Review: Jawbone Up
4.1Overall Score
Price (RRP): $150 Manufacturer: Jawbone

How are you feeling? Do you need more sleep? Should you be walking more? These are questions that technology doesn’t often answer very well, but a new wristband from accessory maker Jawbone seeks to help out with that and more, with the Up, a new product that aims to make sure you never feel down again.

Features

A sensor system in a water-resistant rubber bracelet casing, the Up uses a tri-axis accelerometer to monitor your movements and store them in a system capable of remembering up to nine months of data.

The Up wristband features a rechargeable battery that is good for up to ten days of life (roughly 10% equals one day of use) and features a small vibrating motor for an alarm system and movement alert.

In the spirit of minimalism, which most devices out these days seems to adhere to, there is only one button, which sits at one end of the bracelet. At the other end is a 3.5mm jack protected by a nylon cap.

Two status lights – sunlight (which looks closer to a flower) and night (resembling a crescent moon) – are the only indicators that your device is on.

The Jawbone Up band is available in three sizes – small, medium, and large – in a variety of colours.

It comes packaged with a 3.5mm to USB converter which is used to recharge the battery from either a computer or a USB port-enabled wall plug.

Performance

Fitness gadgets are a new thing for us, not because the technology is strange, but rather because we don’t always do the right thing and get off our backsides to do much moving.

These gadgets, however – devices like the Fitbit and Nike Fuel Band – inspire you to get up and walk around, tracking what you’re doing and displaying that information in a neat little bundle for viewing later on.

Jawbone’s Up is built for this purpose, and a little bit more, in fact, as it has been designed with software to help track what you’re eating, how you’re feeling mentally, and hardware to monitor just how you’re sleeping.

There’s also a team of people working out of one of the Jawbone offices taking in all of this information and coming up with neat little insights into your life, such as how your footsteps could have taken you all the way over the Golden Gate Bridge.

First up, though, is the band: it’s rubbery, bendable, resistant to water, and quite comfortable on the wrist, provided you get the right size, of course. That’s a necessary thing, too, as the fit of the Up is based on the thickness of your wrist, and as such, it isn’t a gadget you can just give to someone else, unless their wrist is the same rough diameter as yours.

Throwing it on is easy, and it really just sits there, operating with one button that lets you jump between daylight (walking and exercising) and night-time (sleep) modes. Different length of presses can also activate a stopwatch mode that will time an event and add it with a separate calorie and distance counter to your software, but for the most part, you don’t have to really do anything, and it will track your movements while you go about your regular daily routine.

Wearing the Up is strange at first: you feel a little like a test subject at points, wearing a band that tracks your movements and works out what you’re doing.

On the plus side, it’s very easy to forget you’re wearing it, and as a result of its water-resistance, you can wear it while you’re showering, and even forget to take it off.

You will have to leave it aside when you’re swimming because Jawbone’s water-guarding doesn’t quite extend into pressure-based water-resistance, which swimming sits under. You can always add a differently timed activity later to bring it under the fold of your fitness tracking program, so all that hard work isn’t forgotten.

That tracking program is also very cool, with the 3.5mm jack of an iOS or Android device serving as a very effective way to upload your data on the go. We all have our phones with us, pretty much all the time in fact, and so it makes for an easy and logical way of sending information across.

This is all tabulated in a sleek interface, with an animated graph that connects the activities of every day, while also being able to share that with other friends who own an Up.

Some other cool features can be accessed from the app and programmed into your Up band, such as the alarm clock, which will wake you up to 20 minutes on the way out from sleep using the vibration motor, which is a better way of bringing you out of sleep than the sudden jolt of a loud alarming noise.

We tested this for a few days and loved it, as it was even better at waking us up than the alarm clock on our phone, which made us want to hurtle the thing across the room. In fact, it was easily one of the most effective alarm clocks we had ever used.

A power nap feature is here too, and like the vibrating alarm clock, it offers you a way to have a teeny tiny nap and not wake up three hours later by accident.

Tracking sleep is actually a cool feature, with the Up monitoring your muscle movement to show the type of sleep you’re engaged in: light or deep. You do have to switch into this mode to work, performed by pushing down on the button and seeing the sunlight symbol (that looks closer to a flower) change to a moon, otherwise it won’t work.

Once you’re tracking activities in both day and night, the Up app starts to show a useful display of who you are and what you do.

From there, you can share how you’re feeling using a simple happy face system that rates from the super happy pumped up “amazing” to the basic happy face of “good” and then back down to the going home and collapsing on the couch of “totally done,” with all of these words able to be changed by you.

You can also show everyone – and yourself – what you’re eating, either by searching through a database with words, snapping a picture and defining it yourself, or scanning a barcode. While not every product will be there, three of the four products we tested in the GadgetGuy kitchen were, in fact, in the system, which was better than we anticipated.

And then there are the insights, which are little tips produced by a team at Jawbone’s offices to help get you motivated. They might tell you how you’re going compared to the rest of the Jawbone community, or how far your little feet would have taken you in the real world, or that it can be a good idea to record your food.

If you decide you don’t want Jawbone to have all this data about you that the Up is recording, you can download it all and delete it from the system, though your Jawbone Up will pretty much be useless from this point. Still, it’s nice to know there’s an option for your data if you decide to leave.

Some aspects of the Jawbone Up do confuse us, however, and even though this is technically the second revision (the first was released in America last year), there are still things the Jawbone team needs to revise.

Device compatibility should be first on that list.

Currently, the Up works best with iOS devices – all of them, the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad – and select Android devices, using the 3.5mm headset jack on a smartphone (or iPad) to sync.

There’s no doubt that the iOS software is the most refined, and it seems to work best here with updates that always respond. Android is next, although the app won’t always upload your latest synchronised data, occasionally showing none of your updates until later. Not all Android devices work, though, and there is a specific list, although in fairness to Jawbone’s list, the delayed updates happened to some of the products on that list for our tests.

But one thing that surprises us is that Jawbone hasn’t made apps for any other platforms.

There’s no Windows Phone or BlackBerry apps, which given the third and fourth placement of these mobile platforms doesn’t totally surprise us, but there’s also no Windows or Mac desktop apps, and you’re essentially forced to own either an Android or iOS device (at the time of publishing) to use the Up.

It’s probably a fair call that most people have access to at least one of these, but it’s even more surprising that Jawbone provides a USB to 3.5mm converter to charge your Up from a computer, and yet doesn’t provide software to let you sync from the computer.

Call us crazy, but given that the charging mechanism is a computer, we’re a little perplexed why there’s no syncing app made for a computer, especially since Windows and Mac computers with USB ports are so common that pretty much everyone owns something that falls into one of these categories.

How you charge the Jawbone Up

Another area that could do with some tweaking is the sleep portion.

We must admit, we’re kind of surprised that a wristband that can apparently monitor muscle movement when you’re sleeping to determine the difference between light sleep and deep sleep can’t actually work out that if you haven’t moved for a long period of time and it’s late, as well as how your body is positioned, that it should automatically switch into sleep mode.

It’s not a huge issue to get around: you simple hold down the one button on the Up for a second and let it tell you it’s now in sleep mode, the motor vibrating and a moon lighting up on the band.

Still, if this wristband can determine what you’re doing when you’re sleeping, why doesn’t it have the logic to work out when you’ve fallen asleep and haven’t pushed the button to switch over into sleeping mode?

If you fall asleep and forget to switch the Up band into sleep mode, it won't record your sleep.

It’s a fair question we think, as is why is the Up measuring extra footsteps?

We were a little concerned when after a fairly average day at the office with what we could assume would be 3,000 (ish) footsteps, our Up told us we had almost magically hit 5,000.

That seemed a little high, so we tested something, measuring with 20 footsteps. While we had counted 20, the Up measured it as 22 on the arm that wasn’t dominant (the right for this reviewer), while the left arm, the dominant one, showed up as 24 steps.

As a second test, we grabbed a Fitbit Ultra and took it for a spin around the office at the same time as the Up, and found that there was a discrepancy of about 10-20 between them per 100 footsteps, suggesting that the Up might be a little generous in how it calculates footsteps.

It’s not a massive problem, but once you start pushing into the thousands of footsteps, it’s possible that the number is artificially higher based on how the band is working the maths out and not relying on actual hip or leg movement altogether.

If there was a small clock on the Up, we probably wouldn't wear a watch.

One other thing: we’d love to have a clock on the wrist band, because if you’re already wearing a watch, keeping an extra band on your wrist is like wearing two watches, which feels like overkill, even if they perform two different functions.

Being able to add food is a neat way of tracing how you're eating, and you can do this by snapping a picture of your food and adding the serving and calorie content either manually or by searching through a database of ingredients.

Conclusion

Jawbone’s Up is certainly an interesting interpretation of how a fitness monitoring band should work, and the company has really pulled some neat ideas together in this gadget, but it won’t be for everyone.

We’re big fans of the sleep functionality, and the silent alarm clock is a really great way to wake up in the morning, especially if you don’t want to wake someone else in the same room.

That said, it would be good to see Jawbone fix some of the issues, like the over-counting of footsteps, and the lack of software from a computer point of view. Still, if you’re keen to see how you’re going, and are looking for some inspiration to get off that seat, Jawbone’s Up is certainly worth taking a look at.

Review: Jawbone Up
Price (RRP): $150 Manufacturer: Jawbone
Water resistant means you can use it in the shower; The Up app puts together some useful information and allows you to watch your friends; Using 3.5mm to transfer data is a pretty cool concept; Great battery life;
Despite being able to monitor muscle movement and twitching, it can't work out when to switch itself into night's sleep mode; Can't be used when swimming or surfing; Android app can be buggy and only likes some devices;
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4.1Overall Score
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