Jawbone UP Activity Tracker

Activity Tracker #1 – Jawbone UP

Activity trackers have inundated the fitness market as tools to keep you moving, motivated, and accountable. These wearable ‘high-end pedometers’ track everything from number of steps you’ve walked, distance traveled, flights of stairs climbed, and more. And they do positively impact movement motivation so the choice to wear one should be easy. But with literally dozens of the devices on the market the choice of which device to wear isn’t quite as straight-forward.

So, as a bit of a fitness geek I decided to look into a few of the markets top-rated fitness trackers, test them against my day-day-day activity and give you the low-down – Michelle-style – on what I like (and dislike) about each, and why. I will be sharing my views on three of the most popular on the market:

Jawbone UP         Nike Fuelband+       FitBit Force

I will precede my side-by-side comparison with individual reviews of what I like and dislike about each tracker. In this post I’ve shared my views of the Jawbone UP and hope you find the information helpful with your decision making.

I’ll be honest, of the three trackers I tested I really hoped I would like this one more. It has so many good things going for it and only two (maybe three) design flaws but they were deal breakers for me (more on that later).

Wearability: The Jawbone UP has a sleek design compared to some of the other trackers. It looks more like a bracelet than a ‘device’ and when ordering you can choose from 5 different colours. It’s easy to take on and off, and is comfortable.

What it tracks: If you want it to, Jawbone UP can keep track of your movement, sleep, food intake and mood.

For movement it tracks your total steps and the distance you traveled and it’s quite accurate in doing both. You can calibrate the device to your stride length to help with that too.

It keeps track of calories you burned through activity as well as your resting calorie burn. I’ll assume that since I entered my body weight into the profile that it uses that value to better estimate calories burned but I’m not 100% certain of that.

You can also log additional activities (like yoga, boxing class, or cycle class) that won’t log accurately based on steps alone. The device won’t add steps to your day but it will note calories burned.

Screenshot_2014-02-24-16-50-13For sleep, UP includes features like a Power Nap function, an Idle Alert to let you know when you’ve been sitting too long, and Smart Alarm to wake you gradually before your set alarm time.

The Idle Alert is a handy reminder that once set, buzzes automatically if you’ve been without movement for too long. I used it to record my sleep and was interested to see that it tracked how long it took me to fall asleep, deep sleep versus light sleep, and awake time. Admittedly, on more than one occasion I somehow turned off sleep measurement while sleeping by accidentally pressing the button, so that’s a slight design flaw.

The food log on this device was confusing and was difficult to be accurate with. I tried once and got so irritated entering each item that I never went back. One word about that. Ug.

Screenshot_2014-02-24-16-48-38For the most part though, the user interface is pretty to look at, easy to read, and easy to navigate. In the MOVE section you can easily see the high and low points of your movement throughout the day, how many and how far your steps took you, longest period of activity, and longest period sitting idle. The device doesn’t chart stairs climbed and I wish it did. I’m more motivated to take the stairs when I get to see the tally climb as I do.

You can flip between sections easily, and the combination of graphics and stats helps you take in necessary information effortlessly.

Screenshot_2014-02-24-17-08-30And every day you can flip through 2 or 3 UP Insights…quick health tips and facts to aid in your success.

Perhaps my favorite quirky perk on the interface is the mood measure. You can choose from 8 emoticons from AMAZING to Dragging to Totally Done. It’s not an exhaustive list but it’s cute and fun.

Downside deal breakers: For all the check marks the Jawbone UP gets from me, there are two (maybe three) features of this device that – if I had it to do again – would make me put it back on the store shelf.

1) The device doesn’t display your numbers directly on the band. I can’t look at my wrist and get immediate feedback on my progress at any given moment and that SUCKS. In order to get my numbers I need to pull out my phone, open the UP App, plug the device into my phone, sync it, and then see where I’m at. With devices that give me that immediate feedback, I have on more than one occasion done an extra lap or two of the dog park if I see I’m close to hitting my steps goal for the day.

2) UP only has a phone interface and not an on-line dashboard option. Sometimes the small screen feels limiting and I’d love to be able to view my stats and information on my computer screen. AND Jawbone UP doesn’t sync wirelessly. As I mentioned before, you have to manually plug the device into your phone to sync it. They have improved on that oversight with their new Jawbone UP 24 which in some ways solves problem #1 as well, but given the choice I’d still much rather read results from my wrist.

Screenshot_2014-02-24-17-08-433) My third beef is personal and not really reasonable given that most of these trackers are optimized for walking and running, but here goes.I’m a cyclist. I teach 2-4 high intensity indoor cycle classes each week and this device will only measure that activity if I log it afterwards. I have the satisfaction of knowing I did the work, but I don’t get to celebrate the movement in the same way as if I had run the distance instead of cycling it. Which drags my mood down…just a bit.

This one is a side note, not a deal breaker, because when it comes right down to it, the very fact that I’m measuring my activity makes me more aware AND more active.

These are my thoughts. If you have questions or comments please email me here. Next week I’ll review Nike Fuelband+. Wait until you hear what I have to say about that one.

Happy tracking!