Nike+ FuelBand SE: Hands On
Ahead of the Nike+ FuelBand SE official release next week we allowed to wrap it round our wrists and take it for the proverbial spin round London. The vigorous testing of the new lifestyle-come-fitness accessory included cycling, painting, skipping, boxing, drumming, a bit more cycling, spinning, coffee grinding and whisking – so a good mix of your everyday activities (that’s one helluva day!). We were introduced to the Nike Fuel motto, which very much encapsulates everything about the new FuelBand and the changes to the old one: Move More. Move More Often. Move With Intensity.
Build & Style
Its all much the same. In spite of the three new flashes of colour (volt, crimson and orange), when it is on your wrist, all you see is the sleek black band and solitary button, the same LED screen and the red to green LED bar. Has it actually stayed the same? Not quite, as there are some tweaks to the design internally as well as externally.
Listening to FuelBand owners, it became clear that there were a few problems inherent in the initial design. For one, the damn thing didn’t always stay clasped, and so the FuelBand SE has a more resistant fastner to prevent this. In addition, some new flex points have been added so that the curvature is more fluid and bendable, rather than the often obstructive rigidity of the original design. The biggest problem we had with the first FuelBand was the button, 2 of ours broke in under 3 months. The whole button has been redesigned on the inside to be far more durable and tactile, yet look identical on the outside – only more testing will uncover the truth of this though.
It is also, apparently, more water resistant. Whilst we were told you could shower with it in its first iteration, it didn’t always fare so well. The Nike+ FuelBand SE will survive a good shower, and lower temperatures too (up to -10C), so you don’t have to take it off before your recovery ice bath. Don’t wear it if you’re going swimming, or surfing, or anything really that means full submersion. All rather sketchy on these details though, which seems odd given it should surely have undergone some standardised testing at SOME point, right?
Therefore, if you were a fan of the first FuelBand’s design, you won’t be disappointed by the new one and hopefully it should perform much better as a bit of every-day wearable tech.
As I am sure you are aware by now, Nike+ measures activity with their own Fuel point system. The FuelBand measures this through your movement. The past FuelBand measured, effectively, on a level playing field – waving your arm about running was equal to waving your arm about sitting on the sofa. Through the billions of fuel points generated, they’ve managed to fix some of this and address the “cheating” as a key concern. People who already own a FuelBand will know all about the 23:45 fist pumping in order to reach the day’s goal (you know who you are!). This firmware update isn’t limited to just the FuelBand SE, and from the 7th, it’ll also be ready to install on your original FuelBand. That should make it a little more realistic. We know from experience, that doing the dishes and giving the apartment a spruce up seemed to generate the same fuel points as an hour’s heavy lifting down the gym. Saying that, we also did a lot of other activities down the gym that didn’t seem entirely well represented when it came to generating Fuel points, and these updated algorithms try and tackle this as well.
When we were testing the FuelBand we tried a number of different exercises. Skipping, cycling and boxing easily the most energetic of these. When it came to the boxing, the more intensity in the movement equalled more fuel points. Hitting the bag hard made a real difference, as opposed to going quite lightly but more frequently – although this doesn’t say much about form or technique of course. However, it is hard to really measure up for a comparison with such a short test, perhaps after wearing it for longer; we will truly see the differences here. Yoga has also been added as a specific activity.
Specific activity? Technically, we are talking about session tags here. Cycling is a tricky beast, and they’ve really made an effort to work out fuel points without you taking your FuelBand and wrapping it through you laces (neat trick right?). Now, when you tell it you are (or were) cycling, it takes the fuel generated through the small movements and lets you amplify these based on your exertion: easy, original or hard. Hey presto – what looked like only 16 fuel points just jumped up to 400.
Sessions, Hours & Sleep
Sessions is a new function specifically for the FuelBand SE. Here, from either in app o from you FuelBand, you can start and stop activities and tag them appropriately. You can tag your entire gym session, maybe bits of the cardio, the weights, or each individual bit of exercise. Not just that, but also you could time and tag your journey to work, your morning routine, cooking dinner, doing the housework, your lovemaking. Essentially, you can tag any activity and save the fuel results. This invites ingenious option for improvements in the future to better yourself (minds out the gutter please).
The FuelBand SE isn’t just about tagging what you do and producing data. The whole concept is about treating each of us as an athlete and looking to enthuse and better us – not just inspire, but facilitate. The Hours concept is all about ensuring you remaing active during the day in an unobtrusive and fun way. If your FuelBand SE hasn’t seen enough activity in an hour, it will give you an indication that you have 15 minutes to go out for a walk o do something to generate 5 minutes of continuous activity besides sitting (an activity that’ll kill you apparently). Naturally, it is impossible to just do this every hour, if you are in the cinema, out on a date, sitting in a meeting or fast asleep – so just a little message and nothing more (no buzzing phones or alarms).
Sleep tracking is an interesting additional function – we have not had the chance to test that yet. Not because we are all insomniacs, but having a nap in the middle of the morning was not permitted on our trial run with the FuelBand SE, even if we were ready for one when we were done.
According to Stefan Olander, VP of Digital Sport at Nike, having 11+ friends on Nike’s social network, will increase fuel production by over 10%. We asked him if this was more chicken and the egg, given active people tend to have active friends, but he dismissed this as too hard to prove – seems like a convenient stat to me to sell more FuelBands. Olander maintained that is was just what the numbers showed, so what exactly does Nike’s social network bring to the Nike+ FuelBand SE table?
The FuelBand SE app allows you to create groups of friends. You can have friends, family, colleagues, gym buddies, sports clubs, etc. Then you can have shared Fuel targets – so if one of you slacks and someone else kills it that day, you can balance it out to hit the target. You can also share and compete with your session reports. Another addition, to both this and Nike+ Running, is the ability to share photos. We wouldn’t recommend doing this whilst exercising though!
You can only be friends with people you know and search for specifically. There is no option to challenge people locally. Something missing if you are the only one you know with a FuelBand, and yet if you could add another 11 it would be better for you right? Only way to get that magic number is selling the concept on. We are still dubious.
Nike+ FuelBand SE’s get their own app coming up on launch day. The original app gets it own update as well as the firmware update for the hardware. The original app gets the social side of things, however sessions and hours are limited to the new one only. Oh, and need we point out the obvious? Still only going to be on iOS! Olander must have felt like a broken record when we met with him, as everybody asked the same question “when is it coming on Android?” Well, apparently Nike are still committed to this, however, not at the expense of the experience of using the app. Until there is a solution to Android OS fragmentation and hardware differences, he doesn’t think it’ll happen – maybe it’s time to pick up the phone to Samsung, or HTC, or Sony… I’m sure any one of them would be happy to help!
We had a Nike+ FuelBand SE on our wrists for only a few hours, so expect a more full review soon. Is this enough to warrant you buying one? It certainly looks and feels like a step forward for Nike. Olander says that Nike only listened to us, and haven’t looked at the competition (Fitbit and Jawbone in particular), when making the FuelBand SE and that looks like the case. If anything, it feels like the Apple business model for tech, incremental hardware upgrades (that don’t blow the world away) and more work on software and data to make it more enjoyable and usable. Can’t fault them for that as it looks like it will work wonderfully… but for the love of god… ANDROID PLEASE!
Get it here for £129 on pre-order before its November 6th release, or pick it up from you nearest Nike or Apple Store (funnily enough).