[Review] Re-Up & Bolster Your Health Arsenal With The Jawbone UP
Ahhh, Fall. It’s in full effect. With the turning of the leaves, the dropping of the temperatures, and the inevitable scent of Pumpkin Spice Lattes wafting from your local Starbucks, it likely means one thing to many people. Holidays and food. And with that second slice of pecan pie comes the inevitable Holiday/Winter baggage. For those of you seeking pre-emptive measures, we may (or may not) have the thing for you.
A fitness tracker that monitors everything from sleep to steps, and re-ups your arsenal to fight the battle on flab — the Jawbone UP.
History of the Jawbone UP
The Jawbone UP was introduced in November 2011 as a lifestyle tracker that could measure sleep patterns, count steps taken, and record calories throughout the day with an accompanying iPhone/Android app. Launched by San-Francisco based Bluetooth audio technology company, Jawbone, the band was designed by the eminent Yves Behar (awarded Designer of the Year in 2011 by Conde Nast).
The Jawbone UP bracelet is without a doubt, a trendy fashion statement — amongst fitness trackers the UP band is the sexy girl who walks into a techie bar and eloquently holds her own (briefly, and you’ll see why). The UP band was released with a significant amount of fanfare, announced at the TED Global Conference in July and slowly built buzz before it completely sold out during Black Friday in 2011. Much to the chagrin of buyers, however, internet forums soon flooded with customer complaints that the device had malfunctioned or otherwise completely stopped working.
In a daring move that has been lauded by the likes of J. Crew CEO, Micky Drexler; Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman issued a letter of apology, a recall, and a promise to refund all UP customers — whether they planned to return the device or not. Rahman’s sincerity looks to have payed off as it re-launched after extensive research and development a year later in late 2012 with an elevated price tag of $130 (it was initially $30).
My 30-Day Experience With the Jawbone UP
I’ve always been pretty health-conscious, with my own inner health devil and angel on my respective shoulders. I’ve really never bought into the whole ‘health-tracking’ thing nor felt like I needed it. I keep a pretty accurate mental diary and honestly, I figured I would get sloppy with inputting actual data and in the end it would just be a useless exercise.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I ultimately caved and decided to use the Jawbone UP for two reasons:
- 1) I mainly became interested in the UP band because I liked the way it looked, plus I’m always a sucker for interesting looking bracelets. The design is very minimalist with small tooth-like grooves encircling the band, and it’s available in an array of attractive colors for everyone’s inner non-conformist.
- 2) I wasn’t sleeping very well and woke up every morning feeling exhausted no matter what times I found myself in and out of bed.
So I picked up the band and started using it immediately, surprising myself with my willing and somewhat obsessive participation.
Usability & Set-Up — 9/10
Relax, I was recovering…
The band only has one jack that inputs directly into the user’s iPhone/Android device and one button that allows the user to toggle between sleep and active modes.
After inputting the bracelet into the phone, the partner app essentially does the rest of the work — automatically syncing the bracelet’s activity and displaying it on the screen. Many people complained about the irony of a Bluetooth company not enabling its device with Bluetooth capabilities, however I found plugging the UP into the headphone jack to be a very minimal hassle.
I know, it doesn’t look like I took a whole lot of steps in my sample, but I was recovering from the TomorrowWorld Music Festival in Atlanta (I brought along my UP band as an experiment which we’ll talk about later).
The band is extremely easy to use if your only intent is to track your steps and sleep (my original intent); for caloric intake and workouts its more of a hassle, however, as you’ll have to manually input those into the app itself.
Accuracy — 6/10
Really. 29K steps?!
I quickly found that the pedometer in the UP band is just that. A pedometer.
The calorie-burn feature built into the app often won’t accurately reflect what the user might have gone through that day. I biked 11 miles Saturday morning and when I synced my band that night, it only reported that I had moved a total of 5 miles the entire day. What?
Conversely, when I took the band to TomorrowWorld, (for those of you who don’t know, it is an imported electronic dance music festival from Belgium that found its way to United States this year) I naturally fist-pumped with the best of them, and as a result my band reported that I had taken approximately 29K steps. That seems mildly excessive and very likely inaccurate.
While these minor reporting errors are to be expected with any activity tracking device, it led me to question the accuracy of its other features (calorie, workout, and sleep tracking), its overall utility, and value relative to the price tag.
Trust is everything.
Durability/Invasiveness — 8/10
One of the reasons the device was recalled initially was its lack of durability. Advertised as waterproof, oftentimes water would seep into the device rendering it useless. With the 2012 reboot of the device it seems that the Jawbone has remedied this issue.
After wearing it for approximately a month across a range of common, mildly extenuating situations — pick-up basketball, showers, raves, airport security, etc. — the UP held up strong with only the occasional sync detection issue.
As someone who always wears a watch/bracelet, I found the UP band to be very non-invasive, and something that I generally forgot about during daily activities.
Value/Practicality — 5/10
$130 is certainly not a large sum of money in the long run when it comes to maintaining one’s health – that being said, is the Jawbone UP really worth purchasing?
Quite frankly, I found the device to be interesting conceptually and loved the novelty of “seeing” what actually happens when you’re sleeping. However, the step tracking and food journal features were underwhelming, given my skepticism over the accuracy; plus the pain of inputting every single thing consumed during the day becomes mildly annoying and more work than it’s worth, in particularly with uncommon foods (where would they get the caloric information on Asian white fungus soup?).
The sleep tracking feature is intriguing and it’s interesting seeing how many steps you take throughout the day, but beyond all else, I found that the novelty quickly disappeared. While it’s nice to have a pulse on this type of information and a channel to visualize the data, I’ve been doing it mentally for years and having the UP handy didn’t help me make many noticeable improvements.
Final Recommendations on the Jawbone UP — 7.6/10
“I found the data interesting, but truthfully not all that applicable at the end of the day.”
After a month of consistently using the Jawbone UP, I’ve had a reasonable level of exposure to the different utilities it offers. The device has a gorgeous design and when worn really does just look like minimalist jewelry (design gets a 10/10).
Plus, it’s definitely interesting to see how much deep sleep you’re really getting at night and the active step counter is decent motivation for the sedentary office worker to get up and move around more during their coffee breaks. With all of that said, I found the data interesting, but truthfully not all that applicable at the end of the day.
I suppose one could make adjustments based on sleep and movement data, but I’d like to think that as health-conscious human beings we already do that without outsourcing our brains to a small bracelet. Or so I thought, until a friend asked to borrow my bracelet to track her own sleep. I’m sorry, what?
Up to that point I’d taken for granted the privilege of knowing how much sleep I was actually getting every night; the thought of losing that privilege struck a certain amount of fear into my heart. How could I just go back to waking up in an empty bed without my trusty UP band telling me how much deep sleep I’d gotten the night before? It was unfathomable, and as such I realized how much I had come to rely on my UP band to reinforce what a stellar job I had done in the sleep and step department.
My mental sleep and activity calculator had been sidelined during the month prior, and frankly it was for the best — in today’s busy world, ain’t nobody got time for all that.
The Jawbone UP gets an overall score of 7.6/10 and a recommendation to try it out from this guy. Jawbone has an amazing 60-day return policy. So fear not, if after a few months you still aren’t quite feeling the practicality — return it! All just in time for those New Year’s resolutions.
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