Nike is rounding out its stable of fitness gadgets with the FuelBand, a slick bracelet that tracks and charts your daily physical activity. It then awards you NikeFuel points, which you can then boast about to friends and family. But, are bragging rights enough motivation for you to buy this $149 gadget and get up off the couch? And, can it catch up to more established devices such as the Fitbit and Jawbone Up? Read on to see how this race shakes out.
The FuelBand is sleekly minimalistic. The majority of the band is covered in a soft-touch rubber, with the exception of the metal clasp. When you unlatch the band, one side has a USB plug, so you can physically connect the band to a computer. The band itself weighs just 0.95 ounces, and is barely noticeable; however, we had to remove it when typing, as its thickness made our wrist somewhat uncomfortable.
On the top of the band is a small rubber button; press it to turn on the FuelBand's futuristic-looking display. The majority of the display is made of white LEDs, and shows various stats (Fuel, Cals, Steps and Time). Beneath that is a row of smaller colored LEDs, which go from red to green and show how near you are to completing the day's goals.
Included is a USB cord, a small stand, and two extensions for those with larger wrists. The FuelBand is water-resistant, so it is able to get slightly wet, but Nike advises against swimming while wearing the device.
After downloading the Nike+ app, we plugged the FuelBand into our computer, and created a free Nike+ account. During the setup process, we entered our age, height and weight, and were asked to set a daily goal: 2,000 points for a normal day, 3,000 for a day that includes a workout and 5,000 for a very strenuous day.
From then on, whenever we plugged the FuelBand into our PC, it automatically opened both a standalone app, where we could configure the FuelBand, and a Web-based Dashboard that displayed our goals and how many points we earned. While plugged in, the FuelBand's display also shows its battery level; we wish this was an option when the band was unplugged, too.
You can also sync the FuelBand wirelessly with an iPhone app via Bluetooth; once paired, it's a simple matter of pressing and holding the button on the FuelBand. Not only does it transmit the data to your phone, but it also gets uploaded online.
The basic objective behind the FuelBand is to accumulate NikeFuel points. The more you move around, the faster you get points. However, the device is designed to track your general activity. Note that the FuelBand won't give you minute details, such as your average pace while running, or your exact route through a park.
Over a week of testing, the FuelBand's accelerometer accurately tracked when we were performing more strenuous activities such as running versus more leisurely pursuits, such as walking. When we hit a goal, or broke a personal record for points, neat little animations appeared on the band and on the app, congratulating us on our achievement.
When we viewed our stats on the Nike website, it also showed how our stats compared with other people in our gender and age group, and let us brag about them to friends on Facebook or the Nike+ community.
Nike says that the FuelBand should stay charged for up to four days. We were able to use the FuelBand for five days before needing to recharge the device.
The $149 Nike FuelBand is a small, sleek device that performs as advertised, and is well-suited for those looking to keep track of their general physical activity. If you want more precise workout information, devices such as the $249 MOTOACTV or $199 Nike+ SportWatch GPS are more appropriate. But even among its ilk, the FuelBand may not be the best deal. The FitBit and Jawbone Up are both $50 less expensive, and offer additional features such as meal-logging and sleep-tracking, and the latter even vibrates to wake you. Still, there's much to be said for the simplicity and elegance of the FuelBand.