Review: The Jawbone UP Activity and Sleep Tracking Wristband
Jawbone first released their UP fitness-tracking wristband towards the end of 2011. I can still remember the pre-launch hype and excitement surrounding the product back then, and I even considered buying one. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that the Jawbone UP wasn’t compatible with any of the phones that I had at the time. That incompatibility turned out to be a blessing in disguise though, because the first generation Jawbone UP was plagued with other, more serious problems. It leaked, the rigidity of the internal parts caused premature hardware failures, users reported non-existent battery life and some units would just software brick themselves for no apparent reason. By December of 2011, Jawbone had pulled the UP from store shelves and offered a no questions asked refund for anyone that had already purchased one.
Thankfully, Jawbone didn’t give up on the UP. Instead, they completely redesigned the wristband, making it more water resistant, flexible and sturdier. Sadly though, the UP app remained exclusive to iOS, meaning I still couldn’t use it with any of the phones I own. But, as of a couple of weeks ago, that has changed. After nearly 2 years of waiting, Jawbone has finally released a version of their UP companion app for Android users. Coincidentally, at around the same time, Verizon Wireless began selling the UP and they were kind enough to send over one for me to review. After wearing the Jawbone UP wristband for a couple of weeks, I am ready to share my opinion of it and hope to help those of you that are considering purchasing this stylish fitness gadget.
There isn’t much to discover inside of the Jawbone UP’s packaging. You’ll get the UP wristband itself, a USB charging cable and a quick start manual.
The Jawbone UP Wristband
Put simply, the Jawbone UP is a wrist-worn activity and sleep tracker. It tracks all of your movements throughout the day and night to provide you with a overall look at your lifestyle. That information can be used to help you make healthier decisions and live a better life.
The Jawbone UP was designed to be worn around the clock so your every movement can be tracked, even while you’re sleeping. This allows the UP to collect a massive amount of data about your lifestyle, and enables users to make healthier decisions based on that collected data. For example, you may discover that you’re not getting enough sleep at night, or maybe you’re simply spending too much time in-front of the TV or computer.
At first glance, the Jawbone up looks a little odd. It is a oval shaped bracelet with no clasp. That may cause some to see photos of the UP and worry about it falling off while in use. I admit, the design does look a little insecure, but it actually works great. Instead of using a traditional solid band design, the UP is flexible enough to easily slide over your wrist, while remaining rigid enough to stay in place until you deliberately take it off.
One end of the band features a multipurpose button and several small LEDs, while the other has a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is used for charging and transferring data. A small cap snaps securely in place over the jack to hide and protect it while not in use. The bulk of the electronics and sensors are housed within the slightly thicker and more rigid middle section. The wristband itself is constructed of a medical-grade, latex-free TPU rubber. It’s also hypoallergenic, which means that it should be perfectly safe for pretty much anyone to wear a Jawbone UP.
A 3-axis accelerometer and motion sensor promises to record all of your movements and the internal computer uses that collected data to compile useful stats that are easy to understand. These stats include total steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, hours slept and more.
The Jawbone UP’s embedded LEDs are used to indicate charging and which mode you’re currently in. Pressing and holding the UP’s button allows you to change modes and a short press of the button will display which mode the band is currently in. A full, green sun means that you are in Active (step counting) mode, while the half moon indicates Sleeping mode.
The Jawbone UP App
The Jawbone UP companion app allows you to do all sorts of cool things and I found it to be easy and enjoyable to use. Its most important functions is syncing data between your phone and the UP wristband. Data can be pulled from or sent to the Jawbone UP via the companion app. Pulled data naturally includes all of your activity/sleep data, which appears in colorful and easy to read graphs. Data sent from your phone to the UP includes things like alarm and manual calibration settings.
Alarms can include a normal, wake up alarm or an alert to notify you when you have be idle for a certain period of time. The included vibration motor is plenty strong enough to wake me up, and I like how the idle alerts motivate me to get up and move around some.
Besides the data that is automatically supplied by the wristband, you can also manually enter details about your workouts and meals into the app. This allows the UP app to monitor even more information about your lifestyle.
Manual data entry is handle very well. The app includes access to a huge library of common foods and also has the ability to scan bar-codes for adding new foods, making it rather quick and easy to log meals. Workout logging is fairly easy as well, the app includes a bunch of common activities. Simply select the activity and enter how long you performed it and choose the appropriate intensity level for the session. Like with meals, you can manually add the activity if it isn’t preloaded with the app.
Unfortunately, the app isn’t guaranteed to be compatible with all Android devices yet. So you might want to check with Jawbone’s compatibility list before purchasing one. I used the Jawbone UP with my Nexus 4 and haven’t encountered a single bug or issue yet.
Jawbone claims that each full charge of the UP’s Lithium-ion polymer battery is good for 10 days, and that claim is pretty accurate. I didn’t keep the UP off of the charger long enough for the battery to completely die, but I did make it past the 8 day on a single charge. Over a week worth of battery life is more than enough in my opinion.
Checking remaining battery life requires syncing the UP with your phone, and charging is done via any available USB port. Charge time for the Jawbone UP is a little over an hour.
In my testing, the Jawbone UP proved to be very accurate at recording my steps and sleep patterns. I still have a FitBit One at my disposal, and I wore both devices while testing the UP. The results were a little surprising. I found that the total steps recorded by each device never differentiated by more than 100 steps and total distance traveled was very close as well. Bottom line, I’m satisfied with the UP’s ability to accurately track my activity levels.
The sleep tracking aspect of the Jawbone UP works great also. As long as you remember to switch the band to sleeping mode each night and back to active mode once you’ve woke up.
Overall, I’m happy with how the Jawbone UP performed. All of issues that plagued the first generation of the UP seem to have been solved and I’m happy to report that I haven’t encountered any problems or odd behavior while using it. The latest Jawbone UP simply works. It also did a good job of motivating me to be more active each day and made me aware of how little sleep I get each night. I believe that the UP is capable of helping users make healthier decisions and live a better life.
The Bad Stuff & Conclusion
Overall, I’ve enjoyed my time the Jawbone up. It is accurate, comfortable to wear, provides useful information and does a great job at what it was designed to do. But the combination of two missing features holds the UP back in my opinion, and makes it harder to use than it could have been.
First, the Jawbone up doesn’t have a display. You have to use your phone each and every time you want to view any of the information on your UP. That wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the second missing feature. Jawbone, a company that is well known for their Bluetooth devices, for some reason didn’t put Bluetooth technology in the UP wristband. That means no wireless syncing.
I would be fine with not having a display on the band if the data wirelessly appeared on my phone’s display. And I wouldn’t miss wireless syncing if I could quickly check my stats from the band itself. Either one of those features would have made using the Jawbone UP easier and more enjoyable.
Taking the UP off and plugging it into my phone each time I wanted to check my progress for the day kind of became annoying, and that annoyance wouldn’t be there if either one of those features had been added.
So, is having to plug the Jawbone UP into your phone a deal breaker? In my opinion, no it isn’t. But that’s something each individual user would need to decide on their own. If you also answered no, than you’ll probably love the Jawbone UP. Because everything else about it is quite good.