Three Weeks with the Nike+ Fuelband SE

I don’t like wearing stuff on my wrist, but in my ongoing quest to learn more about the wearables our users wear, I have embarked on a journey.

For science! And for better living through math, a.k.a. the quantified self.

And because I’ll be at HCM World later this month talking about wearables, and because wearables are a thing, and we have a Storify to prove it, and we need to understand them better, and the Apple Watch is coming (squee!) to save us all from our phones and restore good old face time (not that Facetime) and and and. Just keep reading.

Moving on, I just finished wearing the Nike+ Fuelband SE for three weeks, and today, I’m starting on a new wearable. It’s a surprise, just wait three weeks.

Now that I’ve compiled a fair amount of anecdotal data, I figured a loosely organized manifest of observations (not quite a review) was in order.

The band

The Fuelband isn’t my first fitness tracker; you might recall I wore the Misfit Shine for a few months. Unlike the minimalist Shine, the Fuelband has quite a few more bells and whistles, starting with its snazzy display.

Check out a teardown of the nifty little bracelet, some pretty impressive stuff inside there, not bad for a shoe and apparel company.

I’ve always admired the design aspects of Nike’s wearables, dating back to 2012 when Noel (@noelportugal) first started wearing one. So, it was a bit sad to hear about a year ago that Nike was closing that division.

Turns out the Fuelband wasn’t dead, and when Nike finally dropped an Android version of the Nike+ Fuelband app, I sprang into action, quite literally.

Anyway, the band didn’t disappoint. It’s lightweight and can be resized using a nifty set of links that can be added or removed.

IMG_20150217_121004

The fit wasn’t terribly tight, and the band is surprisingly rigid, which eventually caused a couple areas on my wrist to rub a little raw, no biggie.

The biggest surprise was the first pinch I got closing the clasp. After a while, it got easier to close and less pinchy, but man that first one was a zinger.

The battery life was good, something that I initially worried about, lasting about a week per full charge. Nike provides an adapter cord, but the band’s clasp can be plugged directly into  a USB port, which is a cool feature, albeit a bit awkward looking.

It’s water-resistant too, which is a nice plus.

Frankly, the band is very much the same one that Noel showed me in 2012, and the lack of advancement is one of the complaints users have had over the years.

The app and data

Entering into this, I fully expected to be sucked back into the statistical vortex that consumed me with the Misfit Shine, and yeah, that happened again. At least, I knew what to expect this time.

Initial setup of the band requires a computer and a software download, which isn’t ideal. Once that was out of the way, I could do everything using the mobile app.

The app worked flawlessly, and it looks good, more good design from Nike. I can’t remember any sync issues or crashes during the three-week period. Surprising, considering Nike resisted Android for so long. I guess I expected their foray into Android to be janky.

I did find one little annoyance. The app doesn’t support the Android Gallery for adding a profile picture, but that’s the only quibble I have.

Everything on the app is easily figured out; there’s a point system, NikeFuel. The band calculates steps and calories too, but NikeFuel is Nike’s attempt to normalize effort for specific activities, which also allows for measurement and competition among participants.

The default the NikeFuel goal for each day is 2,000, a number that can be configured. I left it at 2,000 because I found that to be easy to reach.

The app includes Sessions too, which allow the wearer to specify the type of activity s/he is doing. I suppose this makes the NikeFuel calculation more accurate. I used Sessions as a way to categorize and compare workouts.

I tested a few Session types and was stunned to discover that the elliptical earned me less than half the NikeFuel than running on a treadmill for the same duration.

Update: Forgot to mention that the app communicates in real time with the band (vs. periodic syncing), so you can watch your NikeFuel increase during a workout, pretty cool.

Overall, the Android app and the web app at nikeplus.com are both well-done and intuitive. There’s a community aspect too, but that’s not for me. Although I did enjoy watching my progress vs. other men my age in the web app.

One missing feature of the Fuelband, at least compared to its competition, is the lack of sleep tracking. I didn’t really miss this at first, but now that I have it again, with the surprise wearable I’m testing now, I’m realizing I want it.

Honestly, I was a bit sad to take off the Fuelband after investing three weeks into it. Turns out, I really liked wearing it. I even pondered continuing its testing and wearing multiple devices to do an apples-to-apples comparison, but Ultan (@ultan) makes that look good. I can’t.

So, stay tuned for more wearable reviews, and find me at HCM World if you’re attending.

Anything to add? Find the comments.

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

7 comments

  1. Interesting observations. I do sport a few of these bands and have been dealing with the situation of what to do when I break before they do.

    http://usableapps.tumblr.com/post/110867109870/what-happens-when-you-break-before-your

    Whatever.

    Yet, I haven’t tried the Nike band? Why? I don’t use the rest of their sporting stuff I guess. Not my vibe. Brands and styling are important for wearables. If I am gonna suffer out there on a marathon for 3.5 hours or fall off a bike then I want to at least do it in style. Nike isn’t a brand that runners like me readily gravitate to. Too “street”.

    And, I too have concerns on data accuracy (today I noticed the Fitbit flex dropped two miles out of my half-marathon for example). Doesn’t matter that much to me – I know I did the miles – but if the data was being used in the enterprise, over time, well…

    Mid-to-Long term I think the positioning of these fitness bands will be consigned to a cheaper market segment for the amateur audience, with smart watches doing the data gathering and data display along with a bunch of other stuff that the bands do now covering most of the populace, and the real pros and serious amateurs will stick with the Garmin etc line.

    Of course then there are those who will wear the lot (cough).

    Besides, it’s the data that’s valuable…:)

    How there’s an interesting prop – why is it that the upper Garmin line won’t be that much impacted by smart watches.

    On the MisFit Shine, as an aside: I stopped using it. I actually lost it on a run in Tahoe and it never bothered me. On reflection, its lack of community engagement, the overly basic toy-like nature on my wrist and a UI that has a huge black space in the middle just got to me. It was, well “dull”. At least I have a space to fill on my arm.

    Let me know if you want to do some comparisons…:)

  2. @Ultan: Dude, sorry to hear about the stress fractures. I totally agree; the next wave of fitness trackers need to predict wear/tear issues.

    Maybe paired w the data in 23andMe or some other data source of personal health information.

    I think you’re onto something for sure. All hail the quantified and analyzed self.

  3. @jake Thanks. I am back in action on the roads again now. As bad as ever… maybe we will get to that age of the personal API and health data exchanges in the Cloud faster than we think…:)

  4. @Ultan: Glad you’re back and better than ever. Oh it’s coming, sooner than we think. This is one of the logical extensions of the quantified self, cross-pollination of data sets to find correlations.

    That’s going to the be a problem though, false positives and inaccurate correlations.

    Spurious even 🙂

  5. Heavens forbid: “performance-enhancing data”. Let’s not go there.

  6. @Ultan: We’ll go there eventually bc it sells 🙂

    One area I’d like to see improve is sleep data. Wearables collect the data, but what can I do to improve it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *