Nike's new Fuelband looked like a solid upgrade when it was announced - but the good news is you might already own one... Kinda.
We're still waiting for details. But that's good news - because the new features are really quite cool.
On the other hand, it doesn't mean you won't want a new Fuelband anyway. For as it turns out, some of the exclusive new hardware additions - a tweaked design, better tracking for activities like yoga and cycling and Bluetooth low-energy connectivity - are worth a much closer look than you might have thought at first.
In an extensive hands-on with the new device, we were able to take a good look at everything that's new with the Fuelband SE, which is out in November. Check it out below.
In hardware, it's pretty much what you know and love from the Fuelband. The new bands have an added touch of colour (on the inside), but wearing it feels about the same. The water resistance has been boosted, the socket feels more secure, but in essence this is the low-key gadgetthat you know already.
Luckily in our time with the device, we found there are some key improvements that make the band more useful, more accurate - and more (sigh) inspirational to wear:
- Tracking: the SE features improved activity tracking, which means it's far harder to 'trick' the band into thinking you're moving by waving your hand about. We tried to simulate running without running - it didn't work. But in a session of aggressive journalist-vs-journalist pancake mixing we racked up the points. It's hard to define - there's still an element of trust with the Nike Fuel system. But it all looked positive.
- Sessions: It's also far easier to input activities like cycling, yoga and other training, which it might not otherwise catch - and get the right credit. Holding the band's single button starts a 'session', doing the same ends it, and you can later tag with the right activity and intensity level. We tested this on a static bike - one hooked up to a smoothie maker, for some reason, as well as a terrifying tandem bike ride down one of London's deadliest roads, and the results were again impressive.
- Win The Hour: the SE band and App now tracks your activity as a whole, and by the hour. If you move more than five minutes in an hour you "win" that hour. By the end of the day, that gives you another score of how consistently active you've been. If you spend a long time without moving, the band lets you know with a friendly sprinkle of lights to get moving.
- Sharing: The app now features a bunch of new ways to share your activity with a select group of friends, including photo sharing, which is neat - though perhaps a little superfluous in practice, unless your mates love pictures of you sweating and panting turning up on their phone?
- Bluetooth LE: with the new Bluetooth chip the band constantly syncs with your iPhone, which means you can watch your points trickle in, in real time. This is really cool. As it turns out, it also makes a big difference to your motivation when performing activities like competitive coffee grinding and gladiatorial pancake stirring - more events Nike laid on for the Fuelband event.
- Sleep tracking: Nike says its engineers have pooh-poohed the idea you can 'track' REM with a wristband, but the Fuelband will now track the hours of rest you get each night, which is a nice addition.
In all it's clear the Fuelband SE is a really solid update - though it remains to be seen how many of these will cross over to existing Fuelband owners when the new firmware is out.
We can't wait either way - the Fuelband is a simple, conservative update to a solid product. But it's also genuinely useful and impressive. The new band is out on 6 November for £129.