Battle of activity trackers: Fitbit One VERSUS Nike+Fuelband

In the last 7 months I have become a quantified self enthusiast and I have been using a number of tracking devices & smartphone applications to monitor my body & behavior.  It has been a great experience to bring on the surface personal health & fitness elements which otherwise go unnoticed in the general blindness of “common sense”.

In this post I want to share my conclusions (see also slideshare presentation) from running a short experiment comparing data coming from Fibit (specifically Fitbit One) and the Nike+Fuelband bracelet.

My main motivation for this experiment is to find which application measures more accurately the steps I take per day, but also what does this mean for the calories I burn.

How did I do this experiment?

To do this experiment I always made sure I had both tracking devices always with me.  Simply put, if I didn’t use one, I didn’t use the other. I also used Moves to check results and get a better idea of accuracy.

I find two main conclusions from this experiment:

1.  Fitbit One counts more steps than Nike+Fuelband

I am not a technical expert and I cannot argue about the technical differences between the accelerometers used from Fitbit One and the Nike+Fuelband bracelet.  I do see, though, that the Nike+Fuelband bracelet and the Moves application come close to each other.  In a recent post by Gary Wolf comparing the Nike+Fuelband bracelet with the Fitbit he argued that “the FuelBand reliably captures intentional steps, which it interprets as exercise. The FitBit gets these, but also registers more ambiguous movements, which in its framework count as activity. The Fuelband is made by a fitness company. The FitBit is for general lifestyle use”.

My conclusion:  I believe the Nike+Fuelband bracelet is more accurate.  I believe that a tracking device should count actual steps rather than counting steps coming from ambiguous movements.

2.  Fitbit One calorie calculation indicates that I burn significantly more calories than the Nike+Fuelband bracelet

There is a big difference between the two tracking devices on calories burned.  For example, on April 30, 2013 Fibit One indicates that I burned 1 calorie for every 2.9 steps I made, while the Nike+Fuelband bracelet indicates that I burned 1 calorie for every 6.8 steps.  Again, I cannot argue here with certainty which device is more accurate but I think Nike+Fuelband is more accurate.
If this is true, though, then it is bad news for people who connect their Fitbit data with Myfitnesspal. People who use Fitbit One will find themselves consuming more calories than their daily calorie goal in Myfitnesspal because Fitbit indicates that you burn more calories than you probably actually do…this is still, though, an assumption.

Conclusion

I believe that there is value in the Fitbit One as well as in the Nike+Fuelband. Both activity trackers serve the goal of making you aware on how much you are moving.  What is really important is not the exact numbers, but the trend you’re seeing.

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CEO & Co-founder of Addapp. I love tracking, coffee, anything cooked
by my mom, startups, and quantified self.

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3 Comments

  1. I just looked at your slides. I don’t think Fitbit and Fuelband measure the same thing, even though it is the same unit. 2000 kcal feels normal for a human. Fuelband probably only measures calories burned by moving and Fitibit measures/guesses all calories burned, those burned by moving and those by just being a living human. Nike website says something about “activity-based caloric burn (not resting metabolic caloric burn)”.

  2. Hi Jon, you are correct. It is indeed “calories burned” from a different point of view. I also realized this by doing this exercise. Nevertheless, the common user simply reads “calories burned”, which is misleading in both cases in my opinion :-).
    Kouris

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