. Color graphs illustrate how you've done on a day-by-day basis, and compare your Fuel score ranks with people your age and the Nike+ community as a whole.