After three weeks with the Nike+ Fuelband and four weeks with the Basis Peak, I moved on to the Jawbone UP24.
The UP24 has been out for quite a while now. Back in January 2014, Noel (@noelportugal) and Luis (@lsgaleana) did cursory evaluation, and not much has changed in the Jawbone lineup since then.
At least, not until recently when the new hotness arrived, the UP2, UP3 and soon, the UP4, pushing the venerable UP24 into retirement. Honestly, I would have bought one of the new ones (because shiny objects), but they had yet to be released when I embarked on this journey of wearables discovery.
After starting out with a fitness band and moving to a super watch, going back to the comparatively feature-poor UP24 was a bit shocking initially. I had just become accustomed to having the time on my wrist and all that other stuff.
However, what it lacks in features, the UP24 more than makes up for in comfort. Makes sense, fewer features, smaller form factor, but even compared to the other fitness bands I’ve worn (the Fuelband and Misfit Shine), the rubbery industrial design makes it nice to wear.
Aside from comfort, surprisingly, one feature that made the UP24 sticky and enjoyable was the Smart Coach, which I expected to dislike. Jawbone has a very usable mobile app companion that all its devices share, and inevitably, that is what retains users, not the hardware on the wrist.
Overall, despite its relative age, I enjoyed wearing the UP24. I even decided to wear it a bit longer, hence the extra day.
Here are my observations.
Yes, there’s yet another initial software install required to configure the UP24 for use the first time. Yes, that still annoys me, but I get why it’s needed.
As I’ve said, the band is comfortable to wear, mainly because of its flexible, rubber material. Smart Coach reminded me a few times to be gentle with the band, saying something about there being a bunch of electronics packed in there.
I’m not sure if this was a regular reminder or if the band somehow detected that I was being too rough, hoping for the former. The Coach also reminded me that the band isn’t waterproof. While I did get it wet, I wasn’t brave enough to submerge it.
These reminders made me curious about the sensors Jawbone packed inside the UP24, and while looking for a teardown, I found this cool X-ray of the band.
Impressive industrial design. One minor correction, the audio plug is 2.5 mm, not the standard 3.5 mm, something Noel and Luis found out quickly. From my use, it didn’t really matter, since the UP24 comes with a custom USB-2.5 mm audio adapter for charging.
The UP24 uses a button to set specific modes, like Stopwatch (for exercise) and Sleep. These took a bit of learning, like anything new. I expected to have push-sequence failure, i.e. using the wrong push and hold combination, but no.
Aside from being red, which seemed to fade to orange, the band is unobtrusive. I found myself wearing it upside down to allow for scratch-free typing, a very nice plus.
The fit did seem to loosen over time, probably just the rubber losing some of its elasticity. Not a big deal for a month, but not a good long-term sign.
The battery life was nice, about nine days initially, but the app seems to misrepresent the remaining charge. One night, it reported five days charge left, and overnight, the band died. Same thing happened a week later when the app reported seven days of charge.
Because the UP24 isn’t constantly connected to Bluetooth, to save battery, I guess maybe the charge wasn’t reported accurately. Although when the app opens, the band connects and dumps its data right away.
Bit of a mystery, but happily, I didn’t lose my sleep data, which tells me the band still had some charge. The sleep data it collected on those nights wasn’t as detailed as the other nights. Maybe the band has some intelligence to preserve its battery.
The UP24 didn’t attract the same amount of curious attention that the Basis Peak did, thank you Apple Watch, but a few people did ask what Fitbit I had, which tells me a lot about their brand recognition.
Is Fitbit the Kleenex of facial tissue? The Reynolds wrap of aluminum foil?
The app and data
Jawbone only provides the data collected by its bands and the Smart Coach through its mobile apps. Their web app only manages account information, which is fine, and bonus, you can download your device data in csv format from the web app.
There are, however, several different Jawbone UP mobile apps, so finding the right one was key.
The app is quite nice, both visually and informationally. I really like the stream approach (vs. a dashboard), and again, Smart Coach is nice. Each day, I checked my sleep data and read the tips provided, and yeah, some were interesting.
The stream is easily understood at a glance, so kudos to the UX. Orange shows activity, purple sleep. There are other things you can add, weight, mood, etc. I did those for a few days, but that didn’t last, too lazy.
Each item in the stream can be tapped for details.
Unlike the Fuelband and the Peak, the UP24 uses very minimal game mechanics. The Smart Coach did congratulate me on specific milestones and encourage me to do more, but beyond that, the entire experience was free from gamified elements.
Did I mention I liked the Smart Coach? Yeah, I did.
In addition to the stream, the UP24 provides historic data as days and aggregated into months and years, which is equally nice and easy to understand.
Jawbone has an integration with IFTTT among many other apps, making its ecosystem attractive to developers. I didn’t find any IFTTT recipes that made sense for me, but I like having the option.
There’s social stuff too, but meh.
Data sync between the band and app was snappy. As I mentioned above, the band isn’t always connected to Bluetooth, or at least, you won’t see it in the Bluetooth settings. Maybe it’s connected but not listed, dunno, but Noel would.
Minor downsides I noticed, sleep tracking is an absolute mystery. The UP24 lists both light and deep sleep, but who knows how it can tell. Not that I really need to know, but looking at its guts above, what combination of sensor data would track that?
Speaking of sensors, nearly every run I completed on a treadmill showed a wide variance, e.g. the treadmill says 3.25 miles, whereas UP24 says 2.45 miles. I tried calibrating the band after each run, but that didn’t seem to help.
I saw the same variance with steps.
Not a big deal to me and definitely a difficult nut to crack, but some people care deeply about the accuracy of theses devices, like this guy who filed a lawsuit against Fitbit for overestimating sleep.
What I’m finding through personal experience and stories like that is that these little guys are very personal devices, much more so than a simple watch. I actually felt a little sad to take off my UP24.
I wonder why. Thoughts?
Find the comments.
I do like the styling on that one.
But to answer your question at the end, I guess that people are finding more and more personal ways to use these devices in life and work, so they’re adding more value the whole time. For example, someone might use the heart rate monitor in airports or hotel check in time to gauge their level of stress, or even during a sales deal to assess whether they might be perceived as coming across as relaxed and calmly confident.
Generally, with these devices someone needs to stop the proliferation of different connectors for power supply (and solve the battery life problem for the bigger watches too). It will be done eventually I guess.
@Ultan: You’re right, the personal nature of the data (heart rate, sleep, step, etc.) makes these devices like little buddies your wear around w you everywhere.
Interesting area for study.
I’m w you on the proprietary chargers, maddening.