Jawbone UPs and Downs

Steve AnkneyGadget Reviews, General, Reviews4 Comments

In our attempts to lose weight we have found that our greatest strides happen when we are more religious about logging data. We thought what better than to have a tool that logs everything from walking to sleeping.  The first contender for us was the Jawbone UP.  This is the first entry from Jawbone (better known for their top of the line Bluetooth headsets) into the fitness arena.


  • Sleep Tracking – The most interesting information the UP provided was from the sleep quality section.  UP is able to track how much deep and light sleep you logged during each night by gauging micro-movements of your wrist as you sleep.
  • Smart Alarm – The device sends an intensifying vibration to your wrist within a half hour of your set alarm. It attempts to wake you up when you are in “light sleep” to ensure that you wake up at the most opportune time and feel as well-rested as possible.
  • Waterproof – Although I’m not a swimmer by any means, I can see the appeal to this feature in any occasion where you may be at the beach, the pool, boating, fishing, or even sledding. It should be noted that it is only waterproof to 1 meter, which works for swimming laps, but snorkeling is out.
  • Movement Alarm – Reminds you to get out of your seat and move if you have been still for more than a specified amount of time.

  • Syncing – The device is made by Jawbone, which would lead you to believe it would use Bluetooth 4.0 in order to sync at little to no battery cost.  Instead, Jawbone provides you with an auxiliary connector protected by a small plastic cap (which I foresee being very easy to lose) to sync the device to your iPhone.  I should also mention that I had to return my first one because it continued to fail when attempting to sync and then stopped working altogether.
  • Accuracy – If you can, for a moment, picture the type of work I do on a regular basis.  Essentially, I sit at a desk for 7 -8 hours a day and the other 2 hours is spent eating, using the restroom, going to networking events, or interviewing potential candidates.  On a regular work week one would assume that my daily steps would be somewhere around 4 – 5000, if not less.  I was surprised to find, however, that the Jawbone UP was recording nearly 12,000 steps a day (not including my runs). Clearly the continued waving of my arms is what skewed the numbers. Instead of recording actual steps, the device can be tricked into thinking you took hundreds of steps when you, for example, simply gestured a lot with your hands during a conversation. This obviously has an effect on the amount of calories the device indicates that you are burning. Meagan also found that the UP recorded distances that were >0.25 miles more than what she had actually travelled when we used the device in workout mode on our runs. It also indicated much higher calorie burns for runs (up to +100 calories) and even just walking around than any other device/app/website we’ve used.
  • Data Collection – The data collected is interesting and somewhat helpful, but not when it is virtually unusable.  The data is only available via the iPhone App.  There is no website, no social media integration, no export features, and no third party device/app syncing. Another major problem with the data is the way it is presented to the user. For example, calories burned due to activity (steps taken) during the day are provided, but they are not combined with the user’s basal metabolic rate (BMR). This makes the calorie burn data useless in terms of its effectiveness in helping the user create a weight-loss plan.
  • Application – The app has a great deal of defects, but I will try to keep this as short as possible. First, the portrait/landscape mode setup neverseemed to work right and would constantly get stuck in one orientation or the other. Next is the lack of calorie counting.  Jawbone decided that instead of allowing you to record calories, it would have you take pictures of your food and explain how it made you feel.  As fun as this may sound, the data is basically worthless.  Just because I feel great after a 1200 calorie meal doesn’t necessarily mean I should be regularly eating that many calories in one sitting. Lastly, challenges are interesting and motivational but, again, virtually unusable because it is combined with DailyFeats, a poorly-made website all its own.
  • Sizing – The sizes available aren’t necessarily terrible, but they definitely aren’t perfect.  I felt that the medium size fit me very well. I found it comfortable and I actually enjoyed the look.  Meagan, on the other hand, found that the sizes available just didn’t
    work.  The small was too small and the medium was to big.  To top it off, the general design of the UP isn’t necessarily appealing on a smaller wrist size.
  • Device Support – Although I am an avid Apple user, I find it silly that Jawbone would release the UP on just the iPhone without even considering the millions of people on other platforms.

Meagan and I found that while the device has some very appealing features, it is too early on in its first cycle to make it worth the $99 price tag. The UP provides the user with relative measures of their activity, sleep, and eating habits, allowing for them to observe general trends, but the lack of accuracy and specifics really killed this device for us. Jawbone has a lot of work to do in order to compete with some of the other major players.