Product Review: Nike+ FuelBand

There are a lot of gadgets out in the marketplace these days fighting for your hard-earned dollars, and one of the latest to garner serious buzz is the Nike+ FuelBand, a fitness bracelet that tracks your daily activity using a three-axis accelerometer inside the device. Nike is doing its very best to build hype for the FuelBand by releasing it in limited quantities and therefore keeping demand high, but at a rather pricey $150, is it even worth it? I was given a FuelBand to test out for one week and arrived at the following conclusion: it’s complicated.

Nike has done a great job with the overall presentation of the FuelBand; it’s simple yet stylish, and although the band is a little more rigid than expected, it’s so lightweight that you’ll forget you’re even wearing it most of the time. (I actually went to sleep wearing mine every night). Additionally, the band is water resistant, so you can feel free to wear it in the shower or the rain without worrying about it short-circuiting on you. Of course, I wouldn’t have risked it if I had actually paid for mine, but Nike says it’s okay as long as you’re not completely submerging it in water, so hopefully that’ll put your mind at ease.

In addition to the bracelet itself (which can be purchased in three different sizes: small, medium and large), the FuelBand comes with two extension links (8mm and 16mm) to fine-tune your fit, a sizing tool that makes adding and removing them a breeze, and a USB charging stand for when it’s plugged into your computer. I was a little surprised at how long it took for the band to charge via the USB connecter (which also functions as the bracelet’s clasp), but the battery life is remarkably good, running on a single charge for the entire week despite Nike’s claim that it would only last for four days.

The FuelBand works in much the same way as other fitness bracelets or pedometers on the market – tracking the number of calories burned and steps taken – but what sets it apart is the concept of Nike Fuel, a points-based system that represents your level of activity for the day. You earn Fuel for just about anything you do (walking, running, pouring milk into a bowl of cereal, etc.) and can even set daily goals that the FuelBand tracks with a strip of colored lights located just below the main LED matrix. As you get closer to hitting your goal, the lights progress from red, to orange, to yellow, and finally to green, celebrating your achievement with Jumbotron-style flair. And if that wasn’t enough, the device also has a built-in watch function, which I found to be really useful.

One of the other great things that the FuelBand offers is live updates via a free iPhone app (or using the Nike+ Connect Software on your PC) by syncing the device wirelessly through Bluetooth. Not only does the app provide you with up-to-the-minute stats and charts on what you’ve been doing throughout the day, but you’ll also unlock trophies for hitting certain milestones or going above and beyond your daily goal.

Unfortunately, because the band is worn on your wrist, it only tracks activities involving arm movement. That means that it’s almost completely useless for sports like cycling (unless you try wearing it on your ankle) and will only register an activity like dribbling a basketball on one arm. Additionally, it doesn’t take into account other variables like weight resistance, no matter how much extra work you may actually be doing, so it’s hard to imagine serious fitness buffs getting any use out of the FuelBand, even though I don’t think that was ever Nike’s intended audience.

It may not do as much as people are probably expecting for something so expensive, but if nothing else, the FuelBand is an excellent motivational tool to make consumers more aware of the lack of exercise in their daily lives. If you have the extra money, it definitely has some good uses (not to mention doubling as a cool accessory), but while I applaud Nike’s best intentions, the FuelBand is a luxury that most people can’t afford.

  

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