Nike+ Fuelband vs Fitbit One review

Fitness gadgets are all the rage these days, but you'd be forgiven if you've never heard of Fitbit. It's a different story with Nike, but the Fuelband is still a rarely seen gadget.

Effectively, the Fitbit One and Nike+ Fuelband are wearable computers which track your activity and tell you how well you're doing. With a big helping of motivation, their main aim is to help you get fitter.

Nike+ Fuelband vs Fitbit One comparison review: Design

The Fuelband is arguably the simpler of the two. You clip it round your wrist and forget about it. There are three different sizes, each of which comes with two removable links to get the perfect fit. It's not flexible, and somewhat bulky, but you do forget you're wearing it most of the time.

Nike Fuelband

The Fuelband is waterproof, so your sweaty runs (and post-workout showers) won't destroy it. Nike doesn't recommend swimming with it though.

A button cycles through the various functions, starting with Fuel, Nike's own measurement of activity. There's also calories and steps, which can both be disabled, and time - so the Fuelband is a watch, too. The display has a fantastic wow factor, since it's not visible at all until you press the button. A coloured row of lights builds up through the day as you progress towards your 'Fuel' goal.

There are three different colours: black, black ice and white ice.

Fitbit One

The Fitbit One is quite different. It's absolutely miniscule, and virtually weightless, yet still has a nice OLED display which shows steps, calories, distance, time and a slightly odd flower which tells grows as you become more active. It also shows how many floors you've climbed.

The One also tracks your sleep by monitoring movement while you're in bed. For this, you have to remove it from its rubber belt clip and insert it into the pocket on the wrist band that's included in the box. It also has a silent alarm, and will vibrate to gently wake you up.

It's available in black or burgundy. The black model has a blue display, while the burgundy one has a pink display.

No doubt then, the Fitbit One wins on features - the Nike Fuelband lacks an altimeter and doesn't even tell you how far you've walked or run (that information is only available in the app or on the website).

Nike+ Fuelband vs Fitbit One comparison review: Mobile apps

Both gadgets have built-in Bluetooth and can sync wirelessly with iOS devices with Bluetooth 4 (that's the iPad 3 and 4, iPad mini, iPhone 4S and 5).

Fitbit One iOS app

Fuelband iOS appThere's no Android app for the Fuelband, though, and while there is for the Fitbit, there's no wireless syncing yet.
If you do have a supported iOS device, both devices are much simpler to use. The Fitbit will sync automatically - with the Fuelband, you just hold the button for a couple of seconds until SYNC appears on the display.

Nike+ Fuelband vs Fitbit One comparison review: Data

Once you start using Fitbit's companion app and the website, you quickly become overwhelmed by data. As well as all the data shown on the One itself, there's a myriad of graphs showing everything from activity to sleep and calories burned.

Fitbit website daily overview

You can also manually enter other activities besides walking or running, such as swimming and cycling - calories are estimated for you. You can also track your weight - either manually or by using Fitbit's Aria Wi-Fi scales, and enter all the food and drink you consume.

Fitbit has partnered with quite a few other services, so if already use an app such as MyFitnessPal, you can use that expansive food database instead of Fitbit's own by linking your Fitbit account.

Fitbit website food log

By contrast, the data provided by the Fuelband seems a bit basic. However, both the app and website are much prettier, and don't overwhelm you as much.

Nike NikePlus website Fuelband

With both, you can see your activity on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. It's also possible to set a variety of goals, but the default for Fitbit is 10,000 steps per day.

Fitbit set goal

With the Fuelband, you're aiming to hit a certain 'Fuel' goal, which you set yourself. As the day progresses, the bar of coloured LEDs builds up so you can see at a glance how much more exercise you need to do.

You can use the app or website to update your goal for the following day, but you can't cheat and reduce it for the current day. You'll work out a sensible goal to set after wearing the Fuelband for a few days.

Next page: Motivation and accuracy

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Nike+ Fuelband vs Fitbit One comparison review: Motivation

This is one area where the Fuelband wins out, as it embraces gamification much more than Fitbit.

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As well as those coloured LEDs, you're rewarded with a GOAL! animation when you reach the set amount of Fuel for the day. There are also short 'Attaboy' animations in the app and on the website which you see when you hit certain milestones, such as 10,000 Nike Fuel, Best Week, Best Thursday, etc. and there are many more than Fitbit offers.

Nike Attaboy Fuelband achievement

One thing that Nike also does, which Fitbit doesn't, is to reward you for 'streaks', which you start when you hit your goal for several consecutive days. Once you build up a big streak, you're more likely to make sure you hit your daily goal in order to continue the streak.

Fuelband streak

With the Fitbit one, you might see a pop-up notification on your iPhone - or get an email - saying you're nearly at your daily goal, but there's no reward for hitting it, apart from your own satisfaction.

Each day you'll receive badges, such as for 5,000 steps or 10 floors climbed, as well as cumulative ones, for total distance covered, total floors climbed and so on.

Fitbit Badges

Friends

Another motivational tool is the ability in both systems to compete with friends. Obviously they need to own the same device, but rather than competing only against yourself, you want to top the charts each week.

Fitbit Friends

Nike goes one step further and lets you compare yourself with the Nike Community, so you can see, for example, how your average daily fuel compares against people like you (say, men aged between 30 and 39). Knowing that you average a third more Fuel than your peers can a great motivator.

Nike+ Fuelband vs Fitbit One comparison review: Accuracy

Accuracy is another area where Fitbit wins. I counted out 1,000 steps and the Fitbit, which was in my pocket, missed only 17 of those. The Fuelband, by contrast, missed 59.

There's a much bigger discrepancy if you're not swinging your arm, too. If you're pushing a trolley or baby stroller, or walking with your hand in your pocket the Fuelband tends to miss most steps. It won't give you much Fuel for cycling, either, while the Fitbit does count those pedal revolutions as steps (if it's in your pocket).

If you're a runner, don't expect the Fuelband to give you an accurate record of how far you've gone.

With that said, the Fuelband does give a pretty accurate picture of how active you are each day. Simply moving around all day, even with low intensity, will result in a higher estimated calorie burn (and Fuel score) than, say, walking to work, sitting at a desk all day, then walking home. You might end up with more steps after your inactive day at work, but moving all day at the weekend will give you a higher Fuel score.

Interestingly, the Fitbit One counts not only the calories you burn through exercise but also estimates the amount you burn simply by existing (it bases this on your age, height and weight). The Fuelband estimates calories only from movement. In practice, I found the Fitbit way more useful and more motivating.

In terms of sleep tracking, the Fitbit One has Normal and Sensitive modes, but you'd be forgiven for missing this as it's an option only available on the website. Similarly, that's where you can turn on or off the various measurements displayed on screen (you can do this with Steps and Calories in the Fuelband's app).

Fitbit sleep graph

Even Normal mode, the Fitbit said I'd woken up a dozen times on some nights. In reality, it means you turned over in your sleep, but it's not exactly a scientific measure of how well you've slept. It does tell you how long you've actually slept versus the amount of time you were in bed, which can be interesting, but again, these aren't figures to take too seriously.

Next page: Convenience and bottom line

Nike+ Fuelband vs Fitbit One comparison review: Convenience

Open the Fitbit One's box and you'll find several bits and pieces, including the two different carriers (the belt clip and the wristband), a Bluetooth USB dongle, and a charging cable.

Fitbit what's in box?

Unlike the Fuelband, which has a built-in USB connector for charging in any USB port, the One requires a short proprietary USB cable. As well as being easy to lose, it's inconvenient having to find said cable each time the One needs charging.

Nike Fuelband USB connector

Fortunately, both with last around a week with a moderate amount of syncing - the Fuelband sometimes lasted almost two weeks between charges.

Although the Fuelband doesn't track sleep, you're more likely to wear it all the time, even in bed, since it's on your wrist.

With the Fitbit, you're likely to leave it in a pocket or clipped to some other item of clothing when you change. I've lost count of the number of times that happened over three months of testing it.

Plus, when you slip the One into the wrist band you have to remember to hold the button to start the timer, otherwise it won't measure your sleep.

As I've said, the One automatically syncs when it's in range of the dongle, or when you fire up the app on your iPhone.

The Fuelband needs the app to be launched and the button to be pressed. If you don't have an iPhone 4S or 5, you're out of luck with wireless syncing - it's a case of connecting it to your Mac or PC via USB.

Nike+ Fuelband vs Fitbit One comparison review: bottom line

The Fitbit One costs £80, which may sound a lot, but it's considerably cheaper than the £130 Fuelband. In fact, this is one of the Fuelband's biggest stumbling blocks.

In many ways, we prefer the Fuelband as it requires practically no effort thanks to its built-in USB ports and the fact it needs no accessories. The website is simpler and easier on the eyes than Fitbit's, too.

However, not only is it super-expensive - it's a whopping £50 more than the One - but the Fuelband isn't as accurate at counting steps and doesn't display distance at all. It won't add calories for climbing stairs and won't track your sleep. It doesn't have vibrating alarm, either.

Oddly, the Fuelband won't talk to other Nike+ gadgets. In fact, the only integration into the Nike 'ecosystem' is that it adds to your total NikeFuel. Even this doesn't really work, since it won't take into account, say, that you were wearing the Fuelband while using, say, the Nike+Kinect Training program on the Xbox 360. Any NikeFuel you earn in the 'game' is duplicated with the Fuel earned by wearing the Fuelband at the same time.

Last, but not least, it won't play with Android phones at all, let alone other mobile OSes.

Nike+ Fuelband: Specs

  • Small: 147 mm circumference
  • Medium/Large: 172 mm circumference
  • X-Large: 197 mm circumference
  • Width: 19 mm at latch
  • Thickness: 8 mm at latch
  • Weight: approx 30g
  • Bluetooth for pairing with iOS 5 devices with Bluetooth 4.0
  • Small: 147 mm circumference
  • Medium/Large: 172 mm circumference
  • X-Large: 197 mm circumference
  • Width: 19 mm at latch
  • Thickness: 8 mm at latch
  • Weight: approx 30g
  • Bluetooth for pairing with iOS 5 devices with Bluetooth 4.0

OUR VERDICT

It's hard to choose between the Fitbit One and the Nike+ Fuelband as they each have strengths and weaknesses. If you simply want something that will motivate you to exercise more, the Fuelband wins. However, the Fitbit One will more accurately measure your steps and is a decent motivator too. Given the fact that the One is £50 cheaper, it narrowly wins overall.

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