It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’ve been researching ways to lose weight and boost my overall health. In doing so, I hope to reverse this decade-long trend where my weight resembles gas prices in its upward roller coaster climb to the heavens.
Two devices that appear to have popped up repeatedly during my research are the Nike+ Fuelband and the FitBit Ultra. While each of them share a quite a few of the same features, the differences between the two services are like night and day.
Here are some points to consider before throwing down your hard-earned money on one of these devices.
At their cores, both the FitBit Ultra and the Nike+ Fuelband are step counters. They can measure overall activity, and each has its own set of additional features which makes them a little more useful than a cheap step counter you can pick up at the convenience store, but the true test of a device that counts steps falls in accuracy.
The FitBit Ultra clips on to your belt, pocket, bra, and can even be kept in your pocket if you don’t want to clip it on anything. Depending on where you place the FitBit, its accuracy is pretty remarkable. I found it very difficult to fool, and a built-in altimeter makes it easier for the device to determine whether you’re talking steps or climbing stairs, something the Nike+ Fuelband can’t actually track.
The Nike+ Fuelband attaches to your wrist and tracks your general activity by way of your natural arm swings. If you take the Nike+ Fuelband and fiddle with it idly while sitting at your computer or even shake your arm, it will register activity as if you were out for a jog. It’s not exactly the most accurate way to track your activity. The Nike+ Fuelband can be worn in the shower, which means that you don’t have to worry about possibly forgetting to put it on before you head out to start your day, a welcome benefit for forgetful folks like me.
Winner: FitBit Ultra
Not everyone wants the world to know that they’re on a diet. I’m a strong believer personally in not broadcasting a lot about yourself when I’m out and about. While I might be forthcoming on the Web, I don’t necessarily want everyone I see at the grocery store to know that I’m on a diet.
The FitBit Ultra can be concealed just about anywhere. Women can clip it to their bra, and anyone can clip it to their belt, pocket, or throw it in their pocket for ultimate concealment. I go with clipping it to my pocket, as the device itself is easily covered by my shirt.
The Nike+ Fuelband is an obvious accessory, and everyone and anyone that you meet during your day will probably see it. While the band itself may be stylish, and you get to rock that Nike logo (if you care about that sort of thing) everyone will know that you’re using technology to help you work out. Still, that does appear to be a trend right now as fit is being considered the new rich.
Both the FitBit Ultra and Nike+ connect to the Web to sync your activity with an online portal that compiles and displays your data to help you reach your fitness goals. These two devices both accomplish pretty much the same thing here, but how they do it is very different.
The FitBit Ultra needs to be either docked or within 15 feet of a FitBit dock to sync. I find that within a minute or two of getting home after an outing the FitBit site is updated with the latest stats, but I have to be home to make that update.
The Nike+ Fuelband can sync via Bluetooth on your smartphone, making the information available through the app and site as updated and accurate as possible. This makes it easier to check your progress while stopping at a coffee shop during your lunch break.
Winner: Nike+ Fuelband
Outside of being an overpriced step counter with sync functionality, what can your device actually do? What are the features of the connected service, and how can they assist you in meeting your long-term goals?
The FitBit Ultra not only counts your steps, but it also keeps tracks of stairs climbed, your sleep quality, your calorie burn, and even your food intake by way of the website. This means the FitBit can track virtually all components of your activity. I’ve even been able to get detailed reports about how many times I’m disturbed from my slumber during the night, which helps me to better track methods of improving my sleep. The FitBit service has made it possible for me to track the amount of calories I’ve consumed and burned, while maintaining a goal for me to optimize my weight-loss efforts. You can also use it to track your blood pressure, glucose levels, BMI, heart rate, and other important health information which can be exported to an XML file. I’d imagine that a doctor would find this information invaluable in some cases.
Nike+ is a pretty robust service in itself, tracking your activity levels and giving you goals to meet in order to improve your overall health. Nike+ appeals strongly to the athlete, giving goals and promoting an active lifestyle above all. While FitBit Ultra does this to some degree, the data collected by Nike+ might be more useful to an athlete than anyone else.
Both of these services have social integration allowing you to share and retain your progress. Within the FitBit site, you can opt to invite people to be your friends, allowing them to see a bit more of your information than the general public, while giving you the ability to do the same with them. You can still keep certain things private such as what you ate, your weight, and other stats. On the other side, you can expose all this information so your friend (or trainer) can monitor your progress and help you develop a comprehensive workout plan.
Winner: FitBit Ultra
The FitBit Ultra runs about $100 and can be found just about anywhere fitness products are sold. I picked mine up at Walmart for the same price (plus tax) I would have paid at Amazon. The device itself comes with a wrist strap for sleep monitoring, charging/syncing dock, and a belt clip for larger belts. The basic features of the FitBit website are available for free, though the premium services including a trainer, comparative analysis, and meal planning come at a price of about $50 per year.
The Nike+ Fuelband is available only on the Nike Store and runs about $150. Considering that it tracks less than the FitBit Ultra, you’re really just paying for the Nike brand and Bluetooth sync. While I don’t personally see it as the better value out of the two, it could be to you if you care about that sort of thing.
Winner: FitBit Ultra