Nike's Fuelband SE is an upgraded version of 2012's breakthrough fitness tracker, out now for £129 from Nike.
- Same basic design, with new green, red/orange and pink accents
- Stop/start 'Sessions' for more accurate tracking
- Refined sensors and Nike+ Fuelband App
- Limited sleep tracking
- Improved water resistance
- Bluetooth LE for constant syncing
"NikeFuel is a single, universal way to measure all kinds of activities—from your morning workout to your big night out. Uniquely designed to measure whole-body movement no matter your age, weight or gender, NikeFuel tracks your active life."
Nike is getting closer to Apple every day - not just in terms of its outward collaboration with Cupertino, which ranges from the new Nike Move iPhone 5S app to rumoured new wearable hardware - but in attitude.
Alright, maybe not when it comes to fashion. But in its recent forays into tech, gadgets and games, at least, Nike's slogan feels less like "Just Do It" than "Just Do Less" - content to focus and refine, rather than reinvent.
For both good and ill, Fuelband SE feels like a result of that process. This is a tight, sensible evolution of its successful fitness tracker - and one that will ensure the product continues to appeal to a wider audience than many more complex competitors. But it doesn't feel like the aim was to push the boundaries of what's possible - just to sharpen the edges of what's sensible.
In outward appearance, very little has changed at all. Three new colour accents (pink, orange and green) give the bands an appropriately bright and energetic feel. But that colour is mostly hidden when the band is worn, and the all-black version is nearly identical to the original band save for a matte-black clasp. The SE also has the same purposefully Lo-Fi LED display and single-button design. It weighs the same and has the same battery.
The only changes in hardware come in the addition of Bluetooth LE, which gives the band the ability to constantly sync with your iPhone, rather than having to manually update it throughout the day. If you're not used to it the sight of your Fuel Points ticking over on their own is neat and an obvious improvement - but this feature has been available on other competing products like the Fitbit Flex for some time. It's also slightly more resistant to water, though not enough to go swimming.
Which is not to say that there are no new features here - in software terms, at least, Nike has upped the game. A long press on the hardware button now gives you the option to start a "Session", and likewise to end it when your workout is over. You can then go back into the app later and tag the session with the type of activity, and in the case of "Cycling", "Yoga" and "Training" also alter the intensity, giving you more Fuel Points for your workout than would otherwise be picked up by the motion sensors. This is helpful, and makes the band more useful for fans of those particular activities (though it does open the band up for cheating, of course).
Similiarly, the SE Fuelband also gives you a limited ability to track Sleep - though in truth the feature is nothing like the light/deep sleep monitors offered by products like the Jawbone UP. Instead the Fuelband just gives you the opportunity to tag a session as 'Sleep' and see how many hours to accumulate. That's it. Nike says its engineers just don't buy the light/deep tracking science - but it's hard to claim that Sleep Tracking is really a feature here. There's also no vibration alert or alarm to wake you up - again a feature in the Jawbone UP.
Better is the new 'Win The Hour' feature, which essentially tracks the number of hours in a given day in which you're active for more than five minutes - and gives you a reminder when you've been inactive for too long. It's a useful new metric of which to be aware - though the lack of vibration alerts means you can easily miss those messages with no obvious penalty, other than your encroaching death.
After some initial problems and bugs, the Nike Fuelband App for iOS has been nicely refined and gives you an easy interface to start/tag Sessions, and look at your data. That the app is still iOS only is a little galling, but there's a relationship with Apple here that Nike apparently wants to protect - and we may see the fruits of that labour emerge in 2014.
It's also worth being aware that some, if not most of the new software features will be coming to your old band via a software update.
That said, the fact that there's not much to get excited about for current users doesn't negate the fact that the Fuelband itself is still a great, simple and engaging device.
It's easy to use, works well as a watch, builds into the rock-solid Nike ecosystem and doesn't require any work on a user's part to analyse metrics or extract "insights" from your activity. Its message, and function, is simple: to encourage you to do more. And it does work - it's motivational and attractive enough to wear all the time and never nags you when you take a break. For many users looking for a fitness tracker it's an ideal choice because of its missing features, not in spite of them.
Which again is all very... Apple. For journalists, and those hunting for the next next big thing, it's a bit of a let-down. But for mainstream customers who want a simple, straightforward and cool way to track their activity through the day, it's a no-brainer. Until Apple releases its own wearable iThing, of course. But then wouldn't it be cool if Nike's tech was somehow built into that too? We'll just have to wait and see. But on the evidence of the SE, such a collaboration has never made more sense.