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Nike FuelBand SE

A review of the powerhouse's second iteration in tracking fitness and activity

by Hans Aschim in Tech on 21 November 2013

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Following up last year's launch of the industry-changing Nike FuelBand, the global athletics and lifestyle force recently released their follow-up, the FuelBand SE, to a very eager market. After its high profile launch last month, CH had the chance to give the SE a day-to-day test, focusing on changes from the first edition including increased durability, app design and accelerometer accuracy. With the SE and the Fuelband series as a whole, Nike aims to "gameify" activity using its in-house metric for movement: fuel points. Rather than counting calories or steps (though it measures those as well), the fuel points act as a more fun abstract concept to activity than traditional metrics.

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For dedicated Nike+ and FuelBand users, changes between the first and second generation activity tracker are apparent but to those less involved, there appear to be few new features. From the outside, Nike has kept the physical design of the band largely the same—adding optional subtle pops of color on the clasp and inner-lining of the band, as well as the METALUXE Collection (available today 21 November) which takes cues from high-grade watch design with limited editions of the band with precious metal accents. The band comes in three sizes along with spacers to ensure a comfortable fit. It may take a few days of getting used to the band, but its mere 30 grams become easy to ignore after you start hitting your goals. While style points are important since you're meant to be wearing the band all day every day, it's really the fuel points that matter.

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The 100-point LED screen is also largely unchanged, save for a light correcting mechanism that reads atmospheric light and adjusts accordingly. For example, on a night workout with little extraneous light, the display will burn brighter; while checking your fuel points at the office under bright lighting will render a softer display. This improves user experience while increasing battery life (which we found easily surpasses the advertised four days). Nike has made major improvements to the device's durability and water resistance, meaning it's safe to wear while showering and washing dishes—but it's still not entirely functional for water sports like swimming and surfing.

Still, Nike has taken great care in improving the device's overall usability, which begins with a more accurate accelerometer. Opting for an improved three-axis thermometer, the SE has a greater capacity for tracking and measuring movement than its predecessor. A major part of the SE's innovation goals is incorporating multiple sports into the Nike+ and fuel points ecosystem, one of the major criticisms of the first generation band. With the redesigned app and firmware system, users can now start sessions for an activity via either the band itself or the iOS or desktop app to track the intensity and timing of workouts.

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Perhaps the greatest advancement is the SE's sport-specific calibration, available for yoga, training and cycling. Gone are the days of missing out on fuel points for a spinning class. Simply tag your session with the appropriate sport, chose your intensity level and Nike's software does the rest. You can even track your sleep with the session feature (though it doesn't measure more in-depth sleep data like the Jawbone UP) as well as the new "Win the Hour" metric that takes steady movement throughout the day into effect. Physiological research has shown that consistent movement throughout the day is an integral habit for longterm health and wellness. This new feature keeps the idea of constant movement on one's mind throughout the day rather than just during an evening jog.

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Meanwhile, Nike understands the social aspect of sport. Users can connect with friends through their Nike+ account or Facebook. "Our users are extremely active athletically and on social networks," says Nike+'s Experience Director for Digital Sport, Ricky Engelberg, "They've built the FuelBand community. We wanted to make sure that sense of community carried on throughout the FuelBand experience." The group function allows members to collectively set goals and keep pushing each other to perform—imagine having a team practice without needing to coordinate schedules. And, there's no greater motivation to get you off the couch than seeing your friends hitting their goals.

While the FuelBand SE's fuel metrics have been criticized for their efficacy and accuracy, the FuelBand as a whole is exactly what it claims to be: "The smart, simple and fun way to get more active." With built-in 4.0 Bluetooth connectivity, syncing the band to your iPhone or computer is truly seamless, with an especially easy out-of-box setup to match. This is the FuelBand's greatest virtue; it's easy to use and it makes you want to move—not out of guilt, but to push yourself and hit your goals.

The Nike Fuelband SE is available now starting at $150 from Nike. Beginning today, 21 November, the first edition of the limited METALUXE collection is available starting at $170.

Photos by Hans Aschim

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