Wearable tech seems to be the next big thing as manufacturers work out ways to make technology important to our wrists. While smartwatches are just getting off the ground now, fitness gadgets have been doing the rounds for a little longer, and Jawbone is back with a version of its wrist friendly activity tracker that syncs without you needing to think.
A fitness band for a new year, the Up 24 is an improved version of last year’s Up, which is still available.
As such, much of the technology is the same, with a tri-axis accelerometer being the main technology found inside the band, relying on this to monitor your movements when you’re both up and, well, down and sleeping.
Unlike last year’s device, however, the Up can send the information to a smartphone immediately, not needing to wait until it’s plugged in through its connector and synchronised.
For this to work, you’ll need a mobile handset compatible with Bluetooth Smart, which includes the iPhone 5, 5S, and 5C, as well as several Android handsets, with most of these being flagship devices from 2013 and 2014. An app is also required, which Jawbone currently makes for Apple iOS and Google Android, so even if a Windows Phone supports Bluetooth Smart, no Jawbone app means the Up 24 cannot be used with that handset.
A small amount of storage is included in the handset, too, capable of storing several days worth of activity information if you don’t get to synchronise the devices often.
Charging the handset comes from another audio-based connector, with last year’s built-in 3.5mm headset jack switching to a 2.5mm headset jack this year. The plug to charge the Up 24 is basically a USB to 2.5mm converter that can be plugged into either a computer or USB wall adaptor, with the battery inside the Up 24 rated for a maximum of 7 days usage.
Two modes are available on the Up 24, highlighted from the light shown when the square cap button is pressed. There’s daylight (shown by a flower icon) and night time (shown by a crescent moon).
The Up 24 band is available in two colours in Australia, and in three sizes — small, medium, and large.
Jawbone’s Up 24 is compatible with several fitness and home automation apps, including Runkeeper, MyFitnessPal, Withings, and IFTTT.
Anyone at all interested in their well being has a lot to look forward to in the world of technology, with gadgets meant to boost your outlook in health set to be released in massive numbers, with loads of manufacturers getting in on the action.
Already this year, we’ve seen products announced from LG, Samsung, Razer, Sony, and Fitbit to name but a few.
Jawbone has been in this category for at least a year, and in 2014, they’re upgrading the previous year’s product with a hint of new technology to make the concept even better and more transparent.
In this version — the Up 24 — the band is constantly communicating with your smartphone, leveraging the power of Bluetooth Smart to send information to your phone frequently and when you’re not paying attention, an upgrade over the regular Up which required you to plug the band into your phone’s 3.5mm headset jack to synchronise the information.
Most of the technology from last year’s version is still here, mind you, with Jawbone employing many of the same techniques, but now using a more frequent and back-of-mind approach to sending the data to your device, keeping it logged and charted so you can always see your progress.
To that point, you’ll find a three axis accelerometer in here tracking your movement, working out your footsteps and telling the app the time you were active, how many calories you’re burning through while both active and resting, and how far you’ve travelled.
Sleep tracking is also still a feature, with enough information and programming in the Up 24 band to work out the differences between light sleep, deep sleep, and use this information to work out roughly when the best time to wake you in the morning (it’s roughly twenty minutes out from the time you’re suggesting, with the alarm moment based on when you’re ending a sleep cycle).
But tracking your movement is only one part of the equation, with the app also being used as a guide for anyone keen to do more to get themselves in better shape.
For this, Jawbone takes the information it gets about you and the information it’s tracking on other people, and plugs it into its “Insight engine,” which looks for patterns in your life and activities to help come up with coaching guides to change your life.
You might do more than your average 5000 footsteps in a week and find the Jawbone app now suggests you to reach 8000 out of the blue, a goal for you to reach with the reward of a virtual trophy. If you do that, it might encourage you to do more, offering you advice and tips on how to go further.
What’s interesting about this is that while it’s a reasonably passive medium, the Jawbone Up app still feels like something you want to follow, giving you small amounts of encouragement that do feel like they’re working. It’s like being given tiny goals, and then improvements on these goals, with the whole idea helping to get you moving more often.
Helping this is the vibration in the Jawbone Up 24 band, which buzzes you when you’ve been sitting down and not moving for around an hour. Consider this a gentle nudge that maybe you should get up and moving, because it’s better for your health.
The vibration also presents itself as the alarm clock, with short vibrations going off as an alarm for your wrist, waking only you up if you’re sleeping with a partner.
Using the band couldn’t be easier, too: you wear it. Complicated, isn’t it?
There’s a little more to it than this, mind you, as you have to force the band into one of two modes by holding down on the square end cap to switch it between modes, with daylight (walking around, exercise tracking) catered for with the flower icon, and night mode (sleeping) designated by the moon icon.
These modes can also be triggered by the software, with the app able to switch into them from the phone.
But outside of these controls, there’s not much to the Jawbone Up 24.
The band is made from a hypoallergenic rubber, and can take a reasonable amount of bending, just not in the part that matters, which generally sits on top of your wrist.
There are three sizes of Jawbone Up 24 bands to choose from — small, medium, and large — but make sure to get the one that sits comfortably on your wrist and doesn’t dig in too much, otherwise you won’t want to wear it.
Only two colours are available, though, with “onyx” or black, and “persimmon” which is a slightly darker orange.
Aesthetics aside, some people like the look of the Up 24 band, and others don’t. We’ve had both comments and harsh criticism for this thing we’ve been wearing for a few weeks, but we don’t mind it at all.
Charging is easy, too, with a 2.5mm headset jack under a nylon and nickel cap being plugged into a 2.5mm to USB plug which comes with the fitness band.
There is very little that Jawbone gets wrong in the Up 24, and the product does manage to feel like a solid improvement on last year’s Up, which required syncing through the 3.5mm headset jack on your phone.
It still doesn’t intercept phone calls or messages, which is something other fitness gadgets are beginning to roll out in their respective equivalents, but Jawbone has made that whole fitness concept the raison d’être in this gadget, which will be perfect for people who want to watch how their fitness is going.
The Up 24 even manages to feel a touch more water-resistant than it has been in the past. We tried that with the first-generation Up only to have it break, but on this model — the Up 24 — it survived. Wearing it in the shower is a mostly pointless activity, because there aren’t many footsteps to track, but we’re a little more confident about the Up 24’s element resistance than the original Up.
Jawbone still says you shouldn’t immerse the Up in water, so we’re guessing it’s not suitable for a swim, but you can leave it on when you’re washing your hands. That’s fine.
Even the battery isn’t bad, with around six days of life in our tests. Up to seven is what Jawbone says is possible, and we suspect that’s likely, though we charged it around the end of its sixth day. It’s a little different from last year’s handset, which managed ten days, though this model lacked Bluetooth and required hardware physical syncing through that product’s 3.5mm headset jack.
Our one main quibble, however, comes from a complaint we had last year, and it’s still ticking around on this one, and that is the Jawbone Up 24 lacks a way of working out when you’re automatically sleeping.
It’s an odd omission, because there might be times when you’re just too tired to remember to switch the Up into sleeping mode, forgetting the procedure altogether.
Given that the Up has enough sensors and algorithmic programming to tell the difference between light sleep, deep sleep, and when you’re lying back and in bed to begin with, why it can’t tell when you’re lying in bed and obviously asleep to switch automatically to that mode astounds us.
Seriously, Jawbone has the know-how to work out the difference between rapid movement when you’re lying back and can talk to a phone about the times of the day you’re doing all these activities, but it still thinks you’re in daylight mode at three in the morning when you’re lying back and sleeping.
It’s a tad confusing that the app and accessory can’t split the difference and do you a favour in the process.
Last year’s version of the Up was a great concept, and this year’s improvement doesn’t seek to shake the formula too much, merely improving it for people who want their fitness tracked without needing to remember to plug in the device and let the information upload.
Basically, the Up 24 is a more seamless experience than its predecessor, and if you’re keen to try the whole fitness tracker thing out, the Jawbone Up 24 won’t try to do everything for your phone, but will try to show you a new path, not just for the world of wearables, but for your health, too. Recommended.