Business Insider writer Kevin Smith and I with our new Fuelbands back in August.There are a lot of ways to track your daily activity, thanks to products like the Nike FuelBand, Jawbone UP, RunKeeper, and Fitbit.
I’ve tried three of them: the FuelBand, Runkeeper, and Fitbit. Runkeeper is best for tracking outdoor runs or biking by GPS, so the decision for indoor athletes and health enthusiasts often comes down to the Fitbit or FuelBand.
Fuelband has a powerful brand behind it, but Fitbit is earning quite a bit of market share. It has raised more than $25 million from investors, most recently raising $12 million at the end of January. Unlike the Fuelband, which can only be worn on a wrist, Fitbit offers multiple products that can either be worn as arm/wrist bands (launching this spring) or clips. It even offers a smart scale product that tracks weight and body fat percentage over time.
So, which company makes a better product? After trying both Fitbit and Fuelband for a few months, here’s my honest assessment.
Full disclosure: BI was given both devices to try for free. We acquired the Nike Fuelband in August 2012 and the Fitbit in January 2013.
Currently, Fitbit's clip products (the One and the Zip) are significantly cheaper than Nike's FuelBand.
The Fitbit One clip retails for $99.95; so does the Fitbit wristband that's expected to come out this spring. The Fitbit Zip retails for $59.95.
Nike's FuelBand retails for $149, and its higher-scale watch, Sportswatch GPS, retails for $169. Even Fitbit's smart scale, the Aria, is cheaper than the FuelBand at $129.
Nike does have a cheaper band, the Nike+ Sportband, that's in line with the Zip's price at $59.
This round goes to Fitbit.
Fitbit: 1, Fuelband: 0.
Products: Both offer multiple fitness tracking products, but the Fitbit can track more things than the FuelBand.
Nike and Fitbit both have the same number of wearable activity-tracking products. The most popular are the Fitbit One and the Nike FuelBand, which are the two products this review focuses on.
But here's what each suite of products offers:
- FuelBand ($149). Worn on wrist, tracks daily activity including steps taken, calories burned and the most active time of your day. Also functions as a watch. It comes in black, black ice, and white ice (transparent).
- SportWatch GPS ($169). Instead of tracking daily activity, the SportWatch uses built-in GPS so you can see on a map where and how far you ran. It also tracks your heart rate, calories burned, and intervals. It comes in black, but the inside band can be either blue, white, or black.
- Nike Running App (free). Like RunKeeper, it tracks where you are on a map via GPS location. It also tracks calories burned, pace, and plays music while you work out.
- Nike SportBand ($59). To use the SportBand, you need a sensor to place in a Nike+ shoe. The sensor sends information from the shoe to the band about where you've run or walked, your heart rate, calories burned, and pace. It comes in white/black, red, yellow, and black/blue.
- iPod Nano ($149 from Apple, syncs with Nike+ data.)
- Nike+ Kinect Training ($39) from Xbox 360.
- Nike+ Basketball shoes ($250). Shoes that are Nike+ enabled to tell you how high you jump and how hard you work out on the court.
- Fitbit Zip ($59.95). Tracks steps, distance, and calories burned. No sleep-monitoring or floors climbed. Also functions as a watch. Comes in blue, white, yellow, black, or pink.
- Fitbit One ($99.95). Tracks steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, and sleep cycles. Can also function as an alarm or watch. Calories and water intake can be input manually. Comes in red or black.
- Fitbit Aria scale ($129.95). Measures weight, body mass index, per cent of body fat for up to eight people. Comes in white or black.
- Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity + Sleep Wristband ($99.95). Tracks steps, distance, calories burned, how long you're active, hours slept, and quality of sleep. Comes in black or blue and launches in Spring 2013.
If you're comparing the full suite of products, Nike has more variety than Fitbit, and its shoe technology is one-of-a-kind. But it doesn't have the Aria scale.
For the sake of this article, I'm just comparing the Fitbit One and the FuelBand; the two more popular devices by Nike and Fitbit.
Between those two and their sister products, Fitbit and FuelBand track almost exactly the same things. Fitbit One tracks floors climbed, water consumed, calories eaten, and sleep though, while FuelBand does not. Since Fitbit One tracks more things, we give the point to Fitbit.
Fitbit: 2, Fuelband: 0.
Packaging: The FuelBand comes in sleek black packaging. The Fitbit One arrives in regular old plastic.
Nike has its packaging down pat. Unwrapping a FuelBand feels like you're opening an Apple product. It's sleek and exciting.
Fitbit One arrives encased in plastic. It wouldn't be alluring on a shelf.
Fitbit: 2, FuelBand: 1.
For both the FuelBand and Fitbit, you'll need to download software. Neither takes a long time and the registration instructions are clear.
Nike asks you for your height, weight, gender, and which wrist you'll be wearing the band on.
It also asks you to set a goal for yourself. I chose 3,000 daily fuel points, which Nike says is a pretty active day. An exceptionally active day would be 5,000 points -- you probably can't hit this without going to the gym or playing a sport. A normal day is 1,000 to 2,000 fuel points.
Fitbit asks you for your age, sex, weight, and time zone to customise the experience. You can also set a goal for yourself to reach daily, including how many sets of stairs to climb and steps you want to take.
Then you need to download the mobile apps, charge your devices, and sync them to the apps on your phone. Both devices need to be near your mobile phone to update performance data. The apps don't sync in real time with the device, and not without your prompting.
Overall, the Fitbit's setup requirements are a touch less painful than Nike's.
Fitbit: 3, FuelBand: 1.
Charging: The Nike FuelBand doesn't need an additional charger. Instead, it plugs right into the USB drive of your computer.
While both the Nike FuelBand and Fitbit One come with an additional charger, the Nike FuelBand doesn't actually need another cord or attachment to juice it up.
Instead, the FuelBand can be plugged straight into the USB port of your computer by unhinging the band.
The Fitbit One requires a small cord that attaches to the clip and hooks into the USB port (see image).
Nike gets the point for giving people one less thing to keep track of.
Fitbit: 3, Fuelband: 2.
Tracking: Fitbit One lets you manually track much more than just daily activity, including sleep and calories.
In terms of what the devices automatically track, the FuelBand and One are similar. Both track steps taken, calories burned, goal progress, where your activity ranks among your friends, and the most active times of your day. They also tell the time.
But the Fitbit does just a bit more, and it allows you to track even more manually.
Fitbit One tracks the sets of stairs you climb in a day and your sleep patterns automatically. It also allows you to set an alarm. Instead of ringing, it vibrates on the wearer's body and doesn't wake up another person in the room.
It also knows your name and gives you words of encouragement throughout the day such as, 'You rock!' and 'Vamos Alyson.'
In the Fitbit app, you can set a daily calorie goal, create a sleep log and track how much water you consume in a day. Your activity is measured with a flower icon whose stem grows as you get closer to your goal. Nike's FuelBand fills up with colour as you approach the goal and gain Fuel points.
The FuelBand has its advantages. It does a better job of making you excited to hit a goal. A cartoon dances on the mobile screen and the wristband flashes 'Goal! Goal! Goal!' when you get to a set amount of fuel points in a day. It also displays your milestones better than Fitbit does, letting you go back and review your best week and day ever.
Since Nike is a much bigger brand than Fitbit, more of your Facebook friends show up as competitors when you connect your Fuelband app to the social network than on Fitbit. So if you're a competitive person, you'll probably favour the Fuelband.
Even though Nike goes more in depth with physical activity data, Fitbit lets you track more things. So I have to give this point to the One.
Fitbit: 4, Fuelband: 2.
Data Display: Nike does a better job of displaying activity data (+1). Here's what Nike FuelBand tracking looks like (website):
Both do a decent job of tracking activity, but they're a little off. And they work better when you walk rather than run.
For example, after a five- to six-mile run wearing the wrist band, it didn't hit 3,000 points, whereas simply walking around Manhattan, which was nowhere near six miles, did. Twirling it around your finger, however, will rack up 3,000 points within minutes.
Distance-tracking with Fitbit versus a treadmill resulted in discrepancies of about half a mile, but that appeared more accurate than FuelBand.
How it fits the wrist could account for this -- even slightly too large and it might not register your activity as precisely. The One is a clip, so you don't have to worry about the device fitting you perfectly.
Neither the One nor the FuelBand worked particularly well in yoga or spin classes, but they're motion-driven and built for running and frequent movement.
Neither device is waterproof (both are water resistant) so swimmers can't benefit.
Fitbit: 5, Fuelband: 4.
Motivation: Both the Fitbit and the FuelBand made me temporarily more active. Now, I hardly use either.
At first, both devices truly changed my lifestyle.
Part of me was curious to see how well each worked, which encouraged me to go to the gym.
When I saw how each performed and that both were a little faulty, I lost interest.
I still use the Fitbit because I received it more recently than the FuelBand, and from my experience it tracked my gym workouts better than Nike did. But if you lose the charger, or accidentally put the device in the wash (it's especially easy to do that with the Fitbit One since it's a clip), you may just find you're not motivated enough to buy another one.
They definitely add a little something extra to your workout, and when I go for a (very rare) run, I'm glad I have them recording the data. It's fun to look back on. But if you're not a person who already enjoys working out, Fitbit and FuelBand probably won't keep you healthier for long -- like most dieting tactics.
Neither gets a point for this category, since personality and mindset are what you really need to stay motivated, not a device.
Fitbit: 5, FuelBand: 4.
Both devices are good, and they're going to get even better with time. I enjoy having them, even if I use them sparingly.
That said, I prefer the Fitbit One to the FuelBand.
Unlike the FuelBand, your size doesn't matter because it's something you clip onto clothes, not wear on your body.
It's $50 cheaper, and it can track more things than the FuelBand. Even though the Fuelband looks better (the device, app, website, and packaging all trump Fitbit), and it does a better job analysing your fitness data, the price and versatility of Fitbit are hard to beat.
So when my family member asked me for a Nike Fuelband, I resisted and gifted a Fitbit One instead. All things considered, it's the better device.
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