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Thoughts on Nike+ FuelBand

In November I’ve got a Nike+ FuelBand as an early Christmas present. At first I was a bit skeptical of it since I thought that a fitness tracker can’t really tell me anything I won’t already know about yourself, but actually using it has proved quite fun.

Nike+ FuelBand along with Fitbit and Jawbone Up have found a relative success on the markets so far. At CES this year a whole load more fitness trackers have been announced – the market is rapidly expanding and it is only going to get more competitive. A huge boost in popularity of these devices remind me a bit when Foursquare launched a couple of years back. Suddenly such a trivial activity as going out for a meal or a drink became competitive and fun – Foursquare has turned it in to an exciting social game. Now activity trackers could change how we stay fit and active. Only this time around you won’t have to actively log anything yourself, instead wearing a tiny device that it does it all for you.

In the recent years Nike has been expanding it’s Nike+ ecosystem, strengthening it’s hold on the new sports electronics market, Nike+ FuelBand represents it’s latest effort. It is a simple device worn around a wrist that has a 3-axis accelerometer, constantly recording your activity. It then calculates your activity as well as steps and calories. The FuelBand is beautifully designed and engineered – you can tell that Nike has made an effort to create an excellent product. An array of white LEDs making up the screen is beautiful to look at and single-button interface is simple without any unnecessarily menus or options cluttering up the experience.

For anything more then looking up your current scores you have to use the mobile app. Syncing is handled by Bluetooth and is extremely quick and easy. The app can show your activity for a given week, month or year. This is where the FuelBand is most useful. The more you wear it, the more interesting and complete this information becomes, giving you an insight in to your life that you might not have otherwise known.

Though using FuelBand has been really enjoyable, it is not without it’s shortcomings. The biggest one is that it is simply not waterproof. A persistent activity tracker worn on your body is just begging to be protected from water so that it could keep on collecting data no matter what you do. The whole point of it is to record your activity for entire day and show exactly how active you have been and when. The fact that you can’t do it with anything involving water defeats the purpose.

For example now I’m on vacation and I have been much more active here then normally, however my daily NikeFuel scores do not reflect that. I even fail to meet my goals most of the time because I can’t wear the device when swimming. Of course I could put it on every time when I get out of the pool or the sea but it’s hardly practical and still does not change the fact that activity in the water can’t be recorded. Nike should have known better.

Nike+ perhaps represents a big leap for sports electronics from a niche market of specialized devices for athletes to a wide consumer market. A device like this can show a truly insightful information helping you stay fit and healthy. With the market rapidly growing it is really exciting what would come next.

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