Nike’s fitness band, the FuelBand came out in February of 2012. The Nike+ FuelBand SE, the newest model of the fitness device, was released last month. Since it relies on Bluetooth LE, the Nike+ FuelBand SE is compatible with the iPhone 4S and later, as well as the fifth generation iPod Touch. Bluetooth LE allows the band to automatically connect with the Nike+ FuelBand App. The new FuelBand has been designed to be more accurate and more water-resistant.
I have been using the Nike+ FuelBand SE for a little over a month, going through two defective units (one with a broken clasp, and one with a faulty battery and accelerometer) and finally stuck with the third band (which had a sticky button) for the purpose of this review.
The Nike+ FuelBand SE is nearly identical to the original FuelBand, but it has some color located inside the band on the circuit board, the battery access panels, and the buckle mechanism. It is available in four different colors: Volt (neon green), Pink Foil, Total Crimson and Black. Nike is exclusively offering a limited edition METALUXE series, with the first being Rose Gold.
Fit-wise the Nike+ FuelBand SE is thicker, bulkier, and heavier than the other fitness bands on the market. It is rigid and does not stretch or conform to the user, a feature I find helpful in other bands. The FuelBand SE comes in three different sizes: small, medium/large and extra-large with two spacer links that you can add or take out for a better fit.
One of the nice things about the FuelBand is the USB plug built into the band which allows you to plug it directly into your computer. This allows you to transfer your FuelBand data to your computer and upload it to Nike’s website.
The FuelBand SE has been redesigned to be more water-resistant than the original FuelBand. Unfortunately it’s not completely waterproof, so you cannot go swimming or do water sports with it on.
Users are able to see “Fuel Points,” “Hours Won,” steps, calories, and time on the display in an easy-to-read format, even in direct sunlight. One hundred white LEDs and twenty multi-colored LEDs at the top show how far you are on your goal. Red LEDs indicate that you barely moved at all, yellow indicates that you are halfway to your goal, and green indicates that you have hit your goal. It is motivating to see the information throughout the day, as it encourages you to reach your Fuel Points goal. The band contains a button that you press to switch between the different modes. If you just want the time without all of your information, double pressing the button brings up the time.
The FuelBand features a gaming aspect that involves trying to earn more Fuel Points to compete against yourself and your friends. Fuel Points are Nike’s proprietary system of measuring activity based on a user’s movement. The FuelBand SE has a new Sessions feature, which is supposed to be more accurate in determining movement by assigning your movements to a specific sport.
There are two different ways to start a session. The method I predominately use is to start the Session right in the app, which has you choose the type of activity right away. The other method is to hold the button on the band for three seconds until the band displays “Start,” then press it one time will start a countdown for you to start the activity. Holding the button for three seconds will display “end,” and pressing one time to end it. Later in the app you can classify which type of activity you were engaged in. While engaged in the session, pressing the button on the band displays your FPM (fuel per minute), elapsed session time, and Fuel Points. There are three different Sessions that allow you to modify the intensity of the workout: yoga, cycling, and training. This is because these are not considered full body activities where you are moving your wrist a lot, so it is more difficult for the band to gauge your activity level.
Also new with the FuelBand SE is the ability to create a Session to “track” your sleep. “Track” does not seem to be a very accurate name, as it really just tells you the how long you sleep, gives you some Fuel Points, and displays a graph which is difficult to interpret because the y-axis is not labeled, meaning you have no real idea what is being measured.
Earning a lot of Fuel Points while sleeping is counter intuitive, because realistically you do not want to move much while sleeping, so you actually earn more points by having a bad night’s sleep. It does not give you information such as how much light sleep or deep sleep you got, like other fitness bands on the market.
Using the FuelBand SE, I did not find it to be as accurate as some competing models in terms of steps or calories burned. It was typically off by several thousand calories and several hundred steps when compared to these other bands.
The FuelBand SE has a new “Hours Won” feature, which tries to get the user to remember to move for more than five minutes each hour. The only times I seem to “win the hour” is when I am actually at the gym. When I take a break from work and go walk to the Starbucks around the block, which is a six minute walk, that activity does not seem to count as “winning the hour.” The band first displays a message that scrolls three times, “GO SARAH,” and the Fuel LED lights display the current Fuel Level. Most of the time I seem to miss the alerts as I am not always looking at the display.
The Nike+ FuelBand app is the biggest setback to the FuelBand SE. The app is buggy and lacks many useful features. Almost every other day the app logs the user out of their Nike+ account, and have to constantly log back in. This is rather disruptive while trying to end a Session, or for someone like me who does not know their password and has to open up and use 1Password to get it.
Connecting the FuelBand SE to Bluetooth to work is seamless when it actually works, and I was impressed with how it connected to my iPhone 4S without having to go into Settings on the phone. However, the more I used it, the less instantaneous connecting became. Eventually I had to wait about fifteen to thirty seconds before it would connect, or it would give frequent “Cannot reach Nike+” messages. Sometimes this can be frustrating while you are trying to end a Session and start a new one. I reached out to Nike’s support, who stated that there was “server maintenance occurring.”
When working out with friends using the app, the software can send push notifications alerting you when they start a session so you can cheer them on and compete against them. This feature worked for about a week on my iPhone 4s, whereas my girlfriends had no issues receiving the notifications that I was working out on their iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s. Nike support efficiently and cheerfully walked me through reinstalling the app, which did not resolve the issue.
Swiping opens a drawer that shows different views. The Today screen shows how many points you have earned along with any sessions that were completed. At the bottom you are able to choose to “Capture the Moment,” which allows you to integrate Twitter, FaceBook, or Nike+ to see stats and comparisons of other users of the same age range as you. The Activity screen allows you to view your Fuel by day, week, month, and year, as well as see comparisons of previous performances. It also breaks down the data and shows you when you were the most active, along with any Sessions that were done during that time. Trophies displays any milestones or any goals you might have completed.
As a fail-safe to syncing your data to the app, there is the Nike+ Connect app for Mac and PC. You need to download it when first setting up the FuelBand SE. This is where you would get any firmware updates for the band. Your workout data syncs through the Nike+ Connect app, and is turned into a graph charting your Fuel Points. The website is more informative than the app, as it shows how many points were earned at any particular moment.
The FuelBand SE tends to have problems with overall accuracy. One of the FuelBands that I got when replacing my initial faulty model had an issue with the accelerometer. When this was not working, the band got FuelPoints by just sitting on my desk while it was charging. The data I collected didn’t make sense as far as how many FuelPoints I earned for activities such as sleeping compared to biking or yoga.
In terms of accuracy it is very easy to manipulate the FuelBand SE to get more FuelPoints and to accomplish your goal by “cheating.” On days when I am ten or twenty FuelPoints from my goal, I will sit in bed and shake my wrist for about fifteen seconds so I reach my goal.
The performance of the FuelBand SE battery seems worse compared to the first-generation FuelBand. According to Nike, the SE has a battery of three to five days and the first-generation had a battery from one to four days. My first-generation FuelBand’s battery lasted for a week to a week and a half. The FueldBand SE lasts for five to six days. That’s not so great when compared to similar bands on the market: the Jawbone Up has a battery life of ten days, the Jawbone Up 24 gets about seven days, and the Fitbit Charge lasts seven to ten days.
The Nike+ FuelBand SE does have the stylistic “cool factor” going for it, but little else. I found comparing Fuel Points and seeing how I ranked amongst my friends to be more motivating than making sure I hit any goal.
If you are looking for a fitness band that has some social aspect to it, I would recommend getting the Nike+ FuelBand SE. However, if you are looking for a band that integrates with other fitness apps and has better battery life, I would recommend the Jawbone Up 24 or Fitbit Charge.
The Nike+ FuelBand SE is available to order online from Nike.com. It is available in four colors: Volt, Pink Foil, Total Crimson and Black for $99. The Limited Edition Metaluxe Royal Court and Limited Edition Metaluxe Graphite is $149. Nike is currently offering free shipping.