A Week With: The Nike+ Fuelband
Can the sportswear giant gamify your daily exercise routine?
Size: small 147mm; medium/large 172mm; XL 197mm
Sensor: 3-axis accelerometer
Display: 20 coloured, 100 white LEDS
Connection: built-in USB or USB cable
Battery: two lithium polymer batteries
What is it?
One of Nike's big areas of commercial expansion is combining technology with sportswear – think TomTom-powered GPS running watches which connect directly to your iPhone through an Apple shoe tag. It is also pushing basketball shoes fitted with tracking devices to follow your movement on the court.
The FuelBand is probably the most accessible device in the Nike+ range. It's basically a bracelet fitted with an accelerometer which follows your every movement. This means that at the press of a button you can see how many calories you've burnt, how far you've travelled and how much "NikeFuel" you've expended.
NikeFuel is measured by the band's accelerometer, which combines daily measurements of your speed, movement and distance travelled. You can follow this progress over days, weeks, months and years and compare against others online.
Does it work?
As both a motivational tool and a gadget, the FuelBand is a success. Users input their weight, height, sex and are given – via the Nike+ Connect desktop app – three suggested targets: low activity, medium activity and high activity. I set it up with the medium target of 3,000 points a day (which you can change if you find it too hard or easy) and found that if I did any sport, I easily beat it.
However, on days without my exercise of choice – five-a-side football – I found I had to make the extra effort of walking to places rather than catching the bus to meet my goal. A good thing.
The gamified element of the FuelBand comes in there. If you hit your goal three days in a row, you go on a streak and it begins to feel like a genuine disappointment if you don't make it – leading you to do more exercise than you might have done otherwise. So, yes, it works.
What's not to like?
Unlike, say, the GPS watch, the FuelBand is quite odd-looking and I spent most of the week I wore it having to explain to people what it was for.
And although it gives you a fairly accurate representation of your daily calorie burn, nowhere on the iPhone app or the desktop bit is there a way to track how many calories you're consuming. So when I beat the 3,000 Fuel pointsgoal going to the football on Sunday, the fact that I had a Bovril and a pie isn't accounted for.
Another minor quibble is the LED display, which – despite Nike's claims that it is controlled by an "ambient light sensor" – is ridiculously bright. Also, there's no GPS chip, so you can't track your running/cycling routes online.
Who's it for?
It's simple enough, and adaptable enough, for both fitness freaks and those needing an extra level of gadgetry/motivation to help to lose a few pounds.
Is it worth the money?
You almost certainly don't need a £130 sports wristband in your life, do you? But that doesn't mean it's not a good bit of kit if you've got both money and calories to burn. You could spend it on worse things (such as pies).
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
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