Fitbit Ultra or Jawbone UP: Which one meets your lifestyle tracking needs?

I am trying to lose some weight and get into shape for sports and fundraising events this spring so I tried out a couple of new lifestyle tracking devices. The Jawbone UP and Fitbit Ultra have been meeting my needs so far.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

I purchased a Jawbone UP on launch day back in November and have been quite happy with it. At CES a couple weeks ago I had the chance to try out the Fitbit Ultra and have been using both devices together to see which one met my personal needs. Both have strengths and weaknesses and they both succeed in helping improve your activity awareness, which is all that many people need to see improvements in their lifestyle. You can check out some photos and screenshots of the devices and their services in my image gallery and read my experience below to see why I chose one over the other.

Image Gallery: Check out photos and screenshots for the Fitbit Ultra and Jawbone UP as you think about these $99 devices.
Image Gallery: Fitbit Ultra inside the UP
Image Gallery: UP sleep tracking data

UP performance issues

I was one of the lucky ones that had a Jawbone UP that worked well from the start, but about three weeks ago the vibration functionality failed on me. In accordance with the no questions asked policy I called up and was sent a new UP while also being told to keep the broken one or throw it away. The replacement has been working fine so far and I hope it doesn't fail on me like so many others have reported in the forums.

Pros and cons of the Jawbone UP

Jawbone makes some fantastic audio products and the UP is their first attempt at a product in the health market. It has been a bit of a bumpy road so far, but if you have a working unit it can also be compelling.


  • Excellent wrist band form factor
  • Easy, single button mode change
  • Battery life of about 10 days
  • Fairly accurate step counter and sleep tracker
  • Ability to sync directly to iOS devices
  • Smart Alarm feature optimizes the waking experience
  • Activity reminder vibration to get you moving


  • Eat module is limited
  • Caps can fall off easily
  • Only has iOS app with requirement for direct connection
  • No APIs available for other programs to integrate services

Pros and cons of the Fitbit Ultra

The Fitbit Ultra is the 2nd generation Fitbit device and has proven to be a fairly durable quality product with a broad appeal.


  • Small, lightweight device
  • Colorful, easy to read display and navigation button
  • Integrated altimeter for step counting
  • Extensive website for gathering and presenting tracked data
  • Support for external services, such as RunKeeper to share data


  • Battery life is about 4-5 days, half the UP
  • Requires a USB connection for wireless syncing receiver
  • Only has iOS app that syncs to the Internet, no direct connection between the Fitbit and your smartphone
  • Bit cumbersome to enter meal data

Why do I prefer the Jawbone UP?

I don't use the eat/meal module on the UP because it takes time to capture a photo and enter the meal data. i would use it more for water if there was a single button entry method and really hope Jawbone gets the software updated to improve this functionality. The Fitbit does a much better job with meals and I used it quite a bit for about 5 days, but then I found it too was a bit cumbersome and tracking details of meals wasn't that important to me. The general nature of meal tracking with the UP may be just fine.

Both devices track sleep, but I found the data collected and displayed by the UP to be more useful and the Smart Alarm feature can't be beat. I wake up much more alert than before without feeling overly tired or groggy.

They also both track steps and movement. The Fitbit seems to overestimate my steps compared to the UP, but it gives you trend data. I do like the altimeter and stair feedback of the Fitbit.

While the Fitbit has a display to quickly check your status, I rarely connect anything to my computer so it is a bit of a pain to have to plug in the USB wireless receiver every time I need to sync my data. I also like that I can plug my UP right into my iPhone or iPad and get everything synced up and visible.

I have also knocked the Fitbit Ultra off of my pants a few time and am getting tired of having to transfer it from my wrist to work clothes, to play clothes, to pajamas, and back to my wrist. The Jawbone UP stays on my wrist at all times and is comfortable. I wear it next to my Citizen watch on my left hand and it works just fine, even in a corporate environment.

Both devices give you some general lifestyle tracking data and I honestly think that just by increasing your awareness of your daily activity you can significantly improve your health and well being. Which do you prefer?

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