PSFK Goes Hands-On With The Jawbone Up Fitness Tracker
Jawbone's latest entry into the fitness tracking marketplace offers a number of hardware and software design improvements.
Late last year, portable electronics company Jawbone released their second version of their Up fitness tracking wristband. For those who remember, the first iteration of Up was met with a design flaw that led to Jawbone offering a no-questions-asked money back guarantee in an effort to appease scorned early adopters. One year later, the Up is back, ready to right past wrongs with improved functionality and a overhauled internal design.
In terms of looks, Jawbone’slatest Up fitness band is aesthetically very similar to last year’s model. The bracelet still sports thin zig-zagging rubber textured coating bookended by two silver caps. One cap is removable, revealing a 3.5mm plug for connecting to your iPhone’s headphone input, while the other isn’t actually a cap at all, but a button used to switch between the Up’s two modes: Awake and Sleep. What you can’t see is what Jawbone has done to the internal components, which have been completely redesigned to be more flexible and more water resistant.
To demonstrate the difference, Jawbone’s representatives showed me both models stripped of their rubber coating. When viewed side by side, last year’s model looks like a slapped together rough prototype of the new model, missing the fitted black encasements that protect the newer band’s internal components.
The Up tracks a user’s activity, sleeping and eating. Activity and sleep modes are cycled through by briefly holding down the silver button at one end of the bracelet. A vibration and light up Sun or Moon icon displayed on the band itself indicate in which mode the band is operating.
By far the best part of the Up experience the beautifully designed app that displays a user’s tracking information. Available for free in Apple’s App Store, the Up app is where users go to see the full breakdown of their logged activity. Simply plug the Up into the 3.5mm headphone jack on an iPhone/iPod, hit “Sync” and the data is quickly downloaded and ready view. Bright, easy-to-read graphs show a breakdown of a user’s activity throughout the day, letting them know to the minute when they were active and when they were sedentary. Fitness and sleep goals are by default 10,000 steps per day and 8 hours of sleep per night, but can be adjusted to a user’s preference.
Workout activities such as running, skiing, basketball, etc. have to be entered manually with users choosing an “Effort level” that ranges from Easy to Gut Buster. Not exactly the most accurate way to log a workout and I hope that Jawbone takes a page from apps like RunKeeper that let users enter more specific details about their workout.
Sleep mode gives users a minute-by-minute breakdown of their sleep activity, categorizing sleep as either light sleep, deep sleep or awake. Users can scroll through the sleep graph to see at exactly what time they fell asleep, when they woke up and when they were in their deepest or most restless levels of sleep.
The Smart Sleep Alarm is one of my favorite features, allowing users to enter the time they want the Up wake them up (via its vibration motor) and then doing so when they are in their lightest level of sleep up to 30 minutes before the time they set.
As a food tracker, the Up is only as good its user’s ability to manually enter in their food intake. I personally only used this feature for a few days and then stopped mainly due to my own forgetfulness. For those who are diligently trying to track their food intake and who don’t mind a few seconds of data entry after each meal, entering food couldn’t be easier. Users can either select their food and drinks from a photo grid layout, or if they want more specificity they search from the comprehensive built-in list or use the built in barcode scanner. Entering meals lets users keep track of their calorie intake and gives a more accurate reading of their total calorie burn.
And where would any modern product be without a social element? The Up Feed lets users track their own activity as well as that of the friends in their network. Friends or “Teammates” can be added by either syncing with Facebook or by using the user’s phone contacts. Every time a teammate syncs their band or logs a meal/beverage, the Up Feed is updated with their data, allowing users to compete with friends or give them a friendly nudge to complete their goals.
After a couple months of use, I’m still wearing my Up wristband. At $130 a pop, the fitness tracker isn’t going to be for everybody; a bit of data entry is required for users to get the most out of the device. That said, Up couldn’t be easier to use and features one of the best companion iPhone apps available. Anybody who is in the market for a fitness tracker would be doing themselves a disservice not to check out what Jawbone’s latest has to offer.