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How the Nike+ SportBand Works


Nike+ SportBand and the FuelBand
The Nike+ GPS app for iPhone lets runners track their stats without any other equipment -- but if you want to use it, you need to carry your smartphone with you while you run.
The Nike+ GPS app for iPhone lets runners track their stats without any other equipment -- but if you want to use it, you need to carry your smartphone with you while you run.
Screen capture by HowStuffWorks staff

In early 2012, Nike introduced the FuelBand, a new take on the Nike+ functionality. The $149 FuelBand costs nearly triple what the SportBand does, but offers a different experience in both hardware and software. Most obviously, it's thinner and more stylish. There's no removable USB component in the FuelBand -- it's a solid piece that connects to a computer via a built-in USB port. The FuelBand's display and color LEDs, which are used to show workout progress, are more subtly integrated into the wristband body. And here's the important addition: The FuelBand includes an accelerometer, meaning it can track your motion as you walk and run without communicating with an external Nike+ sensor.

When it comes to software, the FuelBand is completely different from the SportBand. Nike developed a new points system called "Nike Fuel" which essentially abstracts the exercise you're getting into a generic number. You're not burning 300 calories -- you're earning 700 fuel points. You can still set goals with Nike Fuel and see charts and graphs depicting your workouts, but the focus of the FuelBand experience is on that custom number.

The FuelBand can sync with iOS devices via Bluetooth and give you instant access to your exercise data. It's obviously designed to be a more streamlined experience than the traditional Nike+ system, but some fitness nuts may prefer the straightforward, universally-recognized data Nike+ used prior to the switch to fuel points.

The older SportWatch GPS is even more expensive than the FuelBand at $199, but it's also more complex than either of the other Nike+ trackers. The SportWatch uses GPS and an accelerometer to track location and exercise and has a larger display than the SportBand. It's naturally the largest of the three Nike+ accessories. All of them connect to the same Nike+ computer software and have access to data via the Web, though as of April 2012, the Nike Fuel system is segmented off from regular Nike+ data and community features. Nike plans to overhaul the entire Nike+ platform, putting Fuel front and center, in summer 2012.

iPhone and iPod owners considering a SportBand can check out Nike+ without buying the dedicated wristband. The Nike+ iOS app performs GPS tracking just like the SportWatch, and the fifth and sixth generation iPod Nano includes a pedometer for tracking every beat-driven step.


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