For one week I wore the FitBit Force, the Jawbone UP24, and the Nike FuelBand at the same time. When I first began wearing, not just one, but three separate fitness bands simultaneously, I was pumped for the plentiful data that would result. I couldn't wait to see how I was sleeping; I've always felt that I was sleeping poorly, and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. Also, even on days when I don't make it to the gym, I felt I was at least reasonably active (I live in NYC, after all). But, how far do I really walk per day?
Though I did start to go a little nuts by the end of the week — my bands buzzed to alert me each time I was sedentary for too long, and I guess I'm more sedentary than I thought — I did feel like focusing on my personal metrics improved my life. I'd take a quick walk around the office or stand up to do a stretch or two. I also became hyper-aware of how some of my fave vices (coffee and cocktails) affected my sleep quality, because I could actually see it on an app. Data is powerful. Ahead, I break down the pros and cons of each of the three bands. Depending on your goals, which one should you get?
The FitBit is the cuter one of the lot, with a sleek yet chunky look. It’s got a small screen which cycles through a clock function (which is handy), as well as counts for your daily step, calorie, stair, distance, and "active minute” totals. Battery life is great — I only charge it once every seven days or so using a USB cord.
The iPhone app shows all your stats in a beautifully simple layout, and it’s really easy to use. I found myself checking my progress often throughout the day. The band can sync via Bluetooth to both your phone and your computer (via a wireless dongle), so keeping everything up to date is effortless.
Accuracy seemed to be a bit of an issue. In particular, it seemed to have difficulty providing a correct count of how many flights of stairs I took each day. Also, while the band can track your sleep, using this feature isn’t very intuitive. Several times, when I tried to tell the band I was going to sleep, I woke up to find that the tracker hadn’t been activated after all. It got so annoying that I eventually stopped using this feature.
FitBit Force, $129.99, available at FitBit.
The UP24 is the least "fitness band" of the lot. Its form is quite simple — no digital displays here. In a way, I came to enjoy the watch functionality of the FitBit, so it would likely be missed here if you were only wearing this band. However, the lack of a display makes this band blend a bit more easily — I found that I could pair it with a couple of bracelets, and it didn't stand out.
The sleep tracker seemed pretty accurate. It's fun to wake up in the morning and survey your night's rest. It's also interesting to take note of how certain things affect sleep quality — drink a cup of coffee or a glass of wine too late in the evening, and you will really see how it affects your sleep. Tracking my sleep made me much more conscious of this, so I'd say I began to make healthier decisions.
Compared to the Nike FuelBand, the UP24 was much more generous with counting my steps. There were sometimes up to a 2,000-step difference between the two. And, though I appreciated UP24's generosity, I'm not sure which band was more accurate.
The battery life on the UP24 is fairly good; it lasts for several days at least. However, like the FitBit, it doesn't plug directly into your computer. You need a USB cord to connect, and I am really great at losing things. This band is likely best for those interested in making lifestyle changes and upping the number of steps they take per day. IMPORTANT! I got the band in a size too small. I thought I'd like having it flush against my wrist, but, be warned, it will start to cut off your circulation like a too-tight elastic hairband (especially as you sleep). It's tempting to get one with no wiggle room, but go a size up or it'll become uncomfortable.
Jawbone UP24, $149.99, available at Jawbone.
Out of the three bands, the Nike FuelBand made me feel most "athletic." The functionality of the app is very fitness-goal-oriented. You'll receive NikeFuel (basically, points for activities), encouragement, an hourly reminder to get up and move, and access to unique workouts from some of the best athletes in the game. So, if your goal right now is to make strides with your fitness routine, then this band is a good bet.
Although the battery life wasn't amazing — maybe a day or two for me — it does plug directly into your USB port (unlike the other two bands) so you don't have to remember to bring a little cord with you everywhere you go. I just plugged mine in for an hour or so while I was at work and that did the trick.
One of my favorite elements of the FuelBand are the little trophies you get for working out, walking a certain number of steps per day, or meeting a goal. I know they are just little virtual badges, but I felt proud of myself each time I earned one anyway. The Nike app is also very focused on "streaks." So, every hour you move enough, you're awarded something. Then, if you continue, you're on a streak. Not wanting to break a streak is often encouragement enough to get up and move a little throughout the day.
If you're training for a race or just want to gain an edge in your normal fitness routine, this is a great option for you. Although I liked all the bands I used, the FuelBand was probably the most appropriate for my lifestyle. I loved the app; I loved all the encouragement; and I appreciated how easy it was to charge.
Nike FuelBand SE, $149.00, available at Nike.