The new Nike+ Fuelband SE looks good but doesn’t do much

Pre-ordering is the new ordering. And so it goes with Nike’s latest version of its activity tracking device which won’t be available until November 6, but is ready for order now. How will it fare against the likes of Jawbone, Fitbit, smartwatches, Adidas and Garmin? I get tired thinking about it.

The Nike+ Fuelband tracks your activity, and then gives you a Fuel score. You are supposed to create objectives to meet desired Fuel scores. It’s really that simple. Your data is synched on an iPhone app that makes it all look pretty and super cool. 

The Fuelband SE is the second generation device. Depending on who you listen to, it is entering a $50 billion or $10 billion market. With $23 in my wallet, the difference is irrelevant to me, but when you have giant multi-billion corporations waging battle for your pulse rate, you want to think that there is a big margin of error so, Nike better hope that it is a $50 billion market.

The SE has made some improvements to the previous version:

-Nike has made a lot of internal changes to the circuitry to make it more adaptable to the wearer and more water resistant (sweat proof doesn’t trip off the tongue as easily).  The old Fuelbands apparently suffered from some reliability issues and didn’t last past a few months so, I guess this version is supposed not to break as much.

-Bluetooth 4.0 to improve automatic synching to the iPhone app and to reduce overall power consumption.

-Nike still seems to think that having an Android version of its app is a feature because, it refuses to budge, but quite clearly they implication is that Android users are more prone to being slobs then iPhone users and are, thus, less attractive. Yes, we are Android only and our feelings our hurt. We are going to comfort eat our way out of our misery.

-No heart or pulse monitor. That’s another feature that has been improved upon in this version by continuing not to exist.

-France, Germany and Japan join the US, Canada and the UK in the experience. Really? The French are going to go for this?

To be honest, these fitness devices seem almost like the Adkins Diet: you know it is going to be something some people swear by and you know that some people are going to want to bury the thought of the damn things for ever. 

Nevertheless, Nike continues to add functionality to make this thing more of a social device:

-Group tracking of Fuel scores.

-New programs to open up the device to more third party developers

Now considering that Apple has put motion sensors in the new iPhone 5S, and Fitbit has recently added altimeter so that you can boast about how many stairs you have climbed, Nike looks positively basic.

And that goes back to my original point: the bigger the market, the better the niche for Nike. Otherwise, everyone with a mobile device is going to be measuring your every movement and every secretion. I give it another year before Nike throws it lot in with Apple or someone else and gets out of the hardware business.

It will be available from 6 November.