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Fitness tech fight: Nike+ FuelBand vs. Jawbone UP

versusIf you’re in the market for a new piece of fitness tech, the Nike+ FuelBand has no doubt caught your eye. The slim wristband was announced today and is sure to be a runner’s new best friend. But maybe you can’t help thinking about the Jawbone UP, and you’re hesitant about giving up on the device altogether.

While the very similar wristband had some early issues (the company had to issue full refunds after some buyers complained about malfunctioning devices), Jawbone will see it through to store shelves. The company has been working on a fix, and has a tester program up and running (pun intended) to work out the kinks.

We’ll break down the current specs for you, so you can remain committed to the UP or cave and get the FuelBand now. 

Make and mold

Both the Jawbone UP and the Nike+ FuelBand are made of rubbery, water-resistant materials. To be a little more specific, the UP uses a steel spring beneath its hypoallergenic skin so that it stays snapped around your wrist. It doesn’t actually meet and close shut, and instead uses its rigidity to keep its shape.

new tableThis led to early complaints about losing the caps that plug the UP shut—Jawbone has since addressed this with replacement cap packages for $10.

The FuelBand is mostly made of thermoplastic elastomer and polypropelene—and it’s also water-resistant but not waterproof. The FuelBand does clasp shut, and is slightly heavier than the UP.

If you like the idea of your fitness wristband fading into the background, you’ll prefer the UP. It’s much more discreet than the FuelBand with its LED display.  

Connectivity

The UP plugs into the headphone jack of any iOS device. This is how it will connect to your other hardware, but charging requires a USB-headphone jack adapter (which is included with your purchase).

headphone jack vs usbThe FuelBand has a USB built into it: unhinging the bracelet reveals this, so it plugs directly into your PC. You can connect it to your smartphone via built-in Bluetooth, as long as your have iOS 4 or 5.

Battery life

Jawbone easily takes the cake here. The UP stays charged for 10 days—which everyone who’s ever owned an electronic device will tell you translates to about eight. It takes about 80 minutes to fully charge.

Nike’s FuelBand, on the other hand, has battery life for four. No word yet on how long it takes to charge, although the ease of an internal USB versus dragging an accessory around might sway some buyers.

Hardware features

UP will vibrate when you’ve been inactive for too long, and you have the option of allowing it to wake you up at the most “natural” part of your sleep cycle.

The FuelBand has an LED light display, which shows your calorie intake and output, lights up to show you your daily progress—and is also a watch. You can scroll through the display options via its singular button.

App

Really, the software might be what differentiates these two devices the most. For all accounts and purposes, they look, feel, and function extremely similarly. But if you’re interested in one of these items, then it’s because you like the idea of virtual fitness tracking—so you’d better like the app.

The UP app is available for iOS only, and you can track your exercise (steps, distance, calories burned, pace, intensity, active and inactive time, and your routes), sleeping patterns and quality, gives you tools to track your eating habits (which includes just take a picture to track calorie input), and offers “challenges,” which also allow you to interact with the rest of the UP community if you want to.

All that information is transferred via the headphone jack. According to AllThingsDigital, an update to the app is coming within the next few weeks, so early complaints about the software crashing will likely be addressed. 

up app uiThe FuelBand, on the other, transmits information wireless via Bluetooth connectivity. From the available screenshots, it looks incredibly polished and very user-centric. You set goals, it counts calories, tracks movement, acts as a pedometer, collects all this to show you how you’re doing, and lets you share out this information (there isn’t a sleep tracking feature).

It also weaves in game mechanics in the mode of NikeFuel. You start each day with no fuel—in the red—and the more you move, the more fuel you get, eventually reaching the green. Each person’s fuel gauge is different depending on their goals.

This is all also available on the Web if you want to use it there instead, or don’t have an iPhone. You just have to plug the wristband USB in.

fuelband app ui

Cost

The Jawbone UP costs $100, and the Nike+ FuelBand costs $149.  

Conclusion

While the Jawbone UP has something of a “stay tuned” status, it has one important feature Nike’s device doesn’t, and that’s sleep tracking. These types of tools for analyzing and adjusting your sleeping patterns are becoming more popular, and if you want that woven into your tracking wristband, then you should probably hold out awhile longer. Otherwise, the Nike+ FuelBand stacks up nicely, and the extra $50 is well worth Web access, a polished UI, and the peace of mind of knowing it will be available soon. 

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