Nike+ FuelBand – Tech, Meet Exercise

Do you remember the Jawbone UP? You purchased the UP band, wore it on your wrist and downloaded the app to go with it. It tracked your steps, calories burned, how restful your sleep was and you could compare your results with your friends for motivation to get more active. It was a novel idea, and myself along with a few colleagues bought into it. A month or so later, Jawbone announced a recall/refund program for the UP band, after numerous reports of issues with the hardware. Soon after, the UP buzz was over. Apple Stores stopped stocking it, and the UP band was largely deemed a failure by critics.

Meet the Nike+ FuelBand — it’s the same kind of idea, but executed a lot better. Let’s take a look after the jump.

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The Hardware

Before we take an in-depth look at the FuelBand app, let’s quickly run over the hardware. The FuelBand itself is a solid, well-built wristband with a soft touch, matte-plastic finish. It comes in three different sizes, and each size also comes with a small “link” — a tiny attachable extension that seemlessly clips on to the end of the band to increase the size slightly so you can get the perfect fit. The band uses accelerometers and “scientifically proven and tested” algorithms to accurately calculate your level of activity throughout the day. A series of white and coloured hidden LEDs create a screen that’s invisible until you press the single button on the band, and a single press shows you how much “Fuel” (more on that later) you’ve earned that day. Subsequent presses will display steps taken, calories burned and even the time of day. Yes, this is a cool watch, too.

The band itself is what you buy — at a fairly pricey point of $149. While the band isn’t cheap, the stuff that the app does with the data the band captures is just totally cool — almost cool enough to justify the price tag.

The App

The Nike+ FuelBand app is a free download, and after creating a Nike+ account (if you don’t already have one) you’ll sync your band to pair it to your iPhone, set a NikeFuel goal to hit every day and suddenly your life turns into a daily effort to reach that goal.

The app is split into four main sections: Home, Activity, Friends, and Me. We’ll take a look at each section separately, and see what it does with the data that your band captures for you.

Home

The Home section of the app is sort of like your dashboard — a quick overview of your day so far. It displays your current progress (assuming you’ve synced your band) by way of a number value, looped by a progress bar that comes complete with an animation that shows it incrementally fill up every time you sync. It also displays your total NikeFuel since you began, current streak (the number of days in a row you’ve hit your goal) and your average daily NikeFuel, among other metrics.

The home tab gives you a quick overview of your day.

The home tab gives you a quick overview of your day.

Rotate your iPhone into landscape, and you see a graph of your activity that day. It’s all presented with a super slick UI that’s very impressive — Nike clearly has some great designers behind their digital products.

Activity

Want to know your total NikeFuel from last week? How about how many miles you walked in total last month? The Activity tab is where you can see all that kind of data and do some serious analysis. Once you’ve been using the band for a while, you can start seeing month-to-month comparisons, and actually see if you’ve been getting more active as a result of using the FuelBand.

The graphs in the activity tab give you amazing insight.

The graphs in the activity tab give you amazing insight.

Select a timespan, and you can swipe back in time to see previous results. Look at those days where you didn’t quite hit your goal and those where you smashed it. Do you notice you get higher results on certain days? Are you less active on your days off, or at work? You can figure all that kind of stuff out — on your iPhone.

Friends

This is where things get competitive. Connect your Nike+ account to Facebook, and assuming your friends also forked out the cash for a FuelBand (and have iPhones), you can compare your amount of NikeFuel with them on daily and weekly leader boards. This is where the motivation comes in — you want the bragging rights, and the only way to get it is by being active.

The competition really begins when you get your friends involved.

The competition really begins when you get your friends involved.

The only way this feature falls slightly is in the fact that you have to rely on your friends syncing regularly. If they don’t, you may fool yourself into thinking you’re the next Usain Bolt.

Me

The final section of the app gives you lots of stats about your overall progress, since you began using the FuelBand. On one single screen, you can quickly see your best day, week or month, your longest streak, and even the day of the week that tends to be your most active.

The Me tab tracks your progress over time, and gives you your all time bests.

The Me tab tracks your progress over time, and gives you your all time bests.

Scroll down a little and you can see your trophies. Lasting motivation is offered through milestone trophies (hitting 25K NikeFuel, 50K and so-on), and little extra trophies for doing things like hitting 50% above your goal. There are plenty I haven’t discovered, and I look forward to doing so. Trophies are very much like Xbox Achievements, except you’re getting them by not sitting on the couch.

Performance

The Nike+ FuelBand app delivers immensely with its UI and it doesn’t lack in performance either, for the most part. I’ve never had the app crash on me, nor has it locked up or acted bizarre — it’s very stable. The only slight issue I’ve noticed, is that the leader boards take way too long to refresh. After a pull to refresh, you’re waiting a good 10-15 seconds for the spinning wheel to stop and show you if you’ve still managed to hold onto that number one spot. In a world of 4G and super-quick Wi-Fi connections, it just seems to take too long. Having said that, every other part of the app is quick and snappy, and animations are smooth.

Conclusion

Nike+ FuelBand is a fresh approach to getting healthy. Whilst using it, it’s almost impossible to not be motivated to get out and be more active. Combining a swish piece of well-built hardware with a slick, beautifully presented app that packs in a ton of features and statistics, to create motivation to get active — it’s brilliant. Nike has nailed it.


Summary

A unique Nike experience created by solid integration of hardware and software, with the app delivering statistics and results to you over a super sleek UI, with rock solid performance and stability.

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