fuelband

This post orginally appeared on Nick Crocker’s website and he graciously allowed us to share it with you. 

Today I took my 415,368th step and covered my 327th klm since buying a Fuelband 40 days ago.

I bought it for myself as a Demo Day present, but also because lots of Sessions users had been asking what I thought of it. Here’s my answer.

Wow!

The ‘Wow!’ moment for everyone who sees this device is the moment you show them your day’s Fuelpoints and see the rainbow lights flash.

The green light is your goal, the line of lights is your progress towards the goal. It’s a nice touch in the same way Macbooks always feel amazing when you pick them up. And the way the LED jumps out of the back of the thick, dark band is always a surprise to first time viewers.

See the Fuelband light up in this short video.

But Wait…

The band’s bulkiness seems to be the major functional show-stopper for people. I haven’t found it to be an issue, but for little people, it’s not subtle. I went back through my photos from the last month to see if it looked weird in context and I think it’s a subjective thing. For some people it will be too big, but you’ll have to try it to know.

It’s water resistant (wear it in the shower, but not in the pool) and pretty sturdy. I’ve taken some heavy whacks on it playing pickup games, and while it’s unclipped as a result, it’s never fallen off

What is a Fuelpoint?

Right now, a Fuelpoint is some abstracted measure of wrist movement or step vibration.

Playing basketball hard for 2 hours will get you about 2,500 fuelpoints (that’s what I did Saturday morning and this is what my Fuelband registered).

2 hours on a stationary bike won’t give you anywhere near the same number of fuelpoints, and this say some, is a major drawback.

Fact is, if you’re a heavy biker, you’re not going to get much Fuel love.

With more advanced tracking systems emerging already, it’s safe to consider this product very much a v1.0. I assume future versions will give love to stationary bikers.

The ambiguity of the Fuelpoint is one of its greatest strengths. I find the mystery of what will/won’t give me points quite motivating. I’m also less likely to consider gaming my points (in the way that tapping the Fitbit fast on a table skyrockets your steps).

There’s lots of theoretical holes to be poked in the concept of the Fuelpoint, but even if it is somehow ‘wrong’, it’s consistently so. My personal view is that Fuelpoints are a huge leap forward from calories and steps and heartrate.

The missing link seems to be the ‘Frequent Flyer’ loyalty potential. When I hit 100,000 Fuelpoints, I should have been gifted something from Nike – a discount, a deal, a pair of socks with ‘Legend of the Fuel’ on them – something/anything to recognise I’m entrusting them and no-one else with my active data.

Web

To date, the number of consumer hardware companies that have also managed to do remarkable consumer software (and vice versa) is miniscule. So to see Nike, a shoe company, make both a compelling piece of hardware (better than the Jawbone, made by a dedicated hardware company) and superb software (the best currently available) is something of an achievement.

When you also put into context the fact that this is the same company that does itself out of tens of millions of dollars in sales every year by insisting on the deplorable flashfest that is store.nike.com – it’s even more remarkable.

Some personal highlights:

The goal setting flow. Simple, intuitive. The progress bar that follows is really smart.

The in-dash comparisons, to yourself and to the community are a great touch, inspired perhaps by Jay Blahnik’s ‘High Five’ exercise philosophy, of which one of the tenets is comparison, competition and community.

The daily points counter is intuitive, and the design of the pages simple and uncluttered.

The historical charts are simple to use and beautifully rendered.

There’s some overkill in the UX like the mood-tracker and some ads for ‘gear’ but overall it’s the best web UI/UX I’ve seen for a fitness application.

iPhone

The iPhone app continues the excellence of the web experience. Simple, clean and uncluttered. Watching your points live-sync via Bluetooth is a nice touch and the historical graphs are intuitive.

The iPhone app brings the social element of the the Fuelband to the fore, but at this stage it offers little more than ‘here’s how you compare to your friends’.

The Roach

Like any ‘gamified’ experience today, the Fuelband brings with it an array of Milestones and Trophies. Most are Fuelpoint-based, although you get ‘days in program’ trophies too (I got one after 30 days).

There’s a strong focus on ‘streaks’ and ‘bests’ and the animations are slick, especially when you soak (beat by 50%) or ice (beat by 200%) your daily goal.

There’s nothing revolutionary here – it’s all done well. The big question mark is around The Roach.

When you reach a new milestone, the roach celebrates with you.

I would have loved to have been in the room when The Roach was pitched…

Download Orca’s HeartDecide today.

A Saviour?

Health technology is being touted as a new saviour in healthcare. If it matters, measure it we say… and dream of a world where diabetes is eradicated because people can see their blood glucose levels in an iPhone app.

We’re not there yet, and the Fuelband isn’t the saviour.

So far, it’s a great tool for people who love being active and love measuring how active they’re being. When you see anothere Fuelband wearer, there’s definitely a nod that can be shared. I assume it ‘s a minor version of what two Jaguar drivers feel as they pull up beside each other at the lights.

It’s also a great fitness signalling tool. Girls wear Lulu Lemon to show they’re yoga-y and progressive. Equally, there’s a part of me wearing the Fuelband to show I’m active-y and aware.

Will It Change Behaviour?

The great anecdotal Fuelband story is the “I had 2700 Fuelpoints so I walked up and down my stairs a bunch of times to hit my goal” refrain. I’ve been there. Last week, I was about to fall asleep, dead-tired without having brushed my teeth.

I checked the time (the Fuelband also tells the time, a surprisingly useful bonus of the device) only to notice I was 100 Fuelpoints short of hitting my goal for the day.

It’s the truth to say I wouldn’t have brushed my teeth without the added bonus of 100 Fuelpoints.

Also, on sedentary days, when it gets past lunchtime and I’m sub-1000 points, I’ll definitely walk with my lunch. And I feel compelled to take the five flights of stairs at the office because I know that’s a golden opportunity to score some extra Fuel.

But before we scream “FUTURE” and give a speech at a conference, the Fuelband still doesn’t give you more energy in the mornings, it doesn’t cure hangovers, it doesn’t make you drink water or leave work on time or make looking after the kids any less time consuming.

99.9% of your life will still be the same after buying a Fuelband, including your lack of motivation to exercise on lazy days.

But the future of exercise isn’t in gyms, it’s in the margins and the 0.01% edge the Fuelband gives you could be a gateway drug to a healthier life.

Competition/Conclusion

At this point, it’s safe to say the Fuelband is a better buy than the Jawbone UP both from a hardware and software perspective. The Fuelband lacks the UP’s food tracking and ‘wake up’ vibrations but overstuffing healthcare devices with too many change mechanics is a mistake. The Fuelband’s focus is a definite advantage.

At $149.95 it still carries an early adopter price-tag, and pushes it into competition with higher-end GPS-tracking watches, but I can imagine a lot of stockings with Fuelbands inside them this Christmas.

Their new owners won’t be disappointed.

Read Josh Nicholls review of the Fitbit vs the UP for a comparison of two other activity trackers. 

Download Orca’s HeartDecide today.

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