It wasn’t the first activity tracker out there, but the Nike+ Fuelband is one of the better wearable fitness devices. It’s not cheap at £130, but it’s very easy and convenient to use.
The rigid band comes in three different sizes and each has a removable link for a more precise fit. However, it’s not what we’d call comfortable, and it’s fairly bulky: almost 7mm thick in places.
As well as the all-black version there are white and black 'ice' models which are translucent.
You quickly get used to wearing the Fuelband, just as you do a watch, and the only time the bulk is a problem is when you're wearing a shirt with tight cuffs. The benefit, of course, is that you can wear the Fuelband all the time.
As it has a built-in USB plug there are no adapters to lose as with other trackers such as the Fitbit One. You plug it in to a laptop or PC to charge, upgrade the firmware or sync data. Alternatively, you can use pretty much any mains USB charger. See also: Nike+ Fuelband vs Fitbit One comparison review
You get a 'dock' in the box - effectively a USB extension cable - although we found the band flexible enough to plug directly into a USB port.
Battery life is impressive: we found ourselves charging the band less than once a week.
Another bonus is that it's pretty much waterproof, so rain and sweat - even a shower - won't harm it. Nike doesn't recommend you go swimming with it, though.
Nike+ Fuelband review: how it works
The animated LED screen is fun. It has a seriously good 'wow factor' since it's dark unless you pess the button. When you do, it fades up to maximum brightness and, after a few seconds, fades out again. The display lets you know how close you are to your daily goal, and gives you a celebratory lightshow when you hit it.
Extra motivation is provided via the app (currently only for iOS - and only devices with Bluetooth 4.0 will wirelessly synch) or the website (www.nikeplus.com) where you unlock achievements for things like total distance travelled, amount of ‘fuel’ earned and streaks, where you hit your goal for several consecutive days.
Better still, you can compete with friends who have a Fuelband or use any of Nike's other fitness gadgets or apps. For gamification, the Fuelband beats most other activity trackers hands down.
Your daily goal is measured in 'Fuel', which is Nike's own system of assessing activity levels. It's confusing at first, but once you know roughly how much Fuel you earn on a typical day, you can set your goal just beyond that in order to set a challenge (otherwise you'll merely end up recording the activity you do, rather than pushing yourself to exercise more).
The screen displays Fuel, Steps, Calories and Time, and the coloured bar builds up from red to green throughout the day as you near your goal. It's yet another little motivator that helps you achieve that goal.
Using the app or website you can remove steps and calories from the cycle, and you can flip the display for left- or right-handed modes. Oddly, distance isn't displayed on the Fuelband at all - it's only available in the app or on the website. It would be nice to see Nike add this via a firmware update.
Nike+ Fuelband review: the app and data
Both the website and app (Nike FuelBand: separate from other Nike apps) are easy on the eye. Data is presented clearly and the main focus is on your progress towards that all-important daily goal. Turning your iPhone sideways displays an activity graph for the current day, giving an indication of when you were active and sedentary.
You can also switch to weekly, monthly and yearly bar charts and, on the website, see how your efforts compare with the rest of the Nike community as well as those in your age bracket.
Nike+ Fuelband review: accuracy
As it's worn on your wrist, the Fuelband is inherently less accurate than a tracker clipped to your trouser pocket. It won't pick up many steps when your pushing a trolley or a pushchair, for example, but we found that even counting out steps when walking normally, the Fuelband tended to miss around 60 steps per thousand.
However, if you're planning to use the Fuelband to measure your runs, it's a lot more accurate since you're moving your arms more.
Overall, it provides an accurate account of your activity day in, day out, and can really help to show where you can be more active. Factor in the various motivators and the Fuelband is a good tool to get you out of your seat and doing some exercise.
Nike+ Fuelband review: what it doesn't do
Great as the Fuelband is, it's fairly limited in what it tracks. Even though you can wear it in bed, it won't monitor your sleep (by detecting movement) and it has no altimeter so it can't tell you how high you've climbed. The Fitbit One has both of these features, for £50 less.
Also unlike the Fitbit, the Fuelband doesn't bother with any food/drink or weight logging. It's a much simpler system which can be an advantage if you don't want to track your calorie intake, but means you'll need a separate app or web service if you do.
There's precious little integration (in fact, none) with other Nike+ products, so if you were hoping to do anything more than add to your cumulative Nike
Fuel total with the Fuelband, you'll be rather disappointed.
Finally, don't mistake this for a GPS tracker. The Fuelband has no built-in GPS and won't record where you ran or walked.
Nike+ Fuelband: bottom line
If you look at the Fuelband's capabilities and then the price, it doesn't seem particularly good value. However, as an overall package, the Fuelband is surprisingly motivating, even if you don't have any friends to compete against.
It's convenient, too, thanks to the fact you can wear it permanently, the long battery life, plus the fact that there are no dongles or adapters required.
It's a shame that Nike hasn’t yet decided to broaden its horizons beyond the latest iOS devices; Android users are better served by other trackers at the moment.