Jawbone UP Review



The Jawbone UP came out on Sunday, November 6. It was reported they would be selling at Target, Apple Retail, AT&T Stores, and Best Buy. And so on Sunday my wife and I go to Target; we needed milk and the Jawbone UP.

It was only noon but Target was already sold out of the Jawbone (plenty of milk though). Apparently the store had put the UPs out on Saturday and only had a few in stock, and they sold quickly. We went to a nearby AT&T store, and when I ask them about the UP they didn’t even know what I was talking about. I tell the lady that they are supposed to be on sale at AT&T stores, and she lets me know that it’s probably only at the corporate stores not the satellite retail stores like her’s.

Next we go to the Leawood Apple retail store. They do not have any in stock, but at least know what we’re talking about.

After Apple I call Best Buy. They do not have any in stock nor do they know if or when any will arrive.

We find and drive to the closest corporate AT&T store, and LUCK! they have some. They make me sign in at a kiosk and wait my turn to be helped. About 10 minutes later an AT&T sales guy calls my name. Holding my left wrist in my right hand, I raise my arms up to eye level and I tell him I’m looking for the new Jawbone UP. He says they only have one left…

It turns out they have two left — a small and a large. Using the plastic size ring that is attached to each case I try on the small but, surprisingly to me, it seems as if it is too small. He has some display samples out and so I try on a real one and sure enough, it’s very snug and I know it would be uncomfortable to wear. And, of course, the large is too large. I needed a medium which was the only size they did not have.

We leave the AT&T store and begin calling some local area Target stores. Nobody has any in stock, and most people didn’t even know what we were talking bout. Some of the Target employees we spoke with suggested we try back on Monday morning because most shipments come in at 8:00 AM on Mondays and are in stock by 9:00.

At 8:40 AM on Monday, November 7 I head over to Target again. I am there by 9:00 am but still no dice, they received no new shipment. I walk back to my car and begin to call every Target and AT&T store in the Kansas City area. Not a single Target store had the Jawbone UP in stock, and only a few AT&T stores had them but only smalls or larges.

I head over the the local Best Buy and wait for it to open at 10:00 am. When it does I walk inside and find an employee working in the Computer Electronics section. I ask him about the UP and he knows exactly what I’m talking but, alas, they do not have any in stock.

By this time the Apple store I was at the day before is open again and so I call them and, LUCK! they have them. I speed over and am able to buy a medium-size UP. They only had black available, which was fine by me because that’s the color I prefer.

The UP only syncs to an iPhone app, and does so by plugging it in using a headphone jack. The iPhone app initially feels clever and was easy to get set up with my height and weight. I also am able to establish what time in the morning I want the Jawbone to wake me, and the longest interval of time I am okay being inactive.

Once I’ve synced the UP with the iPhone app I put it on. It is not uncomfortable to wear, but because the exterior is rubber it is certainly more grippy than a watch.

Now that I have the UP on, it’s time to act as if I’m not wearing it, and just go to work. I sit down at my desk and begin going through my emails. And sure enough, about 45 minutes later the Jawbone vibrates slightly as a reminder that I’ve been inactive for 45 minutes and it’s time to get up and move around. Except I don’t…

You can set the activity alarm for just about any length of time you like, so long as it’s a 15-minute interval. For the first several days I had it set to 45 minutes, and then a few days ago I set it to 30 minutes. Half an hour seems to come around quite often when sitting at my desk working, but I like the increased opportunities to get up and move around. Moreover, if I don’t get up at one of the reminders then it’s only an hour that I’m sitting, rather than 90 minutes.

You can also establish the timeframe for which you want the activity alarm to be enabled. I set mine to be enabled between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM Monday – Friday since that is my most-common working hours. And this way, the UP does not buzz you to get up during dinner or if you are watching a movie or reading in the evening.

Forty-five minutes later the Jawbone vibrates again. The vibration is not startling or annoying. Since it’s on your wrist it doesn’t take much to get your attention. This time I do get up and walk around the house for a bit.

About 3 hours later I sync it to my iPhone to see what my activity has been so far. It tells me I’ve taken 727 steps so towards my “goal” of 5,000. 5,000 steps per day is defined as lightly active according to Jawbone.

Observations About Daily Usage

Battery

One nice touch of the iPhone app is that when syncing the Jawbone, the iPhone app will inform you what percentage charge the UP has left. When I first got my UP the battery level was at 75%. Four days later the battery life was a 35%. They say the UP lasts 10 days between charges and I believe it.

Syncing

It seems to me that once the UP syncs its data to the iPhone then it resets its statistics. If I had to guess, I would say that the only information the UP keeps is the activity alarm and wake alarm settings, and the steps taken since the last sync.

Comfort

When working on the MacBook Air away from my desk, the bracelet needs to be turned upside-down so that the metal end tips are on the top of my wrist. They get in the way when working on the Air.

And, like I mentioned earlier, the UP is not very convenient to wear. I am constantly noticing it. Moreover, when sleeping, there have been a few nights where I have rolled onto my arm and then slid the bracelet off by accident when pulling my arm out.

Meals

You can use the Jawbone’s iPhone app to track your meals. You take a picture of your plate when you are about to start eating and then a few hours later the app will pop up a notification asking you to define how you are feeling.

I often forget to take a picture of my meal before I begin eating. Many of the meals I have logged in the app are either of an empty plate or else not logged at all.

Moreover, you cannot add a meal other than in real time and by taking a photo. Which means if an hour after lunch I remember that I forgot to log that meal I have to take a picture of something random.

Accuracy and How the UP Tracks Steps

You have to wonder how accurate a device that you wear on your wrist is at tracking your activity. How does the UP know that you’re walking and not brushing your teeth? How does it know you are walking on your elliptical machine if your hands are holding on to the stationary side-rails? Well, it doesn’t.

So far as I can tell it’s the back-and-forth rhythm of your arm swaying as you walk/jog/run that the UP counts as steps. Random movements aren’t counted, but consistent ones are.

This means that brushing your teeth, vacuuming the carpet, ironing a shirt, etc… will all count as “steps”. It also means that if you are working out in a manner that doesn’t involve consistent movement of your arm, then the workout is not tracked.

From what I can tell, my UP tracks my movements fairly well. I walked 100 paces and it counted 99. I ran a little over a mile and it tracked a little over a mile. I ran that same mile again a few days later and it tracked accurately again.

However, since I know the UP is not 100% accurate (for instance, taking a shower and brushing my teeth will often rack up a few hundred steps) I have abandoned the need to wear it all day every day. I only make a point wear it when I am sleeping, working at my computer, or exercising. If there are times I want to remove it then that is okay by me.

The Smart Alarms

The two smart alarms — the one for waking up in the mornings and the one for monitoring inactivity — are clearly the highlight features of the UP.

I have used the UP as my primary alarm for 8 mornings in a row and I am liking it. Only once has the UP woken me when I was not in a light sleep or on the edge of sleep/consciousness. And, I find the light vibration of the bracelet more effective at waking me up than my radio clock. And what I mean by that is that the vibration of the bracelet is not so intrusive as to get me on edge right when I wake up, but it is just enough stimulation that it gives me a slight adrenaline boost to help me wake up.

So, Is the UP Worth It?

This is what I like most about the Jawbone UP:

  • It helps me realize how active or not I am each day. It’s not scientifically accurate at tracking my exact steps each day, but it does record enough information for me to realize that I am not as active as I thought I was, and not nearly as much as I ought to be.

  • It helps me pay more attention to what I’m eating and how my meals effect my energy and mood.

  • It tracks my sleep patterns, and serves as a useful alarm — one that is far less frustrating and snooze able as my bedside clock.

  • It reminds me to get up from my work space if I’ve been sitting stationary for too long.

It is clear to me that the UP is not a workout tracker as much as it is a low-level activity monitor. Or, put another way, I’d say the UP is an easy-to-use tool to help you become more aware of your own activity.

The UP is certainly not for hard-core health nuts and exercisers who want something scientifically accurate. The UP is for average folks who want to have a better idea of how active they are — or are not — and who want to use the high-level data the UP provides them as a way to make daily and lifestyle changes regarding their activity.

I’m glad I bought one and I will continue to use it.