Nike+ FuelBand SE Wristband Pedometer Review

SE Adds Session Tracking and Move Reminders

Nike+ FuelBand SE 640
Nike+ FuelBand SE. Courtesy of Pricegrabber

I was an early-adopter of the first Nike+ FuelBand wristband activity monitor/pedometer, and interested in how they could improve it with the 2013 debut of the FuelBand SE. Would it be worth an upgrade?

Like the original, its primary features are to track total daily steps and exercise calories, and to motivate you to be active. But the FuelBand SE adds two key features that will get you moving in the right ways - tracking exercise sessions of moderate-to-vigorous intensity and reminding you to move each hour throughout the day.

Both of these forms of physical activity are associated with better health and fitness.

The Nike+ FuelBand SE has been discontinued.

 Bluetooth 4.0 and New FuelBand SE Tech

The Nike+ FuelBand SE uses low power Bluetooth 4.0 to continuously sync with your iPhone 4s (or higher) and update stats in the NikeFuel app. Nike still only offers connectivity with iOS mobile  devices and via USB connection to a Mac or PC. Luckily, you can read the important stats right on the wristband: all-day step count, exercise calories burned, progress towards your daily and hourly goals, NikeFuel points and time of day.

The FuelBand SE has new electronics and algorithms that are supposed to better detect and classify movement. They also say it should be more durable. That would be a good improvement, as I had the two of the original FuelBands fritz out at 8 months and 11 months of age. They were each replaced at no charge under the one-year warranty.

It might be a bad thing if the FuelBand SE lasts just long enough to be outside of the one-year warranty when it breaks.

FuelBand SE Styling

At its debut in fall of 2013, the Nike+ FuelBand SE comes in all-black, or black with a trim of yellow/green, pink or orange. Side by side with the original Fuelband, there are only tiny differences in width or thickness on the wrist.

It comes in small, medium/large and extra large sizes, with segments you can add or remove to adjust the fit. The band is not flexible.They improved the water-resistance but it is still not meant to be worn swimming.

Session Tracking

The FuelBand is always on and tracking your steps, calories, and NikeFuel. Now you can also track specific exercise sessions, but only for duration, calories burned and intensity, not for step count. When you are going to go out for a walk or run or other exercise session, you can press the button on the FuelBand until it says Start, press it again and start a session. While you are in a session you can see the elapsed time, your NikeFuel earned in the session and the average NikeFuel per minute for the session, which is a measure of exercise intensity. You can also start and end sessions with the NikeFuel app.

After tracking sessions, you can view them and tag them in the app or the NikePlus dashboard. You will see the total duration, NikeFuel earned and average intensity.

On the NikePlus online dashboard, you also get a minute by minute exercise intensity graph. This allows you to see how much of your workout was moderate intensity, high intensity and low intensity. By noting the average NikeFuel per minute you can better guesstimate on future workouts what you need to hit to be at each intensity level. I figure a rate of 20 NikeFuel per minute achieves the lower limit of the moderate intensity range.

Move Reminders

To combat the health risks of sitting too long, the FuelBand now can remind you to move and reward you for moving each hour. Unless you have already moved for five continuous minutes in the hour, it will send you a move reminder on the FuelBand, "GO (Your first name)" at the 45 and 50 minute mark of the hour. It scrolls through and flashes a rainbow of LED lights. If you are using the NikeFuel app, it also shows a reminder on your mobile's home screen. You can choose what hours of the day it will send reminders, or choose to turn them off.

Win the Hour

Beyond nagging you with the Move Reminders, you also get rewarded for Winning the Hour when you move for five continuous minutes in the hour. Your FuelBand now shows you how many hours in the current day you have "won the hour," and it is also tracked on your online dashboard and in the app. You can aim to increase your Hours Won per day and per week. The online dashboard also shows how your activity breaks down by percentage for late night, morning, afternoon and evening.

Using the Nike+ FuelBand SE

Be warned that the FuelBand SE comes with very minimal documentation, either in the box or online. That generally works fine since it is pretty simple to get set up and use. You will need to plug it into a USB connection to a Mac (iOS 6 or higher) or PC  (Windows XP or higher) to charge it fully, and connect with or create a NikePlus account. You can also download the optional NikeFuel app for your compatible iOS device (iPhone 4s or higher).

Set Your NikeFuel Goal: Your FuelBand and dashboard will celebrate when you reach this daily activity mark. NikeFuel points are calculated from the speed and duration of your physical movement. The basic goal of 2000 NikeFuel per day equates for me to 7,000 or more steps during the day. More steps are needed if most of your walking is at an easy pace, fewer steps are needed if you walk briskly or run. You can adjust your goal from the Nike Connect software on your computer or from the mobile app.

Get Moving: Your steps count, activity calories and NikeFuel total automatically reset each day at midnight. The display on the FuelBand is the same matte black as the rest of the band until you press the single button. Then you can see your steps, calories, NikeFuel, hours won, and time of day in bright LED lights that adjust for the ambient light. Progress toward your daily NikeFuel goal is shown with a line of LED dots that build a rainbow from red through yellow to green.

Goal! After you reach your daily NikeFuel goal, when you check the display you will get an animated goal celebration sequence on the FuelBand and a single LED green light flashes after the rest of the display goes back to dark. On your mobile device or the NikePlus web site, your goal achievements are celebrated by an animated dance of a Nike Fuel character, plus banners and badges. You can share your achievements via Twitter or Facebook. Making the guy dance is what kept me achieving my daily goal every single day for almost two years (before my streak ended on a day when I had food poisoning). But I am right back to making my goal every single day. Dance, Nike guy, Dance!

In addition to a daily goal, you can set a goal for a period of weeks and see your progress towards that longer-range goal. I set a goal that totals more than my daily goal, so I am encouraged to move more on my free days and earn that next trophy.

Accuracy: The step count is fairly accurate, although I got fewer steps than logged with my waistband Fitbit pedometer when I used trekking poles on a long hike. I find that calorie estimates never agree between different devices, so I always take those with a big grain of salt.

Power and Memory: A full charge on the Fuelband should last three to four days before recharging. It has a low-battery indicator and a good visual charging graphic as it charges. There is an unspecified limit on how much data it will hold before maxing out its memory without syncing to the iPhone app or the website.

Viewing Your Data on NikePlus.com

To upload your data via USB and recharge the Fuelband, you open the bracelet and plug it into the USB adapter. The NikePlus.com site opens and you can see your daily results.

In addition to an hourly activity graph, it tells you your average NikeFuel per hour, total steps, total active calories burned, and hours won. With the SE update to the web site, you no longer see their distance estimate and active time per day. You can share your graph and achievements on Facebook and Twitter. You can review the past week, month, and year.

On your NikePlus dashboard, you can see how your NikeFuel total compares to Nike+ users in your gender/age group and Nike+ users overall.

Friends and Groups

You can search for Facebook friends who already have a NikePlus account and/or invite others via email to be your NikePlus friend. Then you will see how their weekly NikeFuel achievements compare to yours.

You may also create a Group of your NikePlus friends to track a group goal and cheer each other on.

Bottom Line on the Nike+ FuelBand

So why wouldn't you want a Nike+ FuelBand SE? Here is what you don't get with a Nike+ FuelBand that you do with some other activity monitors:

  • The FuelBand SE no longer tracks a distance estimate as the original FuelBand did, and it doesn't track steps for a specific Session workout. If you want to track distance, you would also need to used the Nike Running app on your iPhone, or wear and use the Nike+ sensor with an iOS device or Nike+ Sportband.
  • It has no diet-, weight- or nutrition-tracking features, such as you get with Fitbit or SLIMCOACH.
  • It doesn't have any heart rate monitoring features.
  • The band doesn't track a variety of non-walking/running activities unless you kludge it (as I do by attaching it to my shoelaces when I use an exercycle).
  • The Sessions feature is a good first step toward encouraging exercise sessions, but they are no substitute for using a heart-rate monitor and/or sports watch if you want accuracy for your training goals.
  • If you already have an original Nike FuelBand, you now get the Hours Won tracking on the app and on the online dashboard, you just don't have it on the FuelBand itself.

Why would you want to buy a Nike+ FuelBand SE?

  • It's now the only option to buy a FuelBand (other than leftovers or used original Fuelbands).
  • The FuelBand is the single most motivating pedometer/activity monitor I've ever worn, and I've worn over a hundred different ones. And I say that as a person who hated wearing bracelets and wristbands, period. But I'm addicted to the FuelBand and I wear it every day, all day. Dance, Nike Goal Guy, Dance!!!

The Nike FuelBand SE has been discontinued.

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