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The Nike Fuelband – A daily reminder of just how lazy you are!

Nike FuelBand

Nike FuelBand

The idea of constant 24 hr feedback on daily activity has always intrigued me especially as our lives become more and more sedentary.  Pedometers have been around for a while but with the latest improvements in technology the growth in offerings for personal activity recorders has vastly improved.  I picked the Nike Fuelband from the options as its worn directly on the body (right or left wrist) versus attached to a piece of clothing or a belt which doesn’t appeal to me.  It is always on and recording my activity, aside from when I have it charging or updating on the laptop, so it gives a great insight into a 24 hour window of activity without being specifically focused on steps.

The device is very easy to use with a single button bringing up all displays and controlling all options.  The device itself will show you readouts at the touch of a button on Fuel(an activity calculation), Calories, Steps and Time.  You can also disable the Bluetooth for when in flight and it gives feedback on battery level to warn when you need to charge.  The battery life is excellent and I only need to charge every 3 or 4 days.  I sync it daily with my iPhone Nike Fuelband app to upload the data to my Nike+ account. See screen shot below from the iPhone of data display for a particular day.

Nike iPhone App

Nike iPhone App

The screen shot below is from my Nike+ web account.  It gives a nice breakdown of activity over the whole day showing number of steps, calories, distance and when you were most active similar to the iPhone app above.  As with other Nike apps you can set targets and challenges and share your progress across Twitter or Facebook. My Nike+ web account has the added advantage in that it pulls together the info from my Nike iPhone App and the Fuelband (and other Nike tracking devices if you have them).

Nike Web Screen

Nike Web Screen

I wanted to try these 24 hr monitors to get a better sense of my activity(which is not a lot!).  Working on a computer all day combined with relatively long commutes and small kids can leave very little time to indulge in multiple trips to the gym each week.  Even at that when the health fit kicked in it seemed hard to shift all those pounds that have added on over the years.  The Nike Fuelband has given me a much better insight into my average and particularly worst days.  It has reinforced the fact that a number of small things over a whole day versus 3 or 4 trips to the gym every week can be significantly more rewarding from the health point of view.  All common sense stuff but when the figures are thrown in front of you on a daily basis and you can analyze the last day, week and month it can be quite shocking and eye-opening.

My worst days were those I worked from home.  There is obviously no walk for the train, to the car, to the bus, to the office and then to meetings or lunch.  I go from my kitchen to the attic conversion and sit in front of the computer from maybe 7am or 8am until 5pm or 6pm.  With a couple of breaks for lunch and a cup of coffee.  I normally got a score of 400-600 Fuel points on these days.  That compared with an average work day of about 1800 Fuel points or a Saturday cutting the grass, playing a game of tennis with the kids and just doing a few bits around the house where I would score over 3000 Fuel points.

Other simple small changes like the healthy heart ad states ‘get off a bus stop earlier’ can make a big difference.  Wise words, common sense and very obvious but I (we) all too often hear these messages but don’t action them.  Amazing over a day how a number of these small changes can help you hit your fuel target easier than trying to make time for a trip to the gym.  So the device won’t lose the weight for me but it might just be that piece that reinforces the serious need for a whole lifestyle habit change and helps me do it at a more consistent level across my day versus spurts a few times a week.

If considering buying there are a few things to note.  If your main activity is biking or swimming then this is not the device for you.  Its worn on the wrist so I am not sure if on a bike how accurate it would capture your activity if at all.  Nike state you can shower with the device but it’s not waterproof.  So swimming is not an option which frustrates me a little as I do like to go for a swim.  Also I haven’t had the cojones to wear it in the shower for fear I kill it.  In my head if it’s not waterproof then it stays away from water, showers included!

Feedback for Nike and improvements?

  • Make it waterproof!
  • It would be great if there was GPS and thus location and elevation info captured (or at least integrated better with your smartphone app to capture this – see next point)
  • Nike Apps – presently there are a number of Nike Apps. So when I go for a run (fast walk!) I use the Nike Running app and then when I come back I have to sync my Fuelband to my Nike Fuelband app.  This just seems a little crazy.  There should be one Nike app that can integrate the data across the different devices you have be that the Nike App, Fuelband, Sportswatch, etc
  • Continue to improve on the Nike+ web piece.  While it has improved greatly over the last year they should(will)) continue to develop and they should add some features like weight tracking and body measurements.

So that is it.  I think it’s a great piece of tech and when used correctly could really help some of us to improve our lifestyle on a more consistent basis.  The fact it is a 24 hr all day tracking system means its a lifestyle monitor for anyone to use and learn from and not just a piece of gear for serious runners and athletes. People have made the odd comment such as ‘oh you can fool it by shaking your arm!’ but in these cases it’s not really the device you are fooling.  When it’s used as it is designed it really is an excellent, easy to use, put on and forget piece of tech.  Highly recommended for those so inclined!

The Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phone

So as we gear up for Windows 8 with new phones and tablets a few thoughts on the current Windows Nokia Lumia 900 phone after using one for a few weeks.

Positives

  • Really liked the form factor.  Nice phone in the hand for shape, weight and size and easy to operate.
  • The device was very fast.  Never felt the device was struggling to do anything with always quick response in apps.
  • A nice touch screen that was very responsive. The slightly curved aspect made interacting with it very easy (pleasant even!).
  • Excellent integration with Windows Live, Office 365, Twitter and Facebook. E.g. from a text message I could jump onto my Live skydrive and attach an image. Posting to Twitter or Facebook from within apps worked better without logins such as those you get on the iPhone.
  • The OS was very clean with a real Windows 8 feel to it based on my exposure.  I really like the minimalistic aspect.  In parts it made the iPhone feel dated and clunky (and I love my iPhone!)
  • Phone piece of it was excellent with very nice interface and excellent call quality – a piece Apple all too often have forgotten.
  • Good battery life.  Better than both Blackberry and iPhone in recent comparison.
  • MS Office mobile such as Word, Excel, Onenote and Powerpoint.
  • Really liked the customisable tiles on your home screen.

Negatives

  • While I liked the OS it did have an unfinished look and feel to it at times.
  • Poor Camera – especially indoors and in poorer light compared with other phones.  It  often was quite difficult to take a good quality picture, or a picture with the same quality as the iPhone.  The camera app does has a lot more ‘real’ camera settings that many may like but for me I want to point and click and not spend 10 mins picking from 20 different settings just to get a good picture.
  • Obviously not the same volume of apps available for it so I could not replicate everything from my iPhone.
  • The phone was expensive.  The same cost roughly as recent iPhones or other devices we have got.  Considering it can’t quite offer what other devices offer they should be cutting their margins to make it more appealing.

So overall I was very pleasantly surprised with it.  I will seriously consider switching to the new Windows 8 version when it comes out if the camera is better and once the selection of apps improve.  Personally it would work better for me as my email is with Microsoft Outlook.com and work is on Microsoft Office 365.  The excellent integration with these products that the Windows phone offers might just get me to give up my iPhone!

Twitter’s missing piece?

Twitter’s missing piece? It is missing the whole check-in piece similar to what Foursquare offers. I hear foursquare haters shout ‘No! I don’t care where you are!’ but please hear me out.  I don’t just mean for places but for events like concerts, conferences, topics, news pieces, emergencies, TV shows, movies and of course places and companies like Starbucks! Anywhere or anything you can start a conversation on.

Why? Well Twitter is where the conversation happens now. Having to filter topics or search based on hash tags is cumbersome and awkward. There are different hash tags for the same event, idea, debate or show. Often where I am or what I am watching is not the same as those I follow on Twitter . That is fine but it should be easier to connect with those people who are. I should be able to check in to any thing or place. e.g. a TV show Madmen. Twitter would then auto build a search\view and include all other tweets from others checked in here. I could make it geography specific if I choose.  There is no point in having a list with people from another geography that may be an episode or 2 ahead or behind in the conversation. Any tweet I compose when in this list\view is auto tagged by Twitter as a ‘Mad Men’ tweet and could be easily filtered for those who follow me but who are not interested in Mad Men.

If I return to my standard Twitter stream and tweet all is normal and my tweets are not tagged but as soon as I return to the Mad Men check-in the filters and tags are auto built into each tweet I compose. When I check out that list\view and all those auto built views and pieces disappear from my Twitter app or web page. I can check-in again in the future to re-create.  Mad Men may not be the best example but replace that with Presidential Debate, X-Factor, TED Conference, New Zealand Earthquake, etc…etc…

I think it would offer better options for companies or shows to ‘own’ their check-in areas and provide info and offers while not being able to necessarily filter comments or feedback unless profanity was used. This could also be revenue generating for Twitter. So e.g. your local book store wants an advertised tweet to display with the latest offering upon each check and it pays a simple very small fee as with promoted tweets per check-in.

I could talk and talk about specifics about how each piece should work but think it really would be a great facility and help to easily connect people across this great medium. There is very little new above. The problem is some of it is in Foursquare, some in Twitter and some in other apps that try to link your TV viewing with conversations. It’s disjointed and awkward. If Twitter offered it in one place it would a great addition to what it already offers us. I think Twitter should purchase Foursquare and incorporate it nicely into your current offering. It goes back to that comment on social media ideas and solutions – ‘Is it an app or a feature’ and I think Foursquare should be a feature of Twitter.  What do you think?

The Blackberry 9900, an iPhone too late.

 I was initially a big Blackberry fan but unfortunately in recent years I lost faith like many others.  However, for anyone out there looking to Blackberry the newish model 9900 is the first one in a while that seems worthy of a recommendation.  Forget the Torch, or Curve or any other model and get the 9900 (if that doesn’t sound too arrogant!) .  So it’s not full screen like the Torch but it is a great little performer and its back to Blackberries best if a little too late.  The Torch (in its various guises) always feels a little lagging and I don’t like the size and balance of these devices.  The 9900 however is very well-built, nicely weighted and perfectly balanced in the hand. Thus a great device for typing with its superb keyboard.  The screen resolution is very good and the screen touch sensitivity\responsiveness is the best on any BB in my opinion.  It is also a very fast little device with items opening up immediately on touching.  Combined with a very good camera it’s almost perfect or at least for many who like a proper keyboard and can live with the resulting smaller screen.

The main downside is a lack of serious apps or at least serious options in apps.  However if apps are not your focus then this may just be the best business partner for you.  Pity it wasnt around a year or so ago it may have stopped many a person from jumping ship.  All in all it is a great little device and worth a consideration.

The need for more power and the recharging dilemma.

How frustrating is it just when you have to take a call you notice you have 1% left and no plug or charger around.  Yes every so often days don’t go to plan and that full charge the previous night didn’t get time to complete or you are out of the office using the iPhone all day and by 4pm it’s on 3% and you are still a few hours from home.  What are your options?

With the iPhone 3GS I bought one of those battery covers as the battery life was terrible.  Flicked a switch on the bottom and it started charging my iPhone and it was good for another few hours.  However I like the size, weight and shape of the 4S too much to compromise it with a big batter cover.  That combined with the fact I use my iPad so much meant I really wanted a solution that could work for both.  So off I went for a search.

After a bit of reading I decided on the Proporta USB TurboCharger.  It has a capacity of 7000 mAh which when translated means it has enough power to recharge a device a few times.  It has connectors for most devices so whether its my iPad or my kids Nintendo DS this will work.  It has an LED display that will show you how much power is left and at just 175 grams I can throw it in my bag and not even know it’s there.  It comes with 2 little extendable cables, a car charger (not shown above as it’s in my car), plug and little velvet case. Most days it just sits in my bag but those days when there is excessive travel involved or its jut been a busy day on the device this has come to the rescue.  It even has 2 charging ports if you really want need to charge 2 items at the same time. So if you sometimes find the need for more power then this little device is a very handy one to have sitting in your bag.