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Fit Review: Nike+ FuelBand SE

NikeFuelBandSE

When the first Nike+ FuelBand hit wrists in early 2012, the response was mixed — Nike lovers embraced the new universal metric for activity, while haters had a field day racking up “Fuel” by drinking beers with their friends. The question: Was this the most sophisticated Nike’s wearable tech could get? The limitations were valid, from the inability to factor many lower body movements to overall exercise intensity, some of which I detailed here. But the new Nike+ FuelBand SE, which hit shelves last week, offers a few new tricks up your sleeve.

Fuel for Thought

Like the first Nike+ FuelBand, the SE (second edition), uses a three-axis accelerometer to track movement across a variety of activities, whether you’re Lebron driving to the hoop or the “good job, good effort” kid cheering from the stands. Each user sets a daily goal (3,000 being the recommended target for an active individual, 5,000 for a fitness superhero like Serena), and the algorithm, which factors gender, height, weight and of course movement, does its thing. Sound like the same old equation? Flashy new color ways aside, here are the latest updates to the $149 FuelBand SE — hits and misses included.

Sessions. In addition to the usual steps, calories and Fuel that the band logs daily, the FuelBand SE allows users to track individual “sessions,” or workouts, and see those stats separately, in real time. To start a session, hold the main button and watch the display count down from “3.” Mid-run, spin or pick-up game, users can check their Fuel, as well as Fuel Per Minute (FPM), the band’s best guess at intensity. The much-improved Nike+ FuelBand app, which syncs wirelessly through Bluetooth 4.0, also allows users to analyze data anytime, anyplace, as well as save their session, add a location, tag workout buddies, and share it with friends. Pro tip: While wearing the SE on your wrist still won’t make a spin session count, the device does seem to work when placed in a secure pocket or under your waistband. (Some wearers of the previous model suggested clipping it onto your shoelaces since the first generation FuelBand wasn’t as sensitive.)

Hours Won. Some say sitting is the new smoking, and the “Win the Hour” feature is Nike’s attempt to help us steer clear of a sedentary lifestyle. Whether you’re sitting in front of the TV or staring at your computer screen, every hour you’ll see a friendly reminder to move in the form of “GO [YOUR NAME] GO!” scrolling across the band. To “win” the hour, (and you can preset which hours you’re generally awake), complete five consecutive minutes of activity — no small feat while holding down a nine to five job. Winning hours won’t earn you bonus points, but seeing your numbers improve over time probably means you’re winning at life.

Intensity. Because intensity is now estimated via the “Fuel Per Minute” equation, hill sprints earn more points than late night strolls to the fridge. But the technology still isn’t perfect. In a series of (admittedly unscientific) tests, I walked, jogged and sprinted 200 and 400-meters on a flat track to compare Fuel stats. And while jogging did earn more Fuel than walking, sprinting and walking came out just about even. So what gives? It’s possible a longer running stride — and thus fewer foot strikes — skewed the math. Or maybe, I was just so fast the device couldn’t keep up?

Nike FuelBand SE Screenshots

Down for the Count

While the FuelBand SE does far more than its first generation counterpart, it’s still by no means a one-stop shop for self-tracking. (And at this point in time, no single device is.) If the following areas are top priority, this device might not be the band for you.

Calorie Count. The FuelBand and FuelBand SE don’t measure heart rate, making the estimated calories burned a less-than-scientific feature. If getting an accurate burn notice is your thing, consider the Nike+ SportWatch or other heart rate-based training devices, which will provide reliable run stats, too.

Sleep Cycle. The company that never sleeps is leaving zzz’s to those who do it best. And while the FuelBand SE wasn’t intended to track sleep, a count of zero Fuel earned throughout the night could be interpreted as a solid sleep session with no tossing and turning.

Pushing weight. Expect your device to know how heavy that dumbbell is? Don’t hold your breath. While it’s possible the technology could someday get that advanced (in fact, the PUSH device is seeking to do just that), apps like Fitocracy are a great go-between to rack up points for feats of strength.

All in the Wrist

On the fence about fueling up? Consider how much feedback — and what kinds of stats — you really want from your wristband. Also note that the app is only available for iOS (though the Nike+ desktop experience has all the same bells and whistles). And while tech geeks will undoubtedly gain insights from their Fuel patterns across days, weeks and months, the most valuable feature of the FuelBand SE won’t likely appear on a chart or graph. You’ll be too busy heading out the door to “win the hour,” reach your Fuel goal and make the day count.

For more on the Nike+ FuelBand SE, visit nike.com, amazon.com, or head to a Nike retailer near you.

 

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