Nike's updated activity tracking wristband is finally here. But is it worth spending your cash on? Find out in our new Nike+ Fuelband SE review
Since the first Nike Fuelband launched over a year ago, we've seen an explosion of fitness tracking tech hit the shelves. From the Fitbit Force to the Jawbone UP, the Withings Pulse to the Polar Loop, the battle for our wrists is raging. So has the brand stepped ahead of the game with the new Nike+ Fuelband SE?
SE stands for second edition and this latest version will set you back £129 and is out in the shops now. T3 spent a month living with the Fuelband SE what new tricks the fitness tech innovators from Oregon have delivered.
Nike+ Fuelband SE: Design and Build
The new Nike Fuelband SE looks and feels almost identical to the original Nike Fuelband. The only significant update to the familiar bracelet design is the addition of Volt, Pink Foil or Total Crimson colour options: some classic Nike flashes of colour that'll appeal to the style-conscious.
These new colours do add an extra smattering of custom cool to what was already a pretty good looking original design, that was loosely based on the charity-wristband-turned-fashion-item first touted by Lance Armstrong's LiveStrong.
The Fuelband SE comes in three sizes - small, medium/large or extra large - but it's adjustable too. You still add in segments to find a comfort fit for your wrist and that means, just like the first Fuelband, this is something you'd be happy to wear all day. Article continues after our Nike Fuelband SE video review.
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There were just a couple of occasions where the band became a bit of a nuisance. The first is when you're typing as it can prevent you from lying your arm flat on the desk.
The second is when you're wearing a shirt. In most cases it doesn't fit comfortably under a button cuff, forcing you to push it higher up your wrist where it becomes tight to wear.
Nike has very much stuck with less-is-more simplicity with the new Fuelband. You still have that pleasing retro-futuristic LED display that announces your day's Fuel points total. It's also stuck to a super simple single button on the front for controlling the band and moving through its various functions.
The USB connector has also been retained. Charging your Fuelband can be done via a special USB docking cable or by plugging it directly into a USB port on your laptop – although the latter does come with its own problems with the band hitting on keys on the keyboard on most laptops, if you're doing it direct into a laptop port.
One criticism levelled at the original Fuelband was durability, particularly in wet conditions. The Fuelband SE is still water resistant but not water proof. So swimming with the device is out. However, you can keep it on in the shower and a month of foaming up in a power shower doesn't seem to have had any negative effects thus far.
Nike Fuelband SE: Features
Just like the original, setting up the Nike Fuelband SE is pleasingly simple. You'll need to create a Nike+ account (this can be done via the app but you will need internet access). Once you've charged up the band and synched it to your account you're ready to start collecting Nike Fuelpoints – the activity currency clocked up as you move around thanks to the built in accelerometer.
You'll be asked to set a daily Fuelpoints target when you first set up your device, along with entering some other details like height, weight and age.
The real changes to the new Fuelband SE are found in the updates to its key features and functions. The biggest change is in the algorithm that calculates how much Nike Fuel you're earning.
With the first version of the Fuelband it was fairly easy to cheat the stats. Shake your arm around vigorously enough and you'd be hitting your target without really trying.
The new Fuelband algorithm has been adjusted to take this into account. You'll now earn fewer points for everyday tasks like chopping an onion while you'll also be rewarded for hard workouts that previously didn't register such as yoga.
That's largely thanks to the new Sessions function. You can now trigger the Fuelband to pick up a period of exertion, tell the Nike+ Fuelband iOS app (opens in new tab) what type of activity you were doing and the level of intensity. It'll then assign you Nike Fuel accordingly.
There's a huge list of different activities to choose from and if your fitness habit is missing you can also add it in yourself. At the end of each session you're also asked how hard you felt you'd worked and this adjusts the Fuelpoints tally for that session accordingly.
This does appear to answer some of the criticism with the original Fuelband over accuracy. A yoga workout should now earn you more Fuel than flailing an arm around for five minutes.
However, we'd very much like to have seen a heart rate monitor to take the guess work out of the intensity equation. All the time you're guestimating how hard you've worked, there will still be room for inaccuracies. It's also not clear how much influence your actual movement during an hour's yoga has on the end results.
Another new feature is Win the Hour. It's fairly well documented by health experts that moving around regularly is better for you than a single workout, followed by long bouts of being sat down.
So Win the Hour clocks up the total consecutive movement each hour. If you surpass 5 minutes in an hour, you win the hour. Handy alerts can be set up to nudge you if you've failed to shift your arse enough.
You now get the benefits of Bluetooth 4.0 low energy that helps with battery life and has enabled continuous automatic syncing of your data with the iOS app. These auto updates are a really nice improvement. Having your data ready and waiting the instant you open the app is a great touch.
One small but handy tweak is the ability to double tap the button to return to the time. If you wanted to see what o'clock it was on the old Fuelband you'd find yourself tapping the button multiple times to get back to the timer.
Nike Fuelband SE: Battery life
Fitness trackers like the SE live or die by their battery life. The more time it's on your wrist tracking your every move the better. All the time it's plugged into the grid is time you're losing data – and Fuelpoints. So the inclusion of Bluetooth Low Energy is a win here. In our month-long test we were able to get five or more days low usage from the Fuelband before it required a rapid recharge.
Nike Fuelband SE: iOS app
The iOS app has also been updated to include all the new features. It's still very simple to use with a clean easy to navigate layout. Stats are straight forward to read and understand but the major improvements here come in the form of the added-extra group functions. Nike has made the app a whole lot more community driven.
You can now create multiple groups, bringing Nike+ friends into specific activities. For example you could set up a group for a Sunday league team with your football session data only visible to team members.
You can share achievements, comment on groups members' activity and push your latest workout stats onto Facebook and Twitter. Sadly there's no Tumblr or Instagram option.
The bad news is that it's still iPhone only. Android and Windows Phone types are forced to use the web to check up on their performance. In a world where Android devices now outsell Apple this is extremely frustrating and pretty unforgivable. If you're an Android owner the Fuelband is instantly less useful as a result.
Nike+ Fuelband SE: Verdict
The new Fuelband is better than the last one and if you liked the last version then this update won't disappoint. The addition of Sessions and the updated algorithm do deliver more accurate tracking, although the sessions fix for sports like yoga still lack absolute accuracy. We'd like to see GPS and heart rate monitoring included to deliver concrete performance stats.
The design still wows and the new colours look great. While the app upgrades deliver even more valuable insights into your daily data. The inclusion of features like Win the Hour and Fuel Per Minute intensity really add another motivational boost.
Nike+ Fuelband SE release date: Out now
Nike+ Fuelband SE price: £129