UPdate: Jawbone Up is still really cool, but far from perfect

by | Dec 5, 2011

After a month I figured it’s a good time to check back in and give you my latest opinion on the Jawbone Up, since a lot of you are asking. I had only used it for five days when I wrote my last review (below), and how I’ve been using it over the past weeks has definitely evolved.

Apparently a lot of people are having trouble with the device. I’m on my second one (my first wouldn’t charge properly and eventually stopped working), but to be fair I’m on my third Fitbit as well. Since I’ve had the new one I’ve had no problems and it works perfectly (so does the latest Fitbit). I wonder if it’s working better because I stopped wearing it in the shower? Who knows.

I’ve heard a few people say they are having issues with the accuracy of tracking, but mine has consistently registered within a few hundreds steps of Fitbit, a difference that is virtually irrelevant. Someone in the comments here said their device counts steps when they drive their car, pushing the numbers very high. I don’t drive so can’t attest to this issue, but I would be pretty upset if it were true. I’ve also heard that a lot of people lose their plug caps, which hasn’t happened to me but would be annoying. To their credit, from what I understand Jawbone has been cool about replacing devices and caps for those with problems.

Hardware issues aside I still think the Jawbone Up is really cool, and I absolutely love the hourly reminders to get off my ass and move around. I set these myself, so the nudges aren’t a prerequisite for using the device, but I think they are by far the best reason to get the Up. (Are you listening Fitbit?)

As a pedometer, the lack of bluetooth wireless syncing bothers me more than I expected. This is especially true since I’m still using my Fitbit, which has a beautiful display of my steps (not to mention calories, stair flights, miles traveled and the time) at the push of a button. Though plugging the Up into your iPhone is easy enough, to get your data you need to launch the app and sync the device. This takes the better part of a minute and feels very laborious compared to the simplicity of the Fitbit that I can check easily without a second thought.

That said I do love that the Up presents my data in a graphical form that has me making progress toward a defined goal (10,000 steps). There’s something innately inspiring about seeing your activity build over the course of the day, and it is even more powerful when you can see it compared with friends (I’ll get more into the social side shortly). Once again, inspiration is probably the greatest advantage of the Up.

As much as I love data, however, I stopped using the Up to track sleep and food. I’m not a big food tracker anyway, but the interface is a bit too cumbersome despite its attempt at simplicity. It just isn’t very intuitive and doesn’t translate well onto my personal eating style (low-maintenance). I’d be interested to hear if any of you have found a way to make the food tracking worthwhile. If not, I’d recommend Jawbone kill this feature or spend some serious time rethinking how to make it work.

The reason I stopped using the sleep tracker is more rudimentary: I don’t like sleeping with a bracelet on. I think Jawbone did a great job of making a sleek, cool looking device for wearing during the day. But when I sleep I have a tendency to move around a lot and I like to slide my arms under blankets, between pillows and other cozy places. In that setting the Up is obtrusively bulky. As much as I love the idea of naturally waking up every morning during the perfect time in my sleep cycle, it won’t happen for me with the current bracelet design.

Back to the app, the social aspect was the part I was most excited about and it kills me how difficult it is to find friends on Up. Why is there no Facebook or Twitter integration? This is baffling. The search function for friends is ridiculously difficult to use, and I don’t think there is any way to discover other friends who are using the device if you don’t already know they’re on there. From what I understand this is a fairly simple feature to add and I don’t understand why it wasn’t built in at launch. I share Alexia’s dream of Up seamlessly integrating with social services, but for now it’s a major social FAIL.

To summarize, I like the Up and still think it has tremendous potential. I still might choose it over Fitbit for that reason (a lot of these issues can be solved with software updates), as well as the buzz reminders. But if you aren’t the social butterfly I am (or if you happen to be an Android user) at this stage Fitbit is still an excellent alternative if you’re just looking to move more for health reasons.

How is your Up working out?

UPDATE from Jawbone (12/8/11):

I receive this email from Jawbone today guaranteeing a full refund, even without returning your Up. They say that have found a few hardware issues and are stopping production until the problems are fully resolved. There will still be software updates as necessary. Here’s the complete letter from the Jawbone CEO:

UPDATE FROM THE CEO
The UP™ No Questions Asked Guarantee
To the UP Community:

Earlier this year, we unveiled Jawbone’s vision to help people live a healthier life with UP. We’ve been thrilled by the passionate response to this product. We heard from tens of thousands of you through emails, tweets, blog posts and on our forums about how you’re changing your lifestyle and becoming consumers of your own health. In just four weeks, UP users have collectively taken over three billion steps, gotten more than 300 years of sleep and captured hundreds of thousands of meals.

While many of you continue to enjoy the UP experience, we know that some of you have experienced issues with your UP band. Given our commitment to delivering the highest quality products, this is unacceptable and you have our deepest apologies. We’ve been working around the clock to identify the root causes and we’d like to thank everyone who has provided us with information and returned their bands to us for troubleshooting. With your help, we’ve found an issue with two specific capacitors in the power system that affects the ability to hold a charge in some of our bands. We’re also fixing an issue with syncing related to the band hardware. Typically, these issues surface within the first seven to ten days of use. The glitches are purely performance related and do not pose any safety risk.

We’ve also received helpful feedback on the application experience, including bug reports, ways to make signup and finding friends easier, user interface suggestions and new feature requests. Your comments are invaluable as we continue to improve, so please keep them coming and check back frequently for updates to ensure you’re always enjoying the latest features and enhancements.

We recognize that this product has not yet lived up to everyone’s expectations – including our own – so we’re taking action:

The UP No Questions Asked Guarantee

This means that for whatever reason, or no reason at all, you can receive a full refund for UP. This is true even if you decide to keep your UP band. We are so committed to this product that we’re offering you the option of using it for free.

The program starts December 9th and full details can be found at http://jawbone.com/uprefund.

For most of you, this program is simply meant to offer peace of mind. Please continue to enjoy your UP band and keep sharing your experience with us. If you encounter any problems with your UP band, contact Jawbone directly for your choice of a replacement and/or refund under this program. It’s that simple.

Jawbone remains deeply committed to addressing all issues with UP, investing in the category and giving our customers the tools to live a healthier life. We’ve temporarily paused production of UP bands and will begin taking new orders once these issues have been sorted out. In the meantime, we’ll continue to release app updates for existing users.

We regret any disappointment we’ve created for our community of users and appreciate the trust you’ve put in us. The fact that you’ve taken the time to talk with us and help us make a better product is simply phenomenal. Our customers have always been part of our team and we’re incredibly grateful for that.

Please know that we’re doing – and will continue to do – everything we can to make things right. This is just the beginning for UP and we are excited to keep improving until we realize the powerful vision of what this category can be.

If there is absolutely anything else we can do for you, please let us know.

Hosain Rahman
CEO
Jawbone

Jawbone Up is the coolest pedometer in the history of the universe

November 9, 2011

I don’t write a lot of product reviews, mainly because I don’t use a lot of products. For my healthstyle I prefer simplicity, and until recently the only health tracking I’ve done regularly involves making sure the same jeans fit me year-after-year. Super fancy, I know.

That was until a few months ago when I realized that it is very easy for me to lose track of how much walking I do, which I’ve learned is absolutely critical for maintaining my weight. Since then I’ve been tracking my steps with a Fitbit (that I adore), and in just two months I’m back down to what I consider my ideal size.

But as much as I love my Fitbit, the Jawbone Up I got last weekend is way cooler.

What is it?

Like any pedometer, the Up tracks your steps. I’ve been wearing both my Up and Fitbit for a few days and the numbers are very similar.

Instead of clipping to your pants like the Fitbit, Up is a water-proof wristband that you wear at all times. The Up plugs directly into your iPhone sound port, and syncs with an app that displays the data.

It has three different modes: regular, sleep and active. There is a single button on the device you use to change modes. Generally you keep it in the normal mode, but if you are exercising vigorously the active mode will give you more accurate readings. The sleep mode tracks how much sleep you get and displays when during the night you were in light versus deep sleep.

The Up allows you to track your meals as well, which is powerful when combined with the various challenges you can set up for yourself. For instance, if you take a picture of your lunch and you have also challenged yourself to eat something green at both lunch and dinner, you will have the option of giving yourself credit for that meal.

Up is also proactive. It has a built in vibration that can be used as an alarm clock that gently wakes you up at the right time of your sleep cycle around the time you specify. Or if you want to break the habit of sitting at your desk for long stretches of time, you can have it nudge you if you’ve been inactive for a set amount of time.

Why it’s awesome

Where Up has a huge advantage over Fitbit is how the data is displayed. For the most part the app interface is beautiful and intuitive, making it easy and fun to use. You can scroll through your days and look for the patterns of activity, and the sky appears to cycle between night and day as you look back in time.

The social integration is also way better in Up than Fitbit, and it is highly customizable for any goals you may have. Your engagement can be friendly or competitive, so you can set it up for whatever motivates you best. It’s really fun when there are two devices in one house, it’s a constant competition here over who takes the most steps every day (I always win).

The sleep mode is also awesome. While Fitbit has a sleep mode as well, it’s a pain to use and doesn’t give you much insight. The Up sleep data is more similar to the Zeo personal sleep manager, but has the advantage of not requiring you to sleep with the equivalent of a camping headlamp strapped to your face, which is nice. The sleep data is simple and gives you information that is actually useful.

I also like what they’ve done with the meal tracking. This is usually a tough sell for me, because tracking can easily become way too labor intensive to be practical. The Up only requires a picture, but it is also proactive in that it will remind you to evaluate how you feel a couple hours after the meal. The simplicity is key, and I think this could actually be helpful in selectively building and breaking various eating habits.

I think this app has huge potential for habit building. With the challenges and built in reminders, tracking and nudging has never been more simple. And since the key to habit building is repetition and consistency, these tools are incredibly powerful for making meaningful behavioral changes.

Lastly, the Up is surprisingly cool looking and is relatively comfortable to wear. I expected it to look something like the rubber LIVESTRONG bracelets (which fit better on my ankle than my wrist), but the form factor is much more elegant. I got a black band and I love it, but it also comes in bright red, bright blue or silver, and dark brown, dark red and white are coming soon.

Down sides

So far I don’t have many complaints. There is the obvious disadvantage that it cannot be used if you don’t have an iPhone, but I could write pages about why the iPhone is the best thing I’ve ever bought in my life so I personally don’t think this is a major negative.

There are still a few imperfections in the app UI, which can easily be addressed. For example, it isn’t particularly easy to search for friends to add to teams. But presumably all this will can be fixed in software updates.

It would be nice if the Up tracked elevation like the new Fitbits do. I encourage all of you to be taking the stairs whenever possible, and elevation data is a nice feature in that regard.

My last critique is that you can’t see your data with just a push of a button like you can with Fitbit. The Up requires you take it off and plug it into your phone, which isn’t that much of a hassle but makes me slightly less inclined to check my status.

But considering you’re basically getting Fitbit, Zeo and Health Month rolled into one, at $100 it’s hard to beat.

You can order yours on Amazon or the Jawbone Up website.

What do you think of the new Up?

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35 Responses to “UPdate: Jawbone Up is still really cool, but far from perfect”

  1. Marit says:

    Love it! My primary reason for buying UP is the inactivity nudge. I am very focused when I go to work and can spend way too much time sitting. Nine months ago I added a standup desk, which was helpful but then I developed foot issues. What I really needed was a reminder app to just move. No such thing in the App Store… Then UP was introduced as a concept product and I waited impatiently for it to be available. Bought mine the first day.
    This is a great device – it looks like it will be generating new habits, which is just what I need.

  2. Ed says:

    Darya,
    How has the battery life been with your UP? You’ve piqued my interest but when I visited Jawbone’s forums, I found people talking about battery problems.

  3. jeff clark says:

    I don’t have one but I don’t think I will get one for two reasons.

    I currently don’t wear any type of jewelry; no rings (although I have been married for 30 years), no bracelets, no watch. I just don’t like things around my wrist, so I think wearing the Up will be distracting for me.

    I have an iPhone and an Android phone, but over the last year I use the Android almost exclusively. The large screen is a big seller. If they supported Android, I may be intrigued.

  4. Sonia G. says:

    Thanks for doing a review of this! I’ve been looking at getting one for a couple weeks…pretty convinced now!

    • Sonia G. says:

      I finally got one a few days ago and I love it. My own complaint is the activity mode. It’s wildly inaccurate with the calorie burn when I used it in conjunction with my heart rate monitor. However, that’s to be expected unless you’re running. Trying to get into the food tracking…always remember the photo just as I take the last bite! Oops! : )

    • Darya Pino says:

      Nice! And I agree, the food tracking is tough. Hopefully the accuracy will continue to improve with software upgrades.

  5. Dave says:

    Thanks Darya for the review. This put me over the edge of the new Fitbit, simply for the comfort/convenience compared to the Fitbit style.

  6. Luis Peres says:

    This is a great device but only for iPhone :(
    Many thanks for the tip!

  7. Eric says:

    Yeah, the zeo requires you to wear a headband, but I think the quality of data is far superior when it comes to sleep tracking compared to motion tracking solutions like the fitbit, up, or sleeptracker. I buy that the up can tell you when you’re not dreaming, since you don’t move during REM sleep, but I don’t buy that it can tell you when you are dreaming. It’s also easier to feel comfortable with the data when you know for instance that it took awhile to fall asleep one night, and your chart actually reflects that.

    http://quantifiedself.com/2011/10/fitbit-vs-zeo/

  8. John says:

    What about the negatives of relying on a pedometer / motion tracker to gauge fitness? Some that come to mind…

    1) It’s not going to measure meaningful output on stuff like weight lifting, HIIT, using a standing desk, swimming, pretty much anything but walking/jogging.

    2) Less granularity when tracking sleep compared to Zeo. It only knows when you’re moving and when you’re not, and has to imply your sleep phase/state based on that, which isn’t necessarily accurate.

  9. Scott says:

    Good review. I’ve been looking into getting the Polar FT7 heart rate monitor or the FitBit/UP. The only thing the UP doesn’t do which I’d like is record when I’m cycling/spinning which the HRM would do. Thoughts?

    • Darya Pino says:

      I think having the reminders to not be sedentary are more important than the ego stroke for pedaling and extra 10 minutes at the gym. The quality of my workouts vary with time, season, etc., but regular daily non-exercise activity is the most important thing.

  10. William says:

    Thabks for the review… I’m even more excited to get mine in a few weeks.

    p.s. you misspelled hassle in the post.

  11. DL says:

    I’m curious about the sleep mode. How can it possibly know if you’re sleeping well?? Maybe it picks up snoring vibrations. Does it parallel what fitbit is saying about your sleep quality?

  12. Jared says:

    I’m returning my Up tomorrow and sticking with FitBit. Unless you swing your arms while doing simple activities like walking the dogs, pushing a stroller or grocery cart and DO NOT move your wrists while typing or driving, the Up is perfect. As I am apparently not typical, while typing and driving, I register about ten miles a day. While actually walking the dog and pushing a stroller, I log about ten steps per thousand, when compared to FitBit. The Up app is also very buggy. Love the activity reminders, but for $100 I can set up an alarm on my iPhone to buzz me on the hour.

  13. Jared says:

    Yeah it doesn’t work for me. You’re one of a few lucky ones when looking at the Up forums on Jawbones website. Maybe a second version or software update will improve it but for me it’s just not worth it right now. I’m quite bumbed really.

  14. radek g says:

    Hi
    Did you try Up on bike? How it counts this kind of activity?

  15. Rachel says:

    Argh! I want this so badly but only have the 3g iphone. I’m not due an upgrade until March. Grrrrr.

  16. This is on my Christmas wish list.

  17. Greg says:

    too bad they don’t have an android version. This looks great but I can’t abandon Android.

    • Darya Pino says:

      Fitbit is still a good alternative.

      • nicole says:

        darya,
        i was wondering if you are still liking the UP. the bracelet and the app are getting terrible reviews on itunes. my biggest concern is the accuracy of counting steps…. since you have used it a while, any new ideas, advice, opinions. i really would love to get one, but only if it works properly.

      • Darya Pino says:

        I haven’t had problem with counting accuracy, it tends to be within a few hundred steps of Fitbit (I’m still using both), which means almost nothing. Though I heard someone say that for them it counts steps when they drive, which is totally weird. I don’t drive, so I cannot attest to this. If steps is all you’re worried about, a Fitbit is fine. I like the Up because of the buzz reminders. I stopped using it to track food and sleep.

        There’s no doubt Jawbone is a V1 product and has a lot of work to do. It’s a great company so I’m sure they’ll address the issues eventually. The question is how much can be fixed with software vs hardware. My guess is a lot can be fixed with software updates.

  18. You’ve almost totally persuaded me! :). I was wondering though (and this is sort of off topic and sort of on) whether you guys -esp in such a techy house – ever tried to give yourself a limit on I-phone or laptop use – like do you have any controlled downtime? Ive just started a blog properly (well, Im trying to devote more time to it!) and my husband works in social media, and we both have I phones, and it can be really hard to just turn off! And yet I know we feel ‘healthier’ mentally and physically, if we make a real effrot too! I know its hard when you are trying to make a success of yourself online, but I also think its really important. Food for thought for future post!? I really love your articles always :)

    • Darya Pino says:

      Offline time is something we’re always working on. It’s tough right now because I don’t have a physical office so work on the couch, in the kitchen, at cafes, etc. We’re moving in 2 weeks and I’m going to try to set very strict limits on when/where I can work. Wish me luck :)

  19. Matt says:

    I am on my 5th Jawbone UP…. one was bricked … the button stopped working on another… one wouldn’t sync…
    I kinda lost track of what happened to each one…….

    I stopped wearing it in the shower, which made things better.

    My 5th one has been working for about two weeks now.. no problems YET…

    I have noticed it tracks footsteps while I drive, but very small amounts, nothing crazy… this might be because usually I keep my right hand fairly steady while I drive, on the stick shift. It’s not magic, my hand makes movement like I man walking, also bumps in the road shake the car up and down… I think they did a great job fine tuning it, to make it as accurate as possible.

  20. Lance Strish says:

    TotallyRadShow recently discussed Jawbone and someone replied

    http://www.facebook.com/thetotallyradshow/posts/330950366931444

    “Jawbone’s CEO Hosain Rahman has published a blog post stating his deepest regrets for some of the issues the Jawbone Up has been having. Users have experienced the band not holding a charge or bricking completely. To make up for the problems, Jawbone is launching a return program December 9th that will allow users to get a refund for the product and even keep it — no questions asked. That’s right, you’re getting the Jawbone Up for free if you’ve already purchased it. Jawbone has also decided to halt sales of the band.”

  21. pace says:

    I purchased the UP band purely on your review; lesson learned, will do my own homework next time. Honestly the worst product I’ve purchased in a very long time, simply doesn’t deliver as advertised. I’ve walked with my husband, who’s using fitbit, and our steps are wildly out of sync…his steps record ~ 6,000 while mine were 1,280…what? Doesn’t sync, can’t edit the food log…the list goes on and on. Anyways, the company has refunded my money which is great, but I would not purchase anything from them again as they’ve lost my trust completely in their brand.

  22. Mike says:

    My Jawbone UP (that I ordered through Amazon) just started to not hold it’s charge. I heard about Jawbone taking ownership about the issue and offering refunds/exchanges for those that were having the problem, so I contacted support. This was their response: “Thank you for contacting Jawbone Support. We apologize but we cannot replace your device at this time. The seller “seller name here”, is not an authorized retailer of our products. We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause. If you have any further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me.”
    Overall, really disappointed. I liked what I saw of the device, but getting this response after investing a couple hundred dollars into it is just a slap in the face.

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