Review: Jawbone Up 2
3.7Overall Score
Price (RRP): $149 Manufacturer: Jawbone

Need a bit of help getting in shape? Jawbone hopes to have the answer in an update to its Up 24, with the new sequel, the slimmer Up 2.

Features

Last year’s Up 24 is over a year old, and that makes it old news and old tech. Fortunately, Jawbone has an update ready taking what the company achieved in the Up 24 and shrinking it down to a thinner form-factor for people who prefer their gadgets lighter and more body friendly.

That’s essentially what is happening with the Up 2, which takes a three axis accelerometer and puts it into a small anodised aluminium strip featuring a small battery, Bluetooth 4.0 and Low Energy (LE) access, and three LEDs for various notifications.

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Surrounding this set of electronics is a small textured capacitive touch panel, with all of this sitting on a rubber strap, complete with a thin metal clip that can be moved in position to accommodate most wrist sizes.

The battery inside the Jawbone Up 2 is rated for as many as seven days, with the charging happening over a small magnetic USB charging cable and taking roughly one hour for a full charge.

Jawbone’s “Up” app is required for use with this gadget, which is available for both iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Android.

The Jawbone Up 2 is water-resistant.

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Performance

Sometimes technology just needs a bit of a refresh, even if not much time has gone by. That seems to be the case with Jawbone’s Up 24, which saw release mid-last year and was a fairly well developed little wrist band that could track your movements, sleeping habits, and unite them under one of the most friendly app environments for the fitness crowd that we had ever seen.

Later in the year when Jawbone managed to shrink the technology down to the button-sized Up Move, we were impressed again, as that not only brought the same sort of tracking to a smaller size, but also a much smaller price tag, getting in there for $69 to $89, depending on where you bought it from.

Fast forward a year and Jawbone is getting its Up 3 ready for release, an advanced activity tracker with some very unique sensors thrown in for good measure.

Before that happens, however, the company has an update for its Up 24, slimming the product down and giving it the same form-factor and design it has brought to the Up 3.

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The resulting product is the Up 2, a new activity tracker in a bracelet that takes much of the technology used in both the Up 24 and Up Move and makes it thinner, more simple, and harder to worry about on the wrist.

This time, rather than take up a flexible rectangular skeleton on your arm, the Up band is slim and light, weighing just 25 grams and skipping over the three sizes of bands that were needed before, with a one-size-fits-most solution that you’re not likely to have any problems fitting to your arm.

That design is noticeable different, though it does require a strap to be clipped in place, almost like a watch band. At least Jawbone has made the clip moveable, meaning you can quickly tighten the band if needed, helpful since it makes the band suited for that “one-size-fits-most” mechanic.

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Under the hood on this one is the same tri-axis sensor technology used to work out when you’re up, down, and in motion, which will be used with algorithms to determine how much you’ve been walking and what phase of sleep you’re in, taking this information and throwing it into the Jawbone “Up” app, which it does so through a frequent Bluetooth synchronisation with your smartphone.

Controlling the Up 2 is pretty simple, and most of the time, you don’t need to do anything. In day time, you merely tap the surface of the capacitive touch display to see that the daylight orange figure is highlighted, and when it gets to bed time, you switch it to the night time blue moon, which will happen when you simply double tap the display to wake it up and hold your finger against the unit to switch it into each of the two modes.

And that’s pretty much it, with the exception to the changes to how this gadget charges, moving past the audio jack power cable of the original and relying instead on a magnetic pin charger, which the bracelet clings to and recharges quickly with.

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But while the design might have changed and it is a whole lot thinner, we need to stress one thing the average punter may not necessarily pick up on, and that’s the very fact that while it looks different to the Up 24, the Up 2 is essentially more of the same.

Granted, the LEDs are different, with three in a row compared to just two that change depending on what mode you’re in.

Here, there’s the daytime, message, and sleep lights, shining in orange, white, and blue when you’re using each respective setting, compared to the two — day and sleep — of the original. And the charge mechanism is totally different too, as previously noted.

But the functionality, that is pretty much all the same as what was offered in the Up 24, and in the Up 2, Jawbone hasn’t exactly broken the mould or gone back to the drawing board for anything other than design.

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You still get the same accelerometer tracking for walking, with each step picked up on and synchronised over Bluetooth to your phone or tablet, or saved until a later point when that can be made. If you wear it at night and put it in sleep mode, the same movement tracking is taken into consideration with an algorithm to track your sleep, working out when you were in light sleep, deep sleep, and when you actually woke up.

And this can all be connected with some smart alarms which will wake you up within ten or twenty minutes of you getting out of a sleep cycle with a vibration on your wrist near a desired wake up time, though in truth, this can be a little hit and miss. We’ve found it to work some of the time, and to completely miss it other times.

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Also included is access to Jawbone’s “Up” app, which is still one of the best in the business, offering a delightfully friendly take on what the fitness app should be, and allowing you to build a team of likeminded individuals to see how they’re going with regards to their activities.

The app is simple, colourful, and with the exception of not being able to remove some of your sleep cycles you might have accidentally thrown in while you were trying to edit one of the manually entered ones, quite easy to use, with a way of seeing how you’re doing by looking at the phone.

You can even duel against others in your team — friends and family with an Up of their own — and challenge them to a battle of steps, making the whole thing even more competitive, which is handy, too.

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Battery life is also very decent, and it’s almost a biblical thing, as the Up 2 manages to hit a solid seven days of life before you’re allowed to rest and put the phone on a charge for a couple of hours.

Technically, the app often suggests as many as eight days could be supported, but seven is what we found to be comfortable, putting the Up 2 on the charge on a Sunday when we were sitting at home and cooking dinner, because that made sense at the time.

A life of a solid week isn’t bad from a device tracking your movements while you’re both awake and sleeping, but we do need to note that very little appears to have changed from what the Up is doing, even if the form-factor has.

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Unfortunately, this different form-factor does bring in a few problems of its own.

Take the clip, which isn’t always the easiest to slip on. Before, there was no clip, just a rubberised band with a small skeleton structure that could quickly be wrapped around your wrist. Granted, it wasn’t exactly thin, more resembling a thick prism of a bracelet, but it was easy to get on and off.

The clip here is reasonably easy to work out if you’re using your dominant hand, but it doesn’t always work, at least not for us, and while it can be tightened to match wrists of pretty much any size, we found it wouldn’t always hold where we wanted it.

It also clips your hair quite freely, pulling on the follicles sprouting up from your wrist and tearing at them every so often, which is a touch annoying.

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Water-resistance is another curious issue, because this was one of the very things holding Jawbone back with the release of the Up 3 last year, seeing that hit a release of 2015 instead of 2014. Earlier on, Jawbone told GadgetGuy that it has revisited and fixed its water-resistance issues, advising that it would be okay to shower with the Up band, but not to swim with it, but we’re still a little scared over what the water protection is like on the Up 2.

Essentially, when it gets hit with water, the Up 2 appears to temporarily shut down, something we noticed because if it gets wet and you try to tap the Up 2 band to wake it up, it doesn’t vibrate at all, refusing to light up or vibrate in any way until a minute or so later.

We’re not sure how this constitutes water-resistance, especially if the band is merely resetting itself when water comes into contact with it. We guess it’s resistant enough to know when not to talk when water is touching the capacitive touch display, but again, this doesn’t feel quite like water-resistance to us, more a preventive measure to stop the band from breaking.

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Our final concern comes back to that one we’ve raised a few times in this review: there’s just so little reason for this product to exist, except to update the previous Up 24 to something to match the upcoming Up 3.

Really, that’s all this model does, with a change to the form factor, but no real improvement.

If you have an Up 24 already, this is a thinner version, and if you have an Up Move, this is a more expensive and less circular model that won’t tell the time or tell you how you’re going through the course of the day, and both of those are problems for us.

With over $50 separating the Up 2 and the Up Move, and yet more functionality being afforded to the Move, we know which model we’d pick, especially since the latter of the two is not only less expensive, but also offers longer battery life on top of the visual indicator of your daily goal progress.

For the price difference, we’re surprised not to see any phone smarts integrated here.

We’ve heard the information time and time again from Jawbone’s people that its activity trackers are about activity plain and simple, and that’s totally fine, with the band designed to tell you how you’re going and track what you’re doing, but for $149, it’s doing the exact same thing as its $89 tracker, and we don’t think the design warrants that much of a price difference.

One of these lights barely does anything (hint: it's the middle one).

One of these lights barely does anything (hint: it’s the middle one).

It doesn’t help that there’s a light on the Up 2 that is barely used, with the message light — a white speech bubble — only lighting up if the Up app has something to say or you’ve reached your goal, which is kind of the same thing.

Jawbone could have allowed you to configure this if you received an SMS to alert you, vibrating and lighting up to tell you that someone else wants to message you. It could have switched it on as a phone call alert, or an email alert, or an alert of something more important than just the Up app wanting to tell you something, but it didn’t.

Instead, it is under-used, and you’re being asked to fork out $149 for a fitness band that more or less does the exact same thing as the $89 model, arriving only in a thin design that can’t tell the time or tell you if you’re almost done walking your 5000 or 10000 steps.

The Up 2 (left) and Up 24 (right) are pretty much identical, if not for the different form-factors.

The Up 2 (left) and Up 24 (right) are pretty much identical, if not for the different form-factors.

Conclusion

Jawbone’s latest take on the activity band is a solid update to the Up 24, producing much of the same in a lighter package, but it lacks some of the functionality of its less expensive option, the Up Move, which makes that a more compelling choice.

Make no mistake, outside of the circular design, the two products are very similar, and really the only reason to choose one over the other is that you prefer the slim style Jawbone’s Yves Behar has designed into it, but the functionality is spot on identical.

That combined with the lack of an indication as to how you’re doing and no smarts communicated from your phone beyond “Jawbone has a message for you” makes this Up 2 a hard ask, unless you really do prefer the form factor change. If that’s where you are, no worries, and we see you, but we do think Jawbone could have put a little more into this one.

Review: Jawbone Up 2
Price (RRP): $149 Manufacturer: Jawbone
Slimmer and lighter one-size fits all design; App is still one of the best fitness gadget apps out there;
Not really an improvement on the Up 24 or Up Move, except on design; Band can clip arm hair; Still no smart band features, so no notifications on phone calls or messages; Water resistance is less like resistance, more like restarting to deal with the water;
Overall
Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
3.7Overall Score
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