Review: NuBand Activ+ steps up competition in sub-$100 tracker market

NuBand

The US $100 and below segment of the market for wearables is seeing new competition with the launch of the NuBand Activ+from NuBand Sports, the company’s first product to sell in the US.

Putting the Nuband Activ+ through its paces

We put the NuBand Activ+ through its paces on the mean streets of NYC

We put the US $79.99 smartband through its paces in the US city which claims that its residents walk further than in any other American city: New York (it’s hardly surprising that New Yorkers walk a lot, thanks to the city’s sub-optimal subway network layout), to find out more.

First up: Appearance. The Activ+ is visually similar to the $129 Samsung Galaxy Fit, although its display is only a single color. The NuBand tracker fits snugly into a silicon wristband which is held together by a pop-in connector, similar to the Fitbit Flex. Once on the wrist, it feels stable, and relatively unnoticeable despite its bulk.

NuBand Activ+ battery life is truly excellent. Throughout a week of logging up 15,000 – 20,000 steps a day, the NuBand battery was strong – so far it has lasted more than two weeks on a single charge. In fact, battery life this good is remarkable for a wrist-worn tracker.

On the wrist, clicking a button on the side of the device shows first the time and date – then when pressed again, it cycles through steps, distance covered, calories burned, and the percentage of your daily goal achieved so far. Double-clicking the button puts the band into sleep tracking mode, another double-click wakes it up.

The NuBand smartphone dashboard

The NuBand smartphone dashboard

Syncing NuBand with a smartphone – iOS or Android devices supporting Bluetooth LE – was a bit of a hit-or-miss operation, at least with an iPhone. The NuBand app has three tabs – history, activity (the main window) and setting. Right now, the band will sync only when the app is on the activity or history tab: Tapping the sync button in the setting tab simply does nothing. More often than not, sync failed the first time round, but then would kick in. We’re expecting app updates to iron this out.

Starting a debate: Accuracy of smart wristbands?
So far, so good. But wearing the NuBand Activ+ side-by-side with a Fitbit Flex for a week has raised new questions about the accuracy of wrist-worn step counters. Our trusty Fitbit Flex, which might not be state-of-the-art when it comes to trackers, has nevertheless been WearableTechWatch’s trusted standard in counting steps over the last 18 months.

However, on a couple of active days on the streets of New York City, Fitbit was reporting around 19,000 steps a day, in comparison to the 16,000-16,500 logged by NuBand, a discrepancy of +/- 15%. In the past we’ve also seen different total daily steps counted by Flex and a Misfit Shine – with Fitbit always coming up with the highest daily totals.

Sleep tracking needs improvement
One area where NuBand could definitely improve is how it reports on sleep, instead of the hourly asleep/awake graph as shown in the dashboard: After racking up 15-20k steps in a day during our test, getting a good night’s sleep was hardly a challenge. On the positive side, the NuBand Activ+ has a built-in vibrating alarm to wake you up for the next day, and, like the Jawbone UP, once it reaches a certain step threshold, automatically switches into day mode from sleep mode if you forget to change over.

Summary
In summary, the NuBand Activ+ is a keenly-priced device for someone who wants more than a display of cryptic dots to show their daily progress. It is useful as a wristwatch, too. For the NuBand, battery life is a huge bonus – especially as some of the smartwatches just arriving on the market (like the Moto 360 and soon-to-arrive Apple Watch) need daily juicing. One minor annoyance is that the NuBand screen is already showing signs of tiny scratches after less than a month’s wear: but no worse than the wear and tear we’ve seen on other devices, as we pointed out with our Misfit Shine review.

How to buy: The NuBand Activ+ is just becoming available in the US, sold via Stage Stores, JC Penney, Amazon and Kohl’s. The company told WTW they plan to launch the Nuband Activ+ in the UK soon, initially exclusively via Argos, and have their eye on in-flight shopping deals with selected airlines.

/WTW

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