This review is part of our series on the most popular fitness tracker devices. Read the full story here.
Jawbone's Up System is a viable option for a person who wants to track his fitness and health goals. For the sedentary office worker, it's a great motivator to get your body moving -- I certainly felt a drive to meet my goals, and I moved more than I would have if I wasn't facing an end-of-day, visual summary.
Yet, the system made me a little anxious: Every night before bed, I held down the button of my band to register that I was going into "sleep mode." I kept myself awake wondering how it would know how long it took me to fall asleep (one piece of data the sleep tracker records). In the morning, I'd immediately plug the band into my phone. This made me feel a little addicted to tech, and so did being buzzed like a lab rat (though again, it did prompt me to get up and move). I guess, more than anything, it's depressing that I need a reminder to move away from my computer screen (and, you know, bend my knees).
And while the system is seemingly modern, there are a few things that could use an upgrade. For one, if I'm going to drop more than 100 bucks on a fancy pedometer, I expect bluetooth to be included. Call me whiney, but it was kind of annoying to have to plug my band into my phone to set an alarm.
When you do plug your band into your phone, you must remove a one-inch cap that protects the plug. That I have yet to lose this little cap is a miracle -- there must be some other way to protect the device, with fewer moving, losable parts.
Last complaint -- I promise -- is that there's no online website to accompany the app. I would have been more comfortable tracking and inputing my data on a bigger screen -- without hunching over my phone. Apps like MyFitnessPal allow you to track calories through one account online and through an app, and this option makes the tracking process a bit simpler for me.
My Jawbone Up Band is as gorgeous as they come: A slender, robin's egg blue cuff that could be mistaken for a bracelet on someone with an eclectic taste for jewelry. Virtually no one noticed my band, and it matched my earrings and other accessories just beautifully.
Once I got used to the fact that I was wearing a fitness device, I nearly forgot about it. The Up Band is entirely water resistant, though this took some getting used to: For its price, I felt a bit guilty -- and careless -- wearing the tracker in a steaming hot shower, but it withstood with no issue.
Like any bracelet, the band stuck to my arm during a sweaty workout, but it was never uncomfortable.
The initial setup of the Up Band was almost too easy: I made an account online (which was unnecessary -- you can do it all from your phone), downloaded the app from the iTunes store and then plugged the band into my iPhone's headphone jack. I entered my stats (height, weight, age, sleep and step goals), my Jawbone's name (it's Clarissa, in case you were curious) and was taken through a little tutorial of the Up Band's features.
It's possible I wasn't paying enough attention upon first use, but there were certainly some features that I overlooked -- I learned about them later by fooling around on the app (you won't easily find these features described on the Jawbone website, which is aesthetically pleasing but informationally lacking). Within a day of wearing, I realized I could set an "Idle Alert," a setting that has the band vibrate if you're stationary for too long. I set mine to buzz every half hour during the work day.
For the most part, you are a passive player when it comes to recording the day-to-day: You do the sleeping, the walking, the running and the Up System will track and record your stats. Tracking your caloric intake, however, is a more involved process: You enter the foods and drinks you consume throughout the day directly into the app, which is equipped with a barcode scanner (kind of cool, if you don't mind being that person who takes a picture of everything they eat) and full database of products, restaurant items and regular eats. It's really up to you to be accountable for this aspect of the system -- while I can't think of an alternative, less involved process for tracking, I found it a nuisance, and tough to remember to input every calorie I consumed into my phone. Truth be told, I sort of did away with the process early on in my testing.
I was most impressed by the Up Band's lasting charge: It can go a bit over a week before it needs to be plugged into the computer for some juice.
It was interesting to see how my movement throughout the day correlated with my mood -- another component you can manually track by choosing from a range of smiley faces (as if one ever has simply a smiley face for an emotion!).
I liked being able to see the duration of my sleep -- it made me mindful that I need more of it -- but the more in-depth details of this data (like how long I was in bed for, how long I was in "deep sleep," how quickly I fell asleep) weren't so useful, and didn't seem accurate, for that matter.
On the topic of accuracy, I'm not sure the Up Band makes the cut. I clocked a 4-mile run on the treadmill one evening, but Up's data didn't match. I turned on another fitness tracker -- RunKeeper -- to track an outdoor, 5-mile jog, but Up docked it as a mere 1.9 miles.
Setting daily sleep and movement goals is something I think everyone should try to do. Keeping track of these goals (mine were 13,000 steps per day and seven hours of sleep per night) with minimal effort certainly made me more likely to achieve them and keep myself accountable.
The "Idle Alert" feature was really helpful for me: I definitely moved more during the workday, if just to stretch my legs or grab a cup of water. It didn't feel like I was being heckled, but it was sometimes startling: If I was really "in the zone," the band's "gentle vibration" was more like a "gentle electric shock collar." If I was less focused, it was as gentle as a nuzzling puppy who wanted to be let out.
While the system got me to move, it wasn't a bully: It never judged me for being a stationary slob. Clarissa even encouraged me to indulge in a few sweets on Valentine's Day. I definitely appreciated this real-time aspect of the app.
At $129.99, the Up System costs quite a pretty penny. I love that it works in conjunction with an iPhone app and records the data pretty seamlessly, but I'd sooner buy a cheap pedometer and spend the rest of the dough on a pair of shoes.