Still rocky reception for latest activity tracking gadgets

By Brian Dolan
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Nike+ Fuel BandThe past year has included the launch, recall, and still-imminent-launch of a handful of activity tracking devices: Nike's FuelBand, Jawbone's UP, and the Basis Band, respectively. (Update: Jawbone doesn't consider its "no questions asked" voluntary full refund offer to Jawbone UP users a "recall" since the device did not pose safety issues, a spokesperson tells MobiHealthNews.)

Jawbone made headlines last year when it recalled its buggy device and offered full refunds to anyone who purchased them. While the device is still available for purchase on some third party sites, the company has yet to officially resurrect it. In recent weeks Jawbone's Chief Creative Officer, Yves Béhar told attendees at VentureBeat's MobileBeat conference that the company would bring the UP back to store shelves:

"We had a hardware failure on the product, unexpected obviously. It was a heartbreak beause it was the fastest-selling product ever outside of Apple products. It’s going to relaunch. Hardware is hard, doing hardware and software is even harder. In this case it was components that were failing on the board," Béhar said, according to a report over at VentureBeat.

While Nike's FuelBand does not appear to be suffering from any kind of hardware malfunction, recent reviews have questioned the accuracy or usefulness of the wristworn tracker's method. A writer over at Gizmodo found through their own experiments that the device gave them more "fuel points" for eating a slice of pizza than for walking up a flight of stairs. A columnist over at The New York Times pointed to that review but also through her own experiences with the device found that she hit her activity goals by lounging around her apartment and "barely moving."

Despite panning the device, the Times columnist helpfully includes some perspective from a handful of health behavior experts.

BJ Fogg, Director of Stanford's Persuasive Technology Lab, who has conducted tests with the FuelBand and similar devices, said wearing the device alone is enough to change behavior. "Simply donning it can work as a fancier version of a string tied around your finger: a reminder to complete a task or errand, he said. It could be the nudge you need, for example, to get off the subway a few stops early and walk the rest of the way home, or to jog a few extra laps around the track," the Times writes.

Michael Kim from Kairos Labs also weighed in: “Points and badges do not lead to behavior change,” he told the Times.

Read the full New York Times piece here (reg. req.)