Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Jawbone UP Wristband (2012 version) - A Hands-on Review

Chances are you know at least one person that has a pedometer, a Nike Fuel Band, or some other kind of exercise / activity tracking device.  A few weeks ago, I got a "Jawbone UP" wristband and I'm really enjoying it.

What is the Jawbone UP?


This multi-function device tracks steps and your general activity level, and syncs with your iOS device (no other smartphone platforms yet, unfortunately).  But the UP also tracks your sleep, which is one of the main reasons I've been waiting for it to be released.

The Jawbone UP is $139 which seems like a good price for the functionality it offers.

For what it's worth, this is the second version of the UP - the first version was released a year ago and discontinued because they kept failing.  The new version seems solid based on my experience so far.

My impressions of the Jawbone UP

Comfort: The UP band is very comfortable.  I wear the Large size, and it fits very well (I used Jawbone's sizing guide on their website to figure out what size to order).  The band is flexible and coated in a soft rubbery finish, so I barely notice it's there, and I wear it all the time except when showering (it's water resistant, but I'd rather avoid getting it wet when I can).

Battery life is very good; you charge it using a special USB adapter provided with the UP and it takes about 80 minutes to reach a full charge.  Once it's fully charged, the UP lasts for about 8-10 days before it begins giving you the "low battery" warning.

Accuracy is decent, when it comes to exercise tracking.  I've done some testing of the band by counting my steps and comparing the steps it has recorded, and it is typically a bit low (conservative).  However, in the few tests I've done, its number is 95-98% accurate (I notice it is less accurate when I'm carrying something with my left hand, as I have the UP band on my left wrist).  I'd much rather have it under-count my steps than over-count them.  Sleep tracking, by the way, seems spot-on.

Syncing is pretty easy.  You start the app on your phone, remove the plug cover and plug the UP band into your phone's headphone jack.  It takes a few seconds to load the data into your phone, then you can unplug the band, replace the cover and put the UP back on your wrist.

The App not only gathers your data, it also uploads your stats to the cloud to maintain a historical record of your activity.

Minimal, easy controls make the UP a snap to use.  There is only one button on the UP - a silver push-button on one end of the strap.  If you tap the button, you can tell whether the band is in "Sleep mode" or "Awake mode," through a small LED display on the edge of the band - you see a moon in Sleep mode, and a Sun in awake mode.

To toggle the modes, you "long press" the button, and it will vibrate to let you know it is changing modes.  You'll also see the LED indicator toggle the Sun and Moon indicators when you long-press the button.

Sleep Tracking


I'll talk about sleep tracking in a bit more depth, since it was the main feature that put me over the edge when I picked the UP.

As I mentioned above, you signal to the UP band that you're going to sleep by long-pressing the button on the end of the band.  You'll see the crescent moon indicator come on briefly to signal Sleep mode, and you'll feel a brief vibration from the band.  That's all there is to it - put it in Sleep mode, and you can go to sleep.

While you sleep, the UP band will track your sleep activity based on your movements and does a good job differentiating between you being awake, being in deep sleep, or in light sleep.

When you wake up, you simply toggle the band back into Awake mode and go about your day.

Smart Alarms

To help you wake up, you can use one of my favorite features:  the Smart Alarm.  You can set a Smart Alarm using the UP App and the band will try to find a time when you seem to be in light sleep and wake you up gently, so you feel more alert when you first wake up. 

The UP band begins "watching" for the right time 30 minutes before your target time and gently vibrates when it is time to wake up (you just press the button to get it to stop).  If you haven't begun to come out of deeper sleep when your target time comes around, it just wakes you up then so you won't be late.

I love this feature, and hope Jawbone continues to improve it to make it less limited.  For example, now you can set only one alarm at a time and you have to re-dock the band to change it.  You can set it to work on weekdays only, or 7 days a week but that is about as granular as it gets right now.  I'd like to have different weekend and weekday schedules.

By the way - if you travel, once you dock the band it will adjust to whatever time your phone is set for.  That means if you allow your phone to automatically set your time to the local time, you'll wake up at the same time in your new time zone - in my case, I set it for 5am and it wakes me at 5am for my current time zone, wherever I happen to be.

Other odds & ends

There are a lot of other features, as well:

  • The metal button on the end of the band rubs on my laptop and bothers me, so I've taken to flipping the band "upside down" when I am typing - that makes things much more comfortable (see picture at right).
  • The iOS app for the Jawbone UP is very easy to use.  It has a lot of trending reports, "at a glance" analysis of your day, and makes some smart recommendations for sleep and activity - all tailored based on what you actually do.
  • The app not only gives you suggestions based on how much you move, how much you sleep, etc; it also gives you comparison information so you know how you compare to the rest of the UP community, and introduces a challenge every now and again to motivate you to be more active.
  • You can set targets / goals for both steps and sleep, and you get a score each day to track how you're doing.  If you track food, it can also comment on how you don't sleep as well after a heavy day of caffeine or alcohol, and things like that.
  • Speaking of tracking food, the app makes it easy to log your food and drink intake so you can compare calories burned vs. calories consumed.  I'm not consistent about this, but it's there if you want it.

In short, I am very happy with the UP band and think it is a great way to track fitness and sleep.

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