First of all, let me tell you a little bit about myself and the equipment I’m used to. I’m a dedicated (though not particularly talented) club runner, and train at least 4 times a week, with regular races and parkruns throughout the year. I like to track my progress (if there is any!), and my methods for doing this have included a Nike tracker in my shoe, a GPS app on my phone, and most recently a lovely Garmin 410 sports watch.
However, I always look forward to trying a different method of measuring my performance, and was delighted when I was offered the chance to review the Nuband – a fitness tracker that’s easy to use and only requires a smartphone and a free app. Here’s how I got on…
The box says it’s a sports monitor, a sports reminder, a smart alarm and a sleep tracker – I’m excited to try it out now! On opening the box, I’m struck with how simple it looks – a black band in a flattened O shape, with a subtle zigzag pattern embossed on it.
The band is open on one side, and is tipped with a silver coloured cap. It’s quite stylish and doesn’t scream out that it’s a piece of fitness equipment – you could comfortably wear this with almost any outfit without it looking out of place.
There are only three items in the box, so it’s not difficult to work out what to do -the manual clearly states that your first step is to charge the band up using the special USB cable provided. Pulling off the silver cap reveals a headphone type plug, and this fits in one end of the USB cable, whilst the other end can be plugged into a USB charger if you have one, or directly into your computer (I suspect this method of charging will take considerably longer). During charging, a red triangle appears on the band (seemingly out of nowhere – it’s impossible to see where the various lights are within the band unless they’re actually glowing) and pulses slowly until full charge is achieved, when it remains as a solid triangle until the band is unplugged.
Next came what, for me, was the trickiest part of the set-up – finding the appropriate app within the Google Play store. I admit to not reading the instructions very carefully, as I was excited to get on and use it, so I quickly searched the Play store for Nuband and came up with an app titled Nuband which had the same logo as I’d seen in the manual – result! (Or so I thought). I installed the app then plugged the Nuband into my headphone socket, as instructed, and touched the Sync icon on the app screen. Up popped a message saying “Bluetooth connecting” which stayed on the screen for about 20 seconds, then another message popped up saying “connection timeout”.
Now these messages confused me totally as my cursory glance at the manual had led me to believe that the Nuband connected to your smartphone via the headphone socket. I then wasted almost half an hour fiddling around with various bluetooth settings on my phone (a Samsung 5S), trying to sync the Nuband and failing miserably. I even charged up my old 3GS and downloaded the app from the Apple store, but encountered the same problem. So, in desperation I did what I should have done in the first place, and read the manual – properly! I saw that I should have been looking for an app called Keepfit* – two minutes later the app was installed, Nuband was plugged in, and I nervously hit the sync button – result! Moral of the story? Read the manual properly!
*Important note – the app is misspelt in the Play Store as KeeFit which makes it tricky to find!
The first thing you need to do is tell the app a little bit about yourself, so I entered the Settings menu, then under My Profile I had to input some basic info – height and weight (there’s a choice of metric or imperial for those of us of a certain age), age and gender. With this bare minimum of information you could start using the Nuband right away, but it makes sense to set some goals and reminders while you’re in the settings – you’ll get far more out of the system that way.
The next menu choice is your Workout Goal – this is where you input how many steps a day you’d like to achieve. I started with 10,000 as it seemed like a nice round figure (and should hopefully be enough to stop you getting a nice round figure!).
Next up is a Reminder Setting. The Nuband has a vibrate function, and you can tell the band to give you a gentle buzz if you’ve been inactive for a length of time that you specify (e.g. 30 minutes). You can set the time period within which you’d like to be reminded to keep moving, and also the day itself. This means you could have it set to give you a buzz Monday to Fridays between 9 and 6, for example, and give yourself a lazy weekend.
Finally, there’s a Smart alarm built in. You set the time you’d like to wake up (you can set it up for certain days or every day) and the band is meant to monitor when is the best time to wake you (using the vibrate function). I had mine set for 6.56 every day, and that’s exactly when it woke me, so I’m not sure if I was just ready to wake up then or it just didn’t take any notice! I had a love/hate relationship with this alarm actually – I liked how it woke me up (it seemed quite gentle compared to my usual audible alarm) but I didn’t like the fact that it vibrated about 10 times and I couldn’t work out how to stop it!
The data collected by the Nuband is presented in graph form, and shows the total length of your activity (plus calories used, steps and distance) with another graph showing both how long you slept and the quality of that sleep (deep or light). There is the option to look at a weekly bar chart too, for easy day to day comparisons.
So, that was me all set up and ready to go – now to try it out!
I decided I’d first use the band on my night shift – I work in a large laboratory and I’ve always wondered just how far I walk over the course of a shift. My Garmin is no use indoors due to the lack of GPS signal, so I was looking forward to trying out the Nuband.
I had a fairly busy night, and the lab genuinely is pretty big (there’s a pic in this article to give you an idea of scale!). I was keen to plug the Nuband into my phone at the end of shift and sync it again – I was very surprised to see I’d racked up almost 3 miles in an 8 hour shift.
I went to bed for a few hours, leaving my Nuband in place on my wrist (remembering to change it to night mode by tapping on the band five times), wondering how soundly it would show I slept during daylight hours, as I always feel it’s a poorer quality of sleep.
According to the Nuband, I slept deeply for 3 hours and 10 minutes and lightly for 1 hour 50 minutes, which again came as a bit of a surprise. I went for a nice long run to blow the cobwebs away after my sleep, and was a little disappointed to see that, although my Garmin had clocked up 10 miles, the Nuband was only just over the 10 mile mark, but this included my 3 miles from the shift, so it should really have been around the 13 mile mark. However, this may be down to my positioning of the band high up on my arm to prevent it jiggling around too much – maybe the jiggle is what keeps it accurate!
After my run I had a nice long soak in the bath, leaving the Nuband on my wrist – it’s waterproof to the depth of 1 metre, and it stayed on my wrist continuously for the fortnight I used it (apart from one charge), tolerating my frequent baths and showers with no apparent signs of harm. It’s worth noting here that the battery life is quite impressive – on day 9 I still had roughly 10% charge, which compares very favourably to my Garmin.
I wore the band 24/7 for almost 2 weeks, comparing it against my Garmin, occasionally my Nike watch, and also Mapometer to rule out any inaccuracies with GPS – this involved around ten runs and numerous work shifts, as well as everyday activities at home (housework, shopping, etc.) I loved the fact that it’d vibrate every half hour (which is the period of time I’d thought would be most useful to me) to remind me not to be a couch potato. I also found it a nice gentle way to be woken up in the morning, though I’d have preferred it to vibrate once or twice only – it seemed to go on forever!
I loved the way the colour of the activity icon (a flower) changed as you worked your way to your goal, starting at red, then changing to blue when you reached the halfway stage, then finally turning green when you’d surpassed your total number of steps.
Before I even began this review, I knew that any wrist based tracker is never going to be as accurate as a GPS system, but hoped that there wouldn’t be too much of a difference. Unfortunately, I have to say that the results were a little variable. On some occasions, it compared really well, with a cross-country event of 4.1 miles registering 3.8 on the Nuband. On others, not quite so close – a lamp-post session I did of 5.2 miles only registered as 2.8 miles.
Whilst at work, I noticed that when I typed I often moved the Nuband into night mode (presumably the rhythm of my typing was just the right speed to mimic the tapping required for this). Similarly, out shopping I noticed that pushing my trolley, particularly across a rough surface such as the car-park, again knocked it into night mode. Luckily, because it vibrates as it changes mode, I noticed on each occasion and was able to set it back into active mode.
On my last night shift I did a direct comparison between the Nuband, my Nike watch (which works from a pod in your shoe) and a pedometer on my Samsung phone. The results were as follows:
Nuband – 7583 steps and 2.9 miles
Phone – 3907 steps (no mileage given)
Nike – 3.06 miles (no steps given)
So, the Nuband and Nike performed very similarly which was quite reassuring, whilst the phone was probably a bit more accurate as it didn’t have to cope with random movements of the hands or feet (I carried it in my pocket).
As a runner, I can’t in all honesty recommend this to any serious runner, due to the lack of accuracy in terms of mileage.
However, for anyone who is solely interested in getting themselves off that couch, getting themselves fit and keen to find a way of measuring their progress, this is the gadget for you.