I asked for and received a Nike FuelBand for my birthday a few months ago, partially because I couldn’t think of anything1 plus I was on a bit of a health kick at the time. I had read many reviews up to that point and they sum it up well as far as a fitness device.

To sum up, since it’s entirely motion based and only on your wrist, it’s fairly limited accuracy wise. One key though, is that it’s fairly consistent, so you can mentally normalize the daily goal value after a few regular or active days. Like after a while I figured out a slow day for me is usually under 1,500 points (I’ll get to those shortly), while a realistically achievable goal with my regular exercise is more like 2,500.

As for the “points” themselves, they’re some normalized value based on your personal stats (age, height, weight). They say they use this because it’s directly comparable for different folks, whereas calories burned varies wildly per individual. And why they need that in the first place, they have some social component of course. Group up with your friends and compete for more motivation! Not that I use it…and not that I’d ever win.

So with the basics out of the way, as a fitness device of some sort, it sort of works. Once you have a baseline for yourself, the consistency makes it usable as a rough gauge of how much you (or just your arm) has moved around.

Speaking of which, I forgot to mention a big part of the FuelBand equation: an iDevice and the FuelBand iOS app, or alternatively a computer and the Nike+ site. By holding down the button it will sync over Bluetooth to your iOS device, or plug into a computer through USB (the band latch itself is a USB connector+plug). By doing this you can get a history of activity to quantify how poorly you’re doing, like so:

Anyway the data and visuals it gives can work to get you off your ass. I don’t call it motivation as much as just guilt. Whatever the case, while it’s fairly basic, it’s something at least.

Now as a fancy piece of nerdiness to flaunt around, it’s somewhat neat. Ultimately (at least in black) it’s a black band until you hit a button and all these little lights some to life in a small animation! And that’s about it. Then you have to explain what it is, then what the hell the points are, and I generally just don’t want to talk about it.

The other way to look at it as a watch, which is the hip thing these days, but honestly it sucks as a watch. It works sure, but not well. It’s a pretty simple reason: you need two hands.

The convenience of a watch is just looking at your wrist and seeing time at a glance. With the FuelBand you have to hit the button first for the time to show up. It’s a major barrier to using it as a watch…albeit necessary due to the battery life and straight up brightness of the lights, damn things are blinding in a movie theater for instance. A phone is more convenient as a watch because I can just pull it out with one hand, and with that same hand hit the button to turn on the screen.2

So as a little fitness motivator, it’s fine if simplistic. As a tech toy on top of that it’s pretty neat. But as a watch it’s surprisingly inconvenient…but admittedly still looks cool when the lights come on.

Nike FuelBand, $149:
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  1. I wish I knew about Automatic at the time.
  2. I’ll probably write up something separately about wrist tech stuff due to this long term experience.