Nearly a year to the day since Nike launched the fitness tracker revolution with their Fuelband, the company have announced the newest kid on the fitness band block; their new Nike+ Fuelband SE. A lot has changed in a year, as the Fuelband launched a sector of fitness bands which took the old school pedometer and made it ‘smart’, introducing a raft of new features as well as smartphone connectivity. The immense overnight popularity enjoyed by the first Nike offering spurned a mass of new competitors, ranging from fellow big brand sports manufacturers through to crowdfunded start ups. All of this means that, one year later, Nike need to raise their game, so lets take a first look at their new Fuelband SE.
On first impressions, the new band is not strikingly dissimilar to the original. The band carries the same form factor and the main offering retains the same edgy black design. The new band however comes in a number of new colours, with options like ‘Total Crimson’ and ‘Pink Foil’ available to liven up what has been accused of being a fairly bland design in the past.
More importantly than the devices exterior, Nike have been working to improve the mechanics behind the device. This means that the new Nike band will track a host of new sports, including the likes of Yoga, track cycling and sprinting. The complexities involved in creating a device which can measure movements like yoga is mightily impressive and its all powered by Nike’s new intelligence engine. So whilst the original device was quite easy to trick – message boards were full of stories of people racking up huge amounts of fuelpoints by merely punching the air – the device is powered by a far more robust engine. In truth, the original had a fairly rudimentary engine, largely because the product itself was a big gamble by Nike when they launched it a year ago. The markets appetite for fitness bands has not been properly tested, and sources indicate that senior people at Nike believed that the fitness band would only reach a niche audience of hardcore fitness fanatics. This led to a constraint being placed on R&D budgets, but the phenominal success enjoyed by the device has led to the lifting of this.
The original band proved that the core market for the activity tracker is actually less about the hardcore fitness nut and much more about the everyday person who is looking to ‘do a little bit more’ and to ‘shift a few pounds’. So for many, the Fuelband became more about jumping off the tube one stop earlier or giving the dog and extra loop aroudn the park. The Fuelpoints are really all about incremental daily improvements as opposed to tracking a full pelt gym session, where there are heart rate monitors which are better suited to doing this.
However in many ways, this update is actually about attracting a more ‘fitness’ orientated consumer. Many of these consumers were savvy enough to understand the floors in the original and thus recognised the fitness band as a tool of limited use for their needs. The introduction of a wider range of sports and activities tracked, as well as the introduction of waterproofing, could serve to open up the market for Nike.
The introduction of real time data analytics – powered by Bluetooth 4.0 – as well as a longer battery life (now extended to 4 days) and the addition of an intensity tracker all serve to make the Fuelband SE appeal to a wider fitness market. One of the big selling points of fitness bands in general is their ability to create data out of your activity, and then to store it automatically over time. The earlier trackers focused on the basics, but the next wave are looking to go granular. So Nike have included a ‘beat the hour’ feature, which tracks your activity down to the most active hours of the day, allowing you to focus on doing more every hour, and not just cumulatively over the day. Some research indicates that this type of activity has the biggest impact on a person metabolism, so focusing on beating the hour could have a profound impact on body composition.
Ready to bite the bullet? The device is available for pre-order ready for a November 6th release. Pre-orders are limited to people in the UK, USA, Germany and France. The new Fuelband SE is priced at £95 ($150)