Every month or so an interesting gadget pops up that really catches my attention. This past November that gadget was Jawbone’s UP fitness band. Priced at $99.99 the band rings in at more than a stocking stuffer price, but it has a handful of interesting features that made me fork over the cash. In the end however I can’t really recommend this product in its current state. Read on to find out why.
Jawbone’s UP band promised to be an evolutionary step in fitness monitoring. Jawbone’s President told the media he wanted to use Jawbone’s expertise in mobile accessories to make a product to help the world get back into shape. When the UP launched it was hard to find it in stock in many stores, and it still is. A recent trip to my local Best Buy yielded one small bracelet for my girlfriend, and when I purchased mine a few weeks earlier I got a medium, but large sizes were out. The Jawbone UP website has a nifty sizing guide to help you determine which band to get and I highly recommend you use it as the sizes are a bit deceptive. I have a very small wrists for a guy and the medium was the perfect size for me.
Its also worth mentioning you will need an iOS device to use the Jawbone UP as its useless without its matching application. Sorry Android users there isn’t an app for your platform yet. Once you get the UP you’ll be instructed to download the free app, sign up for a free UP account, and sync the device to activate it.
The band basically has four features. The step counter, food monitor, sleep meter, and a GPS enabled (through your phone) workout monitor. The step counter is very accurate and you’ll be surprised at the end of the day how much you actually walk. I set a goal of 5,000 steps a day which averages out to about 2.25 miles daily. You can set goals for your sleep, steps, workouts, and even food tracking as well within the app.
The feature that shined for me was the sleep monitor. You set the device to wake you up within a 30 minute window. It monitors your sleep pattern based on your movement, and wakes you up during a light sleep cycle by vibrating the band. This allowed me to wake up feeling oddly refreshed and alert. The downside is while you can control what days the alarm is active you can only set one time period to wake you up. So for example mine is set to wake me up between 6:15 and 6:45 AM, but on Tuesdays and Fridays I don’t need to be up till 9AM. To overcome this you have to reset the clock in your app and then re-sync the device, a minor setback, but still worth noting.
The step and workout monitoring feature is very nice as well. The band counts your steps and gives you the option to activate a “workout” so you can see how many steps you take just in that period of time. You can use the your phone’s UP app to track your movement with GPS for more information. I had no issues with this feature.
The biggest disappoint comes in with the food monitor. This feature is really nothing more than a food journal. You take a picture of what you eat and then the app asks you 30 minutes later how it made you feel. You choose from six different options ranging from “energized” to “tired”. Like most reviews for the UP I agree that this feature seems to really have come up short and needs to be fleshed out. That being said since this feature is completely dependent on the app so it won’t be hard to upgrade through a simple update down the road.
Another disappointment is how the device syncs with your phone. Being a Jawbone product I really thought the device would sync via Bluetooth, however that isn’t the case. A cap on one end of the bracelet covers up an earphone like plug that you must plug into your iOS device’s earphone jack.My device would occasionally have issues syncing forcing me to pull it out of the earphone jack and put it back in. A few times it required several tries before the device was able to sync. This still wasn’t a huge deal because the syncing operation only takes a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, the next issue is the deal breaker on the UP.
If you do a quick search on Google for “Jawbone UP charging issues” you’ll get a long list of entries in the Jawbone forum detailing many customers unable to charge their device. Product reviews on Amazon show similar complaints where customers experienced issues with the device completely draining the power after just a few weeks of use. I myself am currently waiting on a replacement for my band as it now depletes itself after charging to 100% in about an hour and a half. When I first purchased the device it would go for around a week without needing a charge. While Jawbone claims this issue is fairly isolated many people have been experiencing this problem and the company doesn’t seem to have any other fix in place other than just shipping you a replacement.
In my opinion this is a great product idea, and the next revision of it will undoubtedly fix the issues many customers are having with it. Wait for the next release of the UP is the best advice I can give you, however if you do decide to purchase this product you might be able to avoid the issues I’m having by following this advice.
1) Do not wear the band in the shower. Jawbone advertises the device is waterproof, but many who have taken it into the shower started quickly noticing charging issues.
2) Do not attempt to use a USB wall charger. Charge the device in a PC USB slot. I’ve noticed a lot of Mac users have had trouble charging the device as well. Most Apple computers actually push more power to the USB slots than PCs so if you have a PC with USB use that to charge the device.
3) Don’t leave the device charging over night. Jawbone states in the product documentation that the device can fully charge in 20 minutes. Many suspect the device might not be correctly shutting itself off when its fully charged causing the battery to fault itself.
If you’ve purchased a Jawbone UP have you experienced any charging issues with it? Do you feel like you got your moneys worth of features with the UP?