Jawbone UP: new internals and attractive mobile app provide stylish life tracking (review)

Summary:Jawbone's first attempt failed, but this new UP is redesigned with a mobile application that fixes just about everything I wanted to see. The UP is now a solid device to consider for those looking to live a healthier life.

JawboneUP16

I have been on a mission to lose weight (lost 23 lbs so far) and improve my fitness in 2012 and have been using an assortment of different life tracking tools to help me out. Last year, I was excited about the Jawbone UP and then it failed a couple of times and Jawbone pulled it from the market. They just released UP again in time for the holidays and told me that this new model was developed with 28 new manufacturing processes and evaluated by nearly three million hours of real-world testing. Read my review below to see if UP 2.0 is the one activity tracker to rule them all.

You can check out several photos of the new Jawbone UP and screenshots of the iOS application in my image gallery .

What do I want in an activity tracker?

Activity trackers are designed for you to carry a device for 24/7 to monitor your life. They are distinctly different than gear such as GPS watches that are designed to specifically help you track workouts and active sessions. Over the past year I have tested the UP, Fitbit, and Fuelband and after the first generation UP failed a couple of times I went with the Fuelband as my primary tracker. The main reason I went with the Fuelband over the Fitbit was the form factor. The Fitbit captures loads more data, but the ability to always have a device with me that I didn't have to remember to clip on meant more than the data I could track.

In the box and first impressions

The Jawbone UP comes in a sleek retail package where the top is all clear plastic so you can see the color of the band. This year Jawbone is launching the UP in eight colors; onyx, mint green, light blue, white, navy blue, red, orange, and hunter green. I was sent a large black (onyx) one to evaluate and am debating whether I want a blue, navy blue, orange, or hunter green one. At this time only the onyx, mint green, and light blue ones are available though. They are available in small, medium, and large and the order page gives you specific directions and dimensions for the different sizes.

Inside the box you will find a small Getting Started Guide and the USB to 3.5 mm female dongle for charging. This new version of the UP band looks to be the same as the first generation from outward appearances, but the soft rubber coating is not as "sticky" so it doesn't get hung up in your clothes as often as the last model did. The UP band feels great on your wrist and after a week or so I didn't even notice it was even there.

One thing to keep in mind is that you need an iOS device to use the UP band at this time. Jawbone stated they will be releasing an Android application and it can't come soon enough. I think they would sell a lot more of these for the holidays if they supported the huge number of Android smartphones and tablets out there.

What's new in this generation UP?

While the outside looks virtually the same, the internals have been significantly updated. Jawbone learned a lot from the first generation failures and realized that the band needed to be more water resistant and able to withstand the rigors of people twisting and turning the band as they put it on and take it off regularly. They created many new manufacturing processes and spent thousands of hours testing the new UP to ensure it is now a reliable piece of gear and know they can't afford to mess up again.

JawboneUP09

On my first generation I lost the cap a couple of times and purchased some spares. I was hoping to see something like what Nike did with the Fuelband on this updated model, but the design appears to be the same. However, if you look closely at the previous generation and this new UP you can see that the cap design is different and I found it to be much more secure. As you can see in the image here, I took a nasty spill running in the evening a couple weeks ago and fell about 4 feet into a ditch with my arm holding the UP slamming down on concrete ripping open my glove and cutting my hand. The cap stayed on through all of this, which was an extreme test of its security that I was not intentionally planning to conduct.

Walk around the hardware

The UP looks and functions the same as the last UP with the ends overlapping just over an inch. It is easy to spread the ends apart and slip the band on and off. On one end of the band you will find a removable cap that covers the 3.5mm plug. While the new cap is much more secure, it is still a bit to easy to misplace it while syncing to your iOS device headset jack. It would be nice if they included a spare cap in the package, but if you do lose one their customer support team will send you a free spare when you give them a call.

On the other end you will find a small silver button with indicator lights integrated into the rubber strap on the bottom. The button is used to change modes between active, workout, and sleep. Jawbone added a new mode this year too so you can enable the power nap mode. You press and hold to switch to sleep mode, press once then press and hold to put it into workout mode, and press twice and then press and hold to use the power nap mode (explained below). There is no off switch so your band is always on even if you are not wearing it. I sometimes forget to switch to sleep mode and have to manually enter the data, but sure wish the UP band was smart enough to enter sleep mode automatically if I forget to switch over. Most people go to sleep at about the same time each night so it doesn't seem that this would be too difficult to implement.

The indicator light flashes when charging and turns solid when fully charged. The five point star indicator light appears in green when you switch to active or workout mode. A green moon light will also appear when you put the UP band into sleep mode. A single press of the button will show you what mode you are in without switching modes.

You use the included 3.5mm to USB cable to charge the UP band. Jawbone states you should get 10 days out of a full charge and after using it for a few weeks, that is just about what I am seeing too. Inside the UP is a motion sensor that tracks movement and sleep activity along with a vibration motor for different alarm settings.

Major software overhaul improves the experience

So you now know the exterior hardware looks about the same while the internals have all been improved. Even more improvements are found in the iOS software that you can even download and use with the first generation UP, if you still have one. Like the last UP software, there are three main types of data captured by the software grouped as Move, Sleep, and Eat. All look much better than the last version of the software and thankfully the Eat module has been significantly improved since that was the are of the UP I never really used last year.

The main display in the software is the Home screen that shows the three bands for Sleep, Move, and Eat in purple, orange, and green. These bands show you your percent complete to your goal for sleep and move with basic stats below the completion percentage. The Eat band shows how many meals/drinks you have entered and the total number of calories consumed. Below the colored bands you will see a gray smiley face on the left that you can tap and enter your mood. I like how you just swipe up and down the display to change your mood and then you can enter custom mood comments. To the right of the date you will see a fork and knife icon that you tap to enter food or drink. Below the date you will see some hints and then your feed that includes your data and data from your teammates. You can tap on the entries to see more details of the activity.

Swiping from right to left from the Home screen brings you to a screen that shows you your sleep and move goals up top with band activities below (sync now, smart alarm, idle alert, stopwatch, power nap) and app activities (log workout and log sleep). The smart alarm is one of the absolute best features of the UP and my wife loves when the UP works. The smart alarm is designed to wake you when you hit a light time within 30 minutes of the time you set. Idle alerts buzz you if you don't move for a set period of time. There is also a stopwatch feature that lets you time an activity. I use this for my runs and it gives a good indication of activity. A new feature of the UP software is the power nap feature that lets you take a nap between 25 and 45 minutes as it analyzes your sleep pattern.

I like that they added app activities to allow you to manually enter workouts and sleep since I forgot to enable the stopwatch mode on some runs and forgot to switch to sleep mode a few nights. You obviously won't get all of the movement details when you enter the times manually, but at least you can capture the data.

Swiping from left to right reveals these options:

  • Home
  • User (mine reads Matthew)
  • Lifeline
  • Trends
  • Team
  • Notifications
  • Settings
  • Help

The specific user page gives you a view of your Home screen filtered just for your own data and not that of your team. Lifeline gives you a graphical view of your data that you can slide left and right to view all of your data on a simple timeline. The Trends area lets you view various pieces of data by day, week, or month. You can plot the following data:

  • Total sleep
  • Deep sleep
  • Light sleep
  • Awake time
  • Steps
  • Active time
  • Workout time
  • Distance
  • Calories burned
  • Calories consumed
  • Carbs
  • Cholesterol
  • Fiber
  • Protein
  • Saturated fat
  • Sodium
  • Sugar
  • Unsaturated fat

There is no social networking aspect of the UP, which is a bit of a shame. You can create a team of other UP users and choose to share various aspects of data. I have about 10 team members, but only see a couple sharing data so I don't find it that useful. The Notifications section of the app is where you see comments left by teammates. The Settings area lets you access user settings (height, weight, birthdate, units, and gender), privacy & sharing (simple toggles to turn on or off what is shared), band calibration, and sign out.

Move

The UP band is optimized for movement and it does a pretty good job with step counts and movement tracking. I compared it with my Fuelband and GPS and the distance was close. However, when I went on runs, the UP always underestimated the distance I ran. I was just informed that I should try the calibration feature in the software that can be used to improve the accuracy of UP to match my stride. I am 6'-1" and have a fairly long stride so that is likely why the UP is currently underestimating my distances. I will give this a try soon and would like to see improved distance calculations.

You can setup an activity reminder to go off every 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, one hour, up to 23 hours and 45 minutes. You select a start and end time for this reminder. I currently have mine set to go off every hour from 7 am to 4 pm and find this to be one of the most useful functions since it reminds me to get up and walk around a bit while sitting in front of the computer at work all day long. There have been plenty of recent studies concluding that people need to get up more while working in an office environment.

You can set movement goals, mine is set to 7,000 steps, and the UP software will even recommend a level. The recommended level for me is 10,000 steps. If you tap on the move band on the home screen of the UP software you will see details of your movement, including steps, mileage, active time, longest active time, longest idle time, total calorie burn, active burn, and resting burn.

Sleep

I enjoyed using the sleep function the last time and find this to be one major feature that is missing in the Fuelband. It is interesting to see my sleep patterns and while there isn't much that can really be done to change this, I use it to help motivate me to get to bed a bit earlier since I know sleep is important. As I mentioned earlier, the smart alarm feature is very useful and this function alone may justify the UP.

Sleep data shown in the UP software includes total hours slept, amount of light and deep sleep, how long until you fell asleep, how long you were in bed, how long you were awake for, and how many times you woke up. You can add comments to sleep and move as well and I have been using it to describe specific events, primarily for my own journaling aspects.

Eat

The Eat module of the UP band was the weakest part since it just let you journal your food intake with photos. This module saw a major update and now lets you log your food or drink by scanning the UPC code (this is extremely handy), typing in the food or drink that then searches the UP database, or snapping a photo of the food or drink. You can combine scanning the UPC code with an actual photo of your meal too. You can build up your library of regular meals that make it even faster to enter food into the UP software. The UP gallery and database of food and drinks is quite extensive and works quite well. It is still a bit of a chore to enter food and drink data, but Jawbone has done everything possible to make it as easy as possible.

To enter food data, tap on the fork and knife icon and then use one of the available methods to select a food or drink. After selecting the food or drink, you then have the ability to change the quantity, add a location, select when you consumed it, and add any other comments you wish.

Daily usage and experiences

I have now been using my UP for a few weeks and find it to be a rock solid life tracking device. After my fall that showed the cap could survive and stay on, I lost the band for a couple days in my back yard (another reason I want to buy a colored model UP). I was moving lots of materials around and my heavy Carhart jacket sleeve must have knocked it off my wrist. I found it a couple days later and it seemed to be just fine. About four days later it started to randomly buzz and switch modes. I sent this UP band back for some forensics, but think my 4 foot fall when I ran knocked something loose inside. The replacement UP has performed flawlessly for over a week and I am confident in its reliability this time around.

I would love to see Bluetooth used to sync data to your device, even at the sacrifice of a couple days of battery life because I think it is a bit too easy to misplace the cap. I would like to see some more social network integration since I do find these networks helpful for motivation and just relying on other UP team members limits the number of people that can be part of your team. It would also be great to see some kind of status indicator or screen on the UP band itself, even if it was a simple percentage complete of the goals.

I know there are plenty of other fitness/lifestyle tracking devices, but I don't want to clip something on me or wear a band around my arm even if these devices capture more detailed and accurate data. The UP band has now gotten to be a mainstay on my wrist and I barely even notice it is on there. I won't buy a clip type of activity tracker again and prefer the wristband form factor.

Pricing and availability

The previous UP was priced at $99.99 and this new model is now launching at $129.99. As I stated, the onyx and mint green ones are the only ones I currently see available. Jawbone didn't give any specific information on when the other colors would be launched and I have just been told to keep checking back. I have tried many life tracking tools and find the UP to have the best combination of form factor and data captured. I now just need to figure out which color I want to purchase.

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Topics: Mobility, iPad, iPhone, Reviews

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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