Posted by Jim Martin 22 August 2013
Jawbone Up review: one of the better wristband activity trackers
£100 inc VAT
After a shaky start, involving a no-questions-asked refund offer for anyone who bought a Jawbone Up in 2011, the sleep and activity-tracking band is back, fixed and selling like hot cakes - we had to wait a couple of months to get our review sample as they were out of stock everywhere in the UK.
The Up was one of the first wrist-worn trackers, pre-dating the Nike Fuelband. It monitors your movement and provides estimates of the number of steps you take, calories you burn and how long (and well) you sleep.
It’s by no means the most comprehensive tracker – the Withings Pulse currently has that honour – but the Up is so simple and convenient to use that you shouldn’t discount it when choosing one to buy.
Jawbone Up review: design
One of the reasons for its convenience is that you need only take it off when you’re syncing or charging the band. As it’s water resistant, you can take a shower after a workout with no second thought. Jawbone says you shouldn’t submerge it, but we took it swimming on several occasions with no adverse effects.
Unlike clip-on trackers, there’s no danger of forgetting to swap it over when you change your clothes and you’re less likely to lose it.
The Up, which comes in various sizes and colours, is quite flexible and easy to take off or put on and it isn’t too bulky. The light weight means you won’t even notice it after a while.
The sole button has a few functions. A single press will tell you the band’s status – whether it’s in awake or sleep mode. A double press starts the stopwatch so you can log a workout, for example, but it’s also handy for non-step-based activities such as cycling.
A triple press starts the Power Nap mode, which detects when you go to sleep and wakes you at what it calculates to be the optimum time. This is based on your recent sleep data, and varies between 27 and 45 minutes.
A long press activates sleep mode, which monitors your movements when asleep. Another long press returns the Up to its normal mode.
It’s a shame that there’s no display, as you get with Nike and Withings trackers, as it means that you can’t check your stats until you sync the Up. Being a wristband, the absence of a clock is a missed opportunity – it’s one of the most useful functions on the Fuelband.
Jawbone Up review: syncing and battery life
Many have been quick to criticise the Up for its lack of Bluetooth, but it isn't a major problem. When you want to download the data, you simply pop the cap off the end and plug it into your device’s headphone port. It’s a strange way of doing things, but it works.
The bad news is that there's no way to track your progress on the band itself as there's no display. Plus, as with the Withings Pulse, you can’t sync with a PC or Mac. Instead you’ll need an iPhone, iPad or compatible Android smartphone; if not, the Up isn’t going to be any use to you.
There’s a bundled adaptor which connects to the same minijack plug and lets you connect the Up to a computer’s USB port or a mains charger. As with the Fitbit One and Flex, the adapter is a weakness as it’s easy to lose and, without it, there’s no way to charge the Jawbone.
The battery lasts a little over a week, which isn’t bad, but not as long as the Withings Pulse which has Bluetooth and weighs only 8g.
Jawbone Up review: app
The Up app, which is available for iOS and Android, is utterly simple to understand and use. When you connect the Up, you can see the sync progress thanks to a huge pink bar. Once it’s finished, a summary shows how many steps and hours of sleep you just added.
The main screen shows two big corresponding bars so you can see the day’s steps and sleep at a glance. There’s also a percentage for each, with 100% being 10,000 steps and eight hours’ sleep: the WHO’s recommended targets. (You can change these goals if you prefer, though.)
Tapping a bar brings up more detailed info, so you can see when you were most (or least) active and a breakdown of your sleep, including light and deep sleep, plus the times you woke.
If you want to, you can also log the food and drink you eat during the day and there’s integration with MyFitnessPal and other apps to make this job considerably easier. You'll probably find you lose patience with the built-in food logging tool. There's no 'recently eaten' list as such; your entries become part of the crowd-sourced database, which then makes it difficult to find what you just entered.
There’s no heart-rate monitor, but the Up is pretty accurate at working out when you’re very active. However, you can log various types of activities manually in the app along with your effort level to better estimate the calorie burn.
As with most trackers, you can tag each day and activity with your mood. The idea is that you might be able to see how diet and exercise affect the way you feel.
We like the little ‘insight’ notes below the main bars which give you either health information or motivation, for example quoting your step total from the past week compared with the average from the Up community. Continue scrolling down and you’ll see a Facebook-like feed showing your recent sync history and more.
Swiping to the right displays options to see historical data (Trends) and add friends with whom to compete (Team). Impressively, there’s also a calibration option where you record a walk or run and then adjust the distance afterwards to make the Up more accurate. It’s the only tracker we’ve seen to offer this.
Swiping to the left brings up a different menu where you can set up to four alarms and the idle alert interval. The latter is clever as you can choose to be literally shaken into action if the band detects you’ve been inactive for too long. The alarm function is interesting as in addition to the alarm time, you can set a window (10, 20 or 30 minutes) in which to be woken up. The band then works out the optimum time (just as with the Power Nap mode) to wake you. It’s just a shame that the vibrate motor is so strong – we much prefer the Fitbit One’s subtle, pulsing vibration.
Those who use IFTTT will appreciate that they can create a recipe to post their daily steps (if you beat your goal, say) or other information to Facebook and Twitter. See also: How to automate tasks with IFTTT
Jawbone Up review: Verdict
Being able to visualise how much exercise you’re doing and what you’re eating and drinking is often what you need to successfully lose weight or get fitter. The Jawbone Up lets you do that with relative ease, but as there’s no indication of how far you are from your daily step goal on the band itself, it isn’t as convenient as the Fuelband.
It may lack wireless syncing, an altimeter (for tracking your daily climb) and a clock, but if you have a compatible smartphone, the well-designed app makes the Up a great choice, especially if tracking sleep is one of your priorities: the Fuelband doesn’t care about sleep.
If £100 – or £130 for the Fuelband - is beyond your budget, and you’re happy to wear a clip-on tracker, the Fitbit One is £20 cheaper, has an altimeter, tracks sleep and will also sync to a PC.
See also: Fitbit One vs Nike Fuelband review