Jawbone UP: A Review

Since dialing in my diet, and finding what works and what doesn’t in a pretty large magnitude, I’ve been trying to take care of the other essentials of health: sleep and movement.  This could be considered a tool that falls within the quantified self movement, and while I’m not ready to go as far as Kamal Patel over at PainDatabase (though I love reading his material, I just know right now I’d drop the ball in terms of follow-through), this is a good start at being able to quantify your habits in order to enact change.  Working two jobs, I often spend a lot of time in front of a computer during the day, or up too late working.  It’s not always a perfect life, but I’m trying to be more aware of the time I spend idle, and the times when I don’t get enough sleep.

Since purchasing the Jawbone UP, I’ve been able to track how late I stay up and whether or not it has any tangible affect on my sleep quality or my overall mood over the next few days.  The UP is a really cool product that has a bit of a tarnished history because of it’s first generation attempt about a year and a half ago.  It had a great debut as a wearable fitness band, well before the Nike FuelBand, but the resulting product reliability took things downhill.

I bought the first generation, and things were going awesome for the first 6-8 weeks or so.  All of a sudden, I was having issues with battery life–and my friends and colleagues were having the same issue, or their UP had completely stopped working.  Jawbone was pretty great about it though, and offered credit toward other products or a generous refund, with a promise of a better attempt in the future.  I didn’t need another bluetooth headset, so I took the money and ran, albeit disappointed, because I liked the concept a lot.

The main screen of the UP app

I’ve been using the second generation UP since it came out, and now that its survived a few months of abuse from me, I wanted to share my thoughts about using it, as well as suggest why you might enjoy it.

Why the UP?

Here’s what I really like about the UP.  This band and its app track a whole range of things: movement, sleep, mood, and food intake. Food entry is the one thing I don’t use at all, as you have to enter it and it estimates caloric value (you can take pictures to share your meals with teammates).  Personally, I prefer tools like Paleo Trail for food intake, as it focuses on quality rather than calories.  I focus on sleep and movement, and the main screen tracks how you are doing compared to customized goals you set for those parameters, and allows you to share that with friends.  It was much easier to change my sleep and movement patterns with a constant reminder of my goals.  For me, this works much like an electronic “string tied to my finger.”  Except it’s on my wrist.  And it’s not tied.  Ok, sorry… moving on.

To help you with these goals, one of my favorite features is a feature called idle alert (Dallas at Whole9 gave the thumbs up on this feature, too).  You can set the idle alert to go off in intervals of 15 minutes, from 15 to one hour, during a certain span of the day.  This is amazingly helpful for me because I’m stuck behind a desk at least 40 hours a week.  If I haven’t moved in 30 minutes, my UP vibrates and reminds me that maybe it’s time to move.  I’ll stretch, walk to get some water/coffee, or go ask a question of a coworker rather than shooting an email.  These little breaks have helped me be a lot more productive with my time at the office, as I rarely fall into a slump of staring at a monitor for hours on end.  This alone has been worth the cost.  My next goal is a standing desk, but I haven’t worked up the gusto to ask for it yet.

Beyond the regular reminder to get out of my seat, I really like the sleep functions of the UP.  To set the UP in sleep mode, you press the only button on the band and a moon will light up on the band (plus it will vibrate), and you’re set.  Having set a smart alarm through the accompanying iPhone app (and recent update allow MULTIPLE alarms, e.g. weekend, weekday, etc), the UP monitors sleep quality based on deep and light sleep, and wake you at the best time in your sleep cycle the next morning.  Rather than waking up AT 6:15, it will make sure you’re awake BY 6:15.  The first night I used this, it woke me up about 25 minutes early at 5:50AM, but I was so ready to take on the day that I didn’t even care.  I took that time to read the news and make our morning batch of coffee.  It was pretty awesome.  Not only that, but it’s silent, so I didn’t wake up Heather.

Sleep analysis.

A similar cool function that has to do with sleep is the power nap function.  It allows you take a break and nap for no longer than 45 minutes and leave you energize and rested, and bases your nap on your recent sleep habits.  I’ve only had the time to use it once or twice (two jobs will do that), but when I have it has been great.

Using the app, I am able to look at trends in these sleep and movement patterns, as well keep track of my mood.  The smiley with his range of Amazing! to Totally Done are lighthearted and a fun way to quickly share your feelings.  The titles of the mood are preset, but you can customize them to explain why you’re doing well or poorly.  This is one aspect where the teammate feature can also be a benefit.

   

Teammates are other people who are UP band users who you can add to your social group through the app.  You can choose how much you share (one colleague of mine does not share his sleep patterns), as well as keep an eye on each other’s goals and habits.  The team page is similar to a Facebook news feed, and you can rank your teammates by how close they are to completing their self-set goals.  If self-motivation of meeting a goal isn’t enough for you, perhaps the social aspect will help you stay accountable (which is what I set this blog up to be a year ago).  You can also comment on each other’s statistics, so you can check in with the friend who only got 2 hours of sleep to say, “What happened?”

What I would add

Mostly everything about the UP is what I wanted in a fitness device.  Being reminded when I’m sedentary too long is a great benefit, and the silent alarm comes in handy when I have a ridiculously early morning.  I also like that it is not very bulky, nor is it in an electric orange color (although there is pretty significant color variety, if you’re into that sort of thing).  The 10 day battery life claim has held up its end of the deal.  I’ve gone as long as 9 days and still had a charge.  I never am in a situation where I wouldn’t be able to charge it within the span of a week, but it’s nice to know that I could go without if need be.

The one thing that I really wish this had was Bluetooth support.  Syncing is not that big of a deal, but over time the cap on the band that covers the headphone jack has loosened.  It’s never fallen off, but it does rotate, and I fear that I might lose it when taking on or off a jacket or on the metro.  It wouldn’t be the end of the world, but I’d be pretty mad if I lost it.  The UP has also stayed on my wrist well without seeming to bend or stretch out.

Final Thoughts

The features are really where this thing stands out, and to me, is superior to the Nike FuelBand (the other strong competitor in the wristband fitness arena right now [with the Fitbit Flex recently announced but unavailable for a few more months]).  The UP will track your steps (both exercise and otherwise), sleep, mood, and food, if you want to track all those things.  It gives you a community of fellow UP users without a fake currency that has no redeemable value (sorry, FuelBand users–I just don’t get it).  On top of all that, the UP about 40% less expensive.

Since buying the UP, I have been more active during the day and have improved the amount of sleep I get by about 20%.  I hope that this second generation lasts, because I could see myself using this from now on.  It may not have a watch or be BlueTooth enabled, but at the end of the day, it really helps me be healthier–just like I had hoped it would.

Do you currently use the UP or another quantified self tactic to improve your health?  An app?  A band?  Let us know in the comments!

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