Jawbone Up (Original)

Summary:  A fashion forward, wrist-based fitness and activity tracker that is tied to a mobile-only framework, but integrated with multiple fitness partner applications and services.  While it has no on-screen readout, it provides many of the standard capabilities for fitness trackers, such as steps taken, distance moved, sleep quality, and calories burned.

 

Intended Market: Individuals who use an Apple iOS device (iPhone or iPad) or an Android device (e.g. Samsung Galaxy), who would like to improve awareness of their overall fitness and sleep quality, while providing motivation to attain higher levels of personal health.  Individuals who are looking for devices with more “fashion-sense” would be interested in this device as well.

Sub-optimal market:  Those athletes who are embedded into the Nike Running or Nike+ ecosystem would not find this device as appealing.  In addition, those persons who regularly perform physical activites where their wrists are stationary, such as biking, would not enjoy this device as their activities would not be registered.

Considerations:

  • Fashion:  for fashion conscious persons, this device would match well with a wide variety of clothing styles, from activewear to more formal styles, such as business attire.
  • Hardware Unreliability:  After four months of use this device was no longer able to be entered into sleep mode, as the button to do so broke.
  • Cross-Platform Low Priority:  The original Jawbone Up, the device reviewed here, was compatible with only one mobile platform, the Apple iOS platform.  Recently, Jawbone has created a new apps for the Android platform, thus ensuring that this device is compatible with most late model Android phones and tablets that support Bluetooth 4.0. Windows Phone is not yet supported.
  • No Mac and PC Synching:  There is no support for directly synching with a Mac or Windows PC.
  • No Wireless Support:  This original Jawbone Up does not support synchronization via wireless, but rather only via a headphone jack connection to the device.  A new version of the device called the Jawbone Up 24, was released last year with support for Bluetooth wireless syncing.

Requirements (any one of the following): Apple iOS Devices (e.g. iPhone 4s / 5 / 5s, iPhone 6/6+, iPad Air / Air 2, 3 / Mini / Mini 2, iPod Touch 5th gen Android Devices running Android 4.0 or later “Ice Cream Sandwich”

Approximate Retail Price:  $70

Purchase Link (Amazon):  UNAVAILABLE

Unboxing Experience and First Impressions

The Jawbone Up is a wrist based personal fitness tracking device that uses a connection through the headphone jack of a supported device (e.g. Apple iPhone or iPad or Android device running Android 4.0 or higher) to synchronize data. It is nicely packaged, containing the USB to headphone jack charging dongle that is necessary to charge this device, a cap that fits over the headphone plug on the device, and the stylishly designed Jawbone UP itself. the package comes with a wrist sizing guide which allows the user to test the size of the unit without removing it from the box. There is, however, a packaging quirk: the box is difficult to get into, with Tab “2” requiring substantially more force than ideal to pull. If purchasing this device, please use care when opening the box due to difficulty in opening tab number two.

A Spartan, but well laid out manual completes the components in the box.

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Setting up the Jawbone Up was quite simple on my iPhone, as recognizing and synching the device was instant and automatic.


 

In Daily Life

Use of the Jawbone Up in my daily life for four months felt like the device was a combination of the FitBit One and the Nike+ FuelBand: It measured sleep like the FitBit One, but sat on the wrist like the FuelBand; it required a special dongle to charge like the FitBit One, but was iOS only like the FuelBand. (note: Since my initial review was completed, the device has gained Android compatibility).

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As such, my daily routine will seem similar to that of the other fitness devices:

  • I would get up in the morning, pressing the sliver button on the end of the wrist band to switch the device from sleep the awake mode.
  • As the device is not waterproof, I would remove it so that it would not be damaged during my morning shower.  Removing and putting the Jawbone Up back on my arm was an easy affair due to the fact that the Jawbone Up uses a flexible wraparound design; no use is made of latches or connectors to attach the device to the wrist.
  • During the day, due to its textured design, the device’s style meshed quite well with whatever clothing I chose to wear, from exercise gear to more formal business attire.
  • As is common with all wrist-based fitness trackers, the Jawbone Up was accurate, but less so than the hip-based FitBit One: it tended to accidentally register various wrist movements such as handwashing as steps.  In addition, fitness activities requiring stationary hands, such as biking, were not able to be registered with this device.
  • After my daily activities were completed, upon getting in bed, I would activate the sleep mode on the device by pressing on the silver button on the end of the device until a small flower icon begin to pulse a different color showing that device had entered sleep mode.

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Readers should note that the Jawbone Up, as a wrist-based device comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages:  For example, while wearing the Nike Fuelband and Jawbone Up attached to my left wrist, and the FitBit One attached to my pocket, I was able to get an accurate reading of steps taken while mowing my lawn from the FitBit One, but not from the other two devices. The logical explanation is that any device attached to a wrist is not going to be accurate at recording activities where the wrist does not move, such as pushing a lawnmower, or riding a bicycle.  For those whose primary activities involve stationary hands, such as biking, the Jawbone Up will likely not be the optimal choice.

The device held a charge for some time, averaging around 10-11 days prior to needing a charge.

Synching the device with my phone would require a somewhat onerous set of tasks, as the headphone jack connector would not fit all the way through my iPhone case.  As such, I would need to:  remove the phone from its battery case, attach the Jawbone to the phone’s headphone jack, then begin synching in the Jawbone Up app on the phone.

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Once completed, I would need to repeat the process again in reverse.  Ergo, for those people with phone cases that add bulk around the headphone jack of the phone, synching the Jawbone Up might be inconvenient.


 

Integration – What Does it Work With?

As the main purpose of the Jawbone Up is to improve the fitness levels for individuals were not yet at peak fitness levels, this device works with a wide variety of fitness and health monitoring products.

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The Up App

At the time this review was made, the Up app was only available on iOS.  However, the app was made available on Android about a year ago.  The app is available for all iOS devices manufactured in the past 4 years, while the Android app is available for most android devices running Android 4.0, “Ice Cream Sandwich”, or higher, such as the  Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5).

As the app is not available on Windows Phone, BlackBerry, or Symbian, users of these mobile devices are not able to use this device.

The app allows for social sharing of steps, calories burned, and calories eaten, as well as viewing of that data.  The UI of the app is effectively designed, and quickly show the user their sleep and activity levels at a glance.

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Out of all of the companion fitness apps to fitness devices, the Jawbone Up app, with its rich, clean lines and graphics seemed the most “professional” and modern.

Major Features

The major capabilities of the Jawbone Up are focused on enabling the tracking of various activities and nutrition/calorie data by health-conscious individuals looking to become more healthy and physically fit.  As such, just like the FitBit One, a user wishing to move beyond a sedentary lifestyle would find this device focused on their needs.  Please note that activities requiring arm movement are most appropriate for this device, as it is a wrist-based fitness tracker.  Items tracked include:

  • Steps Taken
  • Calories Burned
  • Food Eaten (including Calories and Nutrition)*
  • Integration with a Multitude of third Party Health and Fitness apps*
  • Social Connections with Friends*
  • Goal Setting, Reminders, and Encouragement*

*NOTE: These features are accessed through the Jawbone Up app, NOT the device itself.


 

Important Considerations

Fashion

As this device was designed to provide stylish, health-aware individuals with a means of tracking and comparing their activity level, fashion design was a significant consideration in creating this device.  The Jawbone Up, while built with a pliable, matte rubber coating, similar to the more plain Nike+ Fuelband, is both thinner and uses a number of textured stylistic touches which look equally good with both active wear, gym clothing, or more formal attire.

Sleep Tracking

This device and associated app does track sleep quality, but requires that a specific sleep mode be activated through the pressing of a somewhat fragile silver button on the end of the device.

Mobile App Availability

The original Jawbone Up, the device reviewed here, was compatible with only one mobile platform, the Apple iOS platform, with additional support for Android phones coming at a later date.  That said, FitBit continually exceeds Nike with support for additional mobile platforms:  for example, the FitBit now supports Windows Phone 8.x.  If a broader commitment to mobile platform compatibility, especially Windows Phone support, is important to you, Jawbone devices may not be your preferred choice.

No Connectivity to Computers

Synchronization with computers is impossible with the Jawbone Up as there is no app to support that method.  That said, the device uses a special USB to headphone jack adaptor to charge, requiring either a computer or a USB power adaptor to supply power to the device.

Pros

  • Style:  as the device uses a unique texture style, it blends well with multiple forms of clothing.
  • Fit:  Due to its flexible nature, the device fits easily and rapidly to any wrist within the size guidelines for that size Jawbone Up
  • Sizing Guide:  There is a handy sizing guide on the box, making the selection of the properly sized device an easier process.
  • Battery life:  the battery life of this device is superb, averaging between 10 to 11 days of life over a four-month period.
  • Comfortable:  due to its flexibility, this device is one of the most comfortable fitness trackers to wear
  • Sleep Monitoring:  Sleep monitoring is effective and easy to analyze
  • Food Monitoring:  Food monitoring for calories input is simple and straightforward
  • App UI:  beautiful and rich UI for iOS app
  • Third Party Integrations:  There are many apps that integrate with this solution: RunKeeper, MyFitnessPal, MapMyFitness, Withings, IFTTT, Wello, Notch.me, Sleepio, Lose It, Maxwell Health

Cons

  • Cap:  Small removable cap can get lost
  • Inconvenient Synching and Charging:  Requires physically plugging in to device to synch data
  • Headphone Jack Synching:  This is problematic when used with a device that has a battery case
  • Power Dongle:  a specialized power dongle to charge from USB to the headphone connector, running the risk that, if the dongle is misplaced, the device would become useless
  • Multi-Platform Support is Less of a Focus:  Originally was iOS only – no Android until 6+ months after release, with still no Windows Phone or Blackberry support.
  • No computer synch
  • Box Design:  Box is hard to open with Tab “2” requiring an almost damaging amount of force to open
  • Cannot Edit Previous Day’s Meals:  No way on UP app to edit food eaten for previous days.  Note, This may have changed since the time this review was originally written.
  • Fragility:  the button to change between sleep mode and daytime mode is fragile, having broken after four months of use
  • Accuracy:  due to the wrist-based placement of this device, the Jawbone Up may be less accurate than the FitBit One, which is placed on the hip.  This concern may not be that important to users who do not perform aerobic exercise with their arms stationary (e.g. biking).

 

Target Market – Who are they trying to sell this to?

The Jawbone Up (Original) is designed to be a health and fitness activity tracker, pushing users who may not be in the best of health currently, but with a desire to increase his or her health,  to attain his or her fitness goals and share motivation and inspiration with other users.
This device is marketed towards previously sedentary individuals and normally active persons.

Sweet Spot

  • The Jawbone Up is best suited for a person with the following characteristics:
  • A person of average activity levels or a formerly sedendary person.
  • Needs to track activities that enable the arms to keep moving (e.g. running and walking).
  • One who prefers a device that can stylistically mesh with multiple types of clothing.
  • Wants to be motivated to attain higher fitness levels by connecting to friends.
  • Uses an iOS or Android device

Sub-Optimal Market – Who should think twice about purchasing this device?

Athletes who are embedded into the Nike Running or Nike+ ecosystem would not find this device as appealing.  In addition, those persons who primarily exercise with activities that are unsuitable for a non-waterproof, wrist-based device (e.g. swimming or biking) would not find this device to be valuable.

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