Jawbone UP review

The new and improved Jawbone UP tracks personal health and fitness very thoroughly in a stellar iOS app, but it's not the best fitness tracker we've tested.
Photo of Jawbone UP

The Jawbone UP ($149.99 direct) is in some ways everything I want from a fitness-tracking gadget. It tracks daily activity and sleep efficiency, comes with a supremely well-designed iPhone app, feels comfortable around my wrist, and includes a vibrating silent alarm, which anyone who shares a bed should at least try. And yet, when I compare it with my favorite fitness device and PCMag’s Editors’ Choice, the $100 Fitbit One, the Jawbone UP doesn’t quite measure up.

The UP costs $50 more and misses many key features that the Fitbit just gets right. One is discretion—not everyone wants to be seen wearing what is essentially a pedometer. The Fitbit One fits snugly on a bra strap, in a pocket, or attached to your waistband. Also, the Jawbone doesn’t connect to any other apps or devices. The Fitbit integrates with all the major calorie-counting apps, as well as a Wi-Fi bathroom scale, the Fitbit Aria, for automated weigh-ins. I wanted to love the Jawbone UP, just as I wanted to love the Nike+ FuelBand. I had high expectations of both, but a middling and lackluster experience.

The relatively thin and flexible bracelet comes in three sizes (small, medium, large) and eight colors: onyx, mint green, light gray, blue, navy blue, red, orange, and hunter green. An embossed zigzag extends the length of the wrap-around band, which is made of medical-grade, hypoallergenic TPU rubber. In theory, you can wear it all the time, even in the shower, although I have not yet given it the full splash test. I’ll let common sense, rather than the instruction manual, guide that decision.

What’s included? You get the UP band, a not-very-helpful quick start guide that will point you to Jawbone’s website for additional instructions, and a USB charging cable. Inside the band is a lithium-ion polymer battery that lasts about 10 days on a single charge.

Some reviewers like the Jawbone UP’s look, but I doubt they went to a formal dinner in a sleeveless dress while still wearing it. If a device is meant to be worn 24/7, as the Jawbone UP is, I need the option to wear it discreetly. That’s a huge selling point for the Fitbit, and a major con for the UP.

It’s All in the App
The best aspects of the Jawbone UP are found in the iOS app, the primary—nay, only—way you interact with data. The app shows how many miles you’ve walked, calories you’ve burned, charts of your sleeping patterns, your mood should you choose to log it daily, and a summary of what you’ve eaten.

But wait. There’s more. From the app, you can set a silent alarm that vibrates up to 30 minutes ahead of your designated wake up time if it spots an ideal moment for you to get up based on your REM cycles. Pretty neat, eh? There’s also a power nap switch that, when activated, looks at your sleep habits to determine whether your best nap would be a 27-minute rest or a 45-minute siesta, or something in between. It then sets the appropriate alarm. The Fitbit One has a silent alarm, too, but it only vibrates at the time you set. One more silent alarm I like in the Jawbone UP is an “idle alert,” which I scheduled to remind me to get off my butt after 90 minutes of inactivity Monday through Friday, from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM.

Graphics in the Jawbone UP’s app delight the eye with vivacious colors. Interactive gesture-based motions look smooth and fluid. But here’s the catch: You must connect the Jawbone to your iPhone’s or iPad’s headset jack to sync the data and be able to see it. That is to say, the rubbery and lightweight bracelet tells you next to nothing in itself. There are no readouts or displays on the device. In other words, you need an iOS device. According to the company, an Android app is in hopper, but it’s not on the market yet.

The Fitbit One, meanwhile, spoils you with data in a Web app, in mobile apps, and on the gadget itself. Press its tiny button, and you can cycle through your fitness stats, or just view the time, at a moment’s notice.

What’s Missing and Conclusions
The latest gadgets in the personal fitness market add a heart rate monitor directly on the device, no chest strap needed. I recently received a Basis Alpha to test, which has this feature, and am psyched to write about it soon. A high-tech feature such as this one sets the Jawbone UP even further behind the pack.

The few aspects of the Jawbone UP that I like, I really like. This device could have been great, but the fact that it’s limited to iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad users decreases its overall appeal considerably. And in light of our Editors’ Choice, the Fitbit One, Jawbone’s band doesn’t really compete. If you have an iPhone and don’t mind not being able to see your data right on the device, it could be a great option, but it’s still 50 bucks more.

The newly revamped Jawbone UP tracks personal health and fitness very well in a stellar iPhone app, but it's not the best fitness tracker you can buy.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
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