Review: Nike+ FuelBand SE

in General Discussion edited January 2014
Nike's second-generation FuelBand makes progress toward a more complete activity monitor, including support for Bluetooth LE, an improved accelerometer, increased durability and a new iOS app.

FuelBand SE

Editor's Note: This is the third in a multi-part review series featuring fitness monitors and activity trackers. Over the coming weeks, AppleInsider will offer pros and cons for a number of upcoming devices, as well as those currently available.


On the outside, the FuelBand SE is nearly identical to its predecessor. The rigid bracelet form factor carries over, as does the rubberized outer shell and one-button user interface.

The only visible changes from the original FuelBand are flourishes of color found on circuit board and battery access panels, which can't be seen when worn, and highlights on the buckle mechanism. Nike offers the SE in four colors: a neon green dubbed "Volt," Pink Foil, Total Crimson and black. The company recently announced a limited edition run of "METALUXE" colors that replace the clasp and screws for colored metal versions, the first of which will be rose gold.

FuelBand SE

Nike's FuelBand is what we would consider a medium-sized activity monitor; not the thickest we've seen, but not as unobtrusive as competing products like Jawbone's Up line or Misfit's Shine. Weight is not a factor, but the band sticks out from the wrist enough to catch the occasional bump or scrape.

Like the first-gen unit, the SE is mostly rigid to protect sensitive electronics like the matrix of LEDs hidden beneath the rubberized face. The internal circuit board has two flex points for taking the device on and off, while a thermoplastic elastomer/polypropylene shell shields the device from minor abrasions and keeps it water resistant.

Unlike the Shine, which we reviewed last week, the FuelBand SE is not waterproof. Nike claims the device has been made more water resistant compared to the original FuelBand, but notes it is not waterproof, so no swimming or water sports.

Because the FuelBand is rigid, Nike makes the unit in three different sizes, each of which come with two spacer links that connect to the clasp for further refinement. Nike's size chart is somewhat confusing, but the company suggests users buy a smaller band if they are between sizes. Adding the provided spacers changes the FuelBand's oval shape somewhat, though not to the point of being uncomfortable. In testing, we used the smaller insert, which shifted the display slightly toward the side of our wrist, forcing us to turn the unit manually when checking Fuel levels.

FuelBand SE

Charging is accomplished via a male USB plug integrated at one end of the clasp. The contacts are marginally protected when worn, though the housing is not watertight.

In use

One of the SE's main draws is its display, which consists of 100 white LEDs and a row of 20 multi-colored LEDs. The array is bright and vibrant, with an integrated ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts for fluctuations in lighting. We found the display to read well, even in bright sunlight, though some indicators were difficult to distinguish when running due to their small size.

When the lone tactile button is depressed, Nike's FuelBand defaults to a Fuel earned view. A short animation scrolls the word "Fuel," then displays the corresponding number above a row of colored LEDs meant to represent a fuel gauge. Depending on how much Fuel has been accrued, the LEDs will light up from red to yellow to green.

FuelBand SE

Like its predecessor, the SE "gamifies" working out by assigning "Nike Fuel" based on a user's movement. The metric might as well be arbitrary, however, as it's difficult to determine exactly what exercises are needed to gain Fuel. Unfortunately, the only solid numbers available for review are steps taken and estimated calories burned.

In our step count testing, we found the SE's accuracy to be on par with competing products, with seemingly identical calories burned algorithms calculated by height, weight and age. Interestingly, a side-by-side comparison with the first-generation FuelBand yielded slightly different rates of Fuel accumulation. There are a number of possible answers as to why the two devices are out of sync, one being the SE's supposedly more advanced accelerometer.

As for activity tracking, the SE builds upon its predecessor by adding tags, dubbed "sessions," which can more effectively monitor and log various sports. Pressing and holding the button for three seconds will activate the feature, while users can go into the app and retroactively assign a sport and intensity to the session.With the FuelBand SE, Nike introduced "sessions" tagging for specific sports, which measures intensity by calculating Fuel per minute.

Each tagged session monitors the intensity of a given workout in Fuel accumulated, earned Fuel per minute and elapsed session time. These metrics are also displayed automatically at the end of every session and are stored in the app. Overall, we found tagging to be quite useful, especially when viewed as a graph on our iPhone that breaks down each session in easy-to-read numbers.

Nike claims the new SE features sleep tracking capabilities, something the original FuelBand lacked, but in reality the system merely counts sleep time and Fuel as a session. Without metrics like deep sleep versus light sleep, it would be more appropriate to call the function a sleep timer.

The latest FuelBand also has an alert called "win the hour," which reminds users to move for five minutes each hour, a feature similar to one found with the Jawbone UP, but is a bit different in practice.

Each hour the FuelBand activates its large LED array with a message that scrolls across the display three times, in our case "GO MIKEY." An animation then lights up the 20 Fuel LEDs as well as 20 white LEDs before displaying the current Fuel level. The first red LED on the fuel gauge blinks repeatedly until movement is detected or the alert is canceled with a button press.

FuelBand SE

While a good idea in theory, the hourly reminder may go unnoticed as Nike's device does not have a vibration motor. For our purposes (sitting and typing while at work), the alert is sufficient as we are in constant sight of our wrists, but the LED-only alert could be hard to notice for people not tied to a computer. In such cases, the iPhone can be set to vibrate, or the option can be turned off to save battery life.

We found the SE's rigid structure to be slightly uncomfortable, especially when typing. The band doesn't feel as form-fitting as comparable devices. Overall, the FuelBand feels like an uncomfortably fat bracelet that gets in the way of daily work activities. For a device that is supposed to be worn at all times, the design could be more forgiving.

Cycling through the SE's functions is a one-way process activated by the tactile button. The system is responsive and we found only a slight hint of lag when moving through the menu hierarchy. With the new device, Nike has instituted a quick clock view that lets users check the time with a double-press.

The Bluetooth functionality worked as promised, syncing automatically without user intervention. There were a few times when the app couldn't connect to the FuelBand, and the app randomly logged us out without warning more than once, but overall connectivity was above average. With the new Bluetooth module, battery life was lacking with a charge needed every three days or so, depending on usage.

The app

When Nike launched the FuelBand SE, it released a revamped app to take advantage of the new built-in features. The title is polished and easy to navigate, with touch gestures used throughout for an organic experience.

FuelBand SE

Because the SE comes with support for Bluetooth 4.0, the device can keep app stats up to date in near real time without substantially hurting battery life. Syncing is also done in the background, meaning no more forced syncs with the app.

From the main "Today" screen, users can view a graphical readout of activity levels throughout the day, which are presented as earned Fuel. The line graph also displays session tags, which can be linked to their respective sports from the activity menu. A large gauge tells users how much Fuel they earned, as well as how much is left to meet their predetermined goal.

At the bottom of the Today screen is a drawer of swipe-able stats that show progress compared against previous days' averages, as well as against other users of the same age. Nike's "Capture the Moment" social media integration can also be accessed here. The app has hooks in Facebook and Twitter, as well as the Nike+ network, for sharing of stats, reached goals and challenges.

Moving to the Activity screen, more graphs show Fuel per day, week, month and year, complete with averages and comparisons against historical user data. For example, the app breaks down Fuel by Late Night, Morning, Afternoon and Evening time periods. Scrolling down shows the number of sessions for a given time period, data from the sleep logger and more.

Sessions get their own page, which can be used to tag activities, edit times and intensities and view past data for a quick progress check.

As part of its "gamification" of exercise, Nike doles out awards for reaching certain milestones, like hitting a Fuel goal 30 days in a row. These digital rewards are shown off in the Trophies page, which also shows achievements and goals yet to be unlocked.

FuelBand SE


The Nike+ FuelBand SE is one of the more mature activity monitors on the market and it shows. Accuracy is good and the unique Fuel accruement system is a motivator for those looking to get more active.

FuelBand SE

The display, while sporting an identical layout to the first-gen model, is one of the best on the market, with bright LEDs easily readable in sunlight.

While the accelerometer is accurate, we would have liked to see additional sensors packed in for altitude readings. Software enhancements like a true sleep tracker would also be welcome improvements. For more advanced users, simply recording steps and sessions is likely not enough to warrant the $150 price tag.

We appreciated the changes that were made, however, an example being "win the hour" reminder alerts and the major iOS app revamp.

In the end, though, these tweaks were mostly software related. The only major hardware improvement over Nike's original FuelBand is the inclusion of a Bluetooth LE module for automated, power-efficient syncing.

It should also be noted that the first-gen FuelBand recently received a firmware update containing many of the SE's functions, including support for tagging sessions, double-tap time checking and advanced tracking algorithms.

For many who already own the first iteration, the FuelBand SE is not worth the upgrade. On the other hand, people already invested in the Nike+ ecosystem who don't have the original, or those interested in a solid performing all-around monitor, should give the SE a look.

FuelBand SE

Outside of Nike, the Nike+ FuelBand SE is currently an Apple Store exclusive and can be purchased for $150.

Score: 3 out of 5



  • Intuitive user interface
  • Convenience of Bluetooth LE connectivity
  • Bright display


  • Basically same model as last year
  • Rigid design may take getting used to
  • Mediocre battery life


  • Reply 1 of 10
    To correct some factual errors and oversights:

    Sessions aren't quite as you describe - intensity is set by the user after tagging the workout with the type of exercise undertaken. This means that lifting weights and setting the appropriate intensity in-app, will significantly increase the Nike Fuel earned. This is actually quite fantastic for those of us who don't run. Running has always generated the most Fuel because of the movement (of course!), but now the ecosystem appropriately supports a greater diversity of exercise. No other monitor supports this.

    Sleep - Is tracked on the basis of time AND the Nike Fuel it generates. You can conclude the lower the Nike Fuel the better the sleep. The app also differentiates sleep from others sessions, and I don't think it will be a particular effort for Nike to add other metrics if they desire. Of course other metrics (sleep depth detection) are particularly questionable, especially when the user doesn't sleep alone. Movement from their partner changes the type of sleep detected in other apps in my experience and renders it rather useless.

    Win The Hour - As the band is always connected to the app, whilst the band doesn't vibrate 15 minutes before the end of the hour if no significant movement has occurred, the phone does. You do have to turn this on in settings however. Nonetheless, this is where Nike have got this right - the app is an essential part of the experience, and further enhancements can be added in the future. Nike have a reputation of adding additional functionality as they have with their previous band so this is likely to continue.

    Battery - You're right that the battery is mediocre. It is, in my experience, less than half the monitoring time than the previous generation which was about 5 - 6 days. It is now around 2 days. This is probably down to the Bluetooth LE connection, and the increased number of times I interact with the device. It's actually a shame, as battery life was much better than the Up! and other rechargeable devices. Charging time is quite quick, with a full charge in about an hour, so it's not to difficult to keep going 24/7.

    Robustness - Time will tell, however the old FuelBand was NOT robust. I have had one, well four, since they were released. They often die after a few months. Nike Support have been wonderful - they are replaced with no questions asked, but nonetheless heres hoping that this model is significantly more robust and won't break after a few months.

    Exclusivity - You can buy the FuelBand at Apple, and at Nike both online and real-world!
  • Reply 2 of 10
    This review is so good I can only presume it's from Mikey Campbell. Which the review also indicates with 'Go Mikey' and the screen dumps. Would be nice to see the name of the author in the article, instead of the sleazy 'Kasper's Automated Slave'.
  • Reply 3 of 10
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,648member
    What sensors does the product have (is it accelerometer only)?
    The product seems utterly useless, from iPhone4s (iOS7) and later you can do the same or better (when combined with a Bluetooth LE heart rate strap) with your iPhone without a redundant utility.
  • Reply 4 of 10
    Great review, Mikey. Thank You.

    I bought 2 different colours of 1st generation and very happy. These things make people move their a$$ more often. :smokey:

    Obviously, I was waiting to get my hands on SE and bought 2 different colours again!

    So far things are fine except battery life which has become much much shorter. The original one used to last up to 10 ~ 12 days. This one died in like less than 6 days and I didn't notice it!

    So, yes if you don't wanna lose your Fuels, make sure charge it up once every 3 days.

    If you take care of these things, they last forever.

    EDIT: As Nike still doesn't give shit to make an android app, I fully support them! ;)
  • Reply 5 of 10
    akqiesakqies Posts: 768member
    Nice review. I can't wait for the Fitbit Force review (next week?) and then the iWatch review (next year?). :p

    I would have really hated that wrist design but it's that battery life that made me not consider the Nike+ FuelBand SE even though I'd charge it during my daily shower which would likely be more than enough time with such a small battery. It's certainly enough time with my Fitbit Force but that is an even smaller battery and lasts for at least a week.
  • Reply 6 of 10
    Great review. Thx.

    I'm not really impressed with Nike's hardware. I had an early Nike + wrist band with a shoe sensor back in the day. It wasn't very good. The gold readout was unreadable in the sunlight and the USB connector was curved and wouldn't fit into my iBook. I think I just gave it away to Goodwill, $80!

    I do, however use the Nike + GPS App ($1.99) with my 4s for trail running. I really do like it. It's accurate and keeps good records of past runs. I like the .25 mile verbal updates on ave. pace and distance. I'd strongly recommend it.

    It's nice to see the improvement in times and distance each week in the history on the iPhone App.

    I especially like not having to mess with a sensor anymore and the celebrities that come on at the end and give encouraging messages of support.

    It sounds silly, but I live to hear them!

    Carrying the iPhone all the time is bit of a nuisance, but I listen to favorite podcasts while running and will be soon running with a trail vest, I will have dedicated front chest pocket for a new, lighter 5s. The headphone controls are really good, too.

    Sorry for going on a bit... But I don't think I want another gadget to wear, charge, remember, etc. I'll pass on this. But, again, enjoyed the review.

    FYI: To all the runners out there, I recently switched to running only dirt trails no more cement or asphalt roads and all my knee pain has gone away! I still wear a Nike patella band under my right knee's patella, but this is just for insurance. Losing 25 pounds has probably helped, too! :)

    At 55, no knee pain is wonderful! :)


    P.S. Looking fwd to what Apple will bring to the table with their upcoming watch. Hope it has a heart monitor (with no chest strap) so I can stay in aerobic state for max fat burning! If Apple makes it. I'll probably buy it! Especially if I can leave my iPhone at home! :)
  • Reply 7 of 10
    Originally Posted by akqies View Post

    Nice review. I can't wait for the Fitbit Force review (next week?) and then the iWatch review (next year?). image

    I would have really hated that wrist design but it's that battery life that made me not consider the Nike+ FuelBand SE even though I'd charge it during my daily shower which would likely be more than enough time with such a small battery. It's certainly enough time with my Fitbit Force but that is an even smaller battery and lasts for at least a week.

    This time I thought I would go with Fitbit Force but apparently the display is too small. And I prefer not to put on my glasses when running around! ;)

  • Reply 8 of 10
    disturbia wrote: »

    This time I thought I would go with Fitbit Force but apparently the display is too small. And I prefer not to put on my glasses when running around! ;)

    I find the display to be just fine for a quick checking of the time, paces, or miles, but I frankly hardly ever think to access it since I tend to use my phone for the time and their lovely app to read my stats. I really only use the button to enable and disable the sleep monitoring at night and that doesn't even require one to look at the display.
  • Reply 9 of 10
    akqies wrote: »
    I find the display to be just fine for a quick checking of the time, paces, or miles, but I frankly hardly ever think to access it since I tend to use my phone for the time and their lovely app to read my stats. I really only use the button to enable and disable the sleep monitoring at night and that doesn't even require one to look at the display.

    Hmmm... It's not available here in Great Canada ;) but I will certainly give it a try.

    Thanks for the info.
  • Reply 10 of 10
    Solid review! Like you said it isn't all that different from previous generation. Plus now that we have seen the rose gold edition it cannot be unseen. The regular version looks too plastic-ky for my taste...
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