Review : Jawbone UP24

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Jawbone, the company behind UP24, started off with audio devices including wireless speakers and Bluetooth headsets but soon became known for its activity trackers when it launched Jawbone UP in 2011.

The company has been hard at work fine-tuning UP.  When it first came out, the product suffered from the lack of stability and short battery life.  They changed that with the 2012 release.  And now, more than a year later, they have launched Jawbone UP24 with a slew of new features and improvements, including Bluetooth Low Energy capability that allows you to have real time sleep and exercise updates.  Along with the new product, they have also launched the latest version of their iPhone app, UP 3.0.

Retailing at £100, Jawbone UP24 would look like a very expensive and fancy piece of wristband.  It is worth at least £15 more than the original UP.  But is it worth its price tag?

Design and hardware

The new UP24 still does not have a display and does not really deviate much from the original UP in terms of design.  This might be a good idea because you really do not want the wristband to be overly bulky or heavy.  Also, a screen would mean more battery usage.  Besides, most users would already have a smartphone to use as a screen.

UP24 uses a 2.5 mm plug to charge, which means you would not be able to make use of the old UP charger to recharge UP24.  You would also need to use Bluetooth LE to transfer your data.

There are now two designs available: black onyx and persimmon.  If you have the original UP, you would be familiar with black onyx, and persimmon is nothing but a fancy name for bright orange.

UP24 is very comfortable even if you wear it for a long period of time.  The flexible band is made out of rubber and can fit around your wrist comfortably.  It comes in three different sizes: Small, Medium and Large.

UP24 can now track sleep patterns.  You only need to press and hold the buttons and switch the modes from active to sleep.  You can also put it on stopwatch mode to measure the length of time you spend doing an activity.

Battery life is great on UP24.  It lasts as long as seven days of continuous use, or so Jawbone claims.  How could that be when Bluetooth is always on?  The thing is that Bluetooth LE uses up a very minimal amount of energy, much lower than the Bluetooth we all know.

The UP 3.0 companion app

No discussion of wearable technology would be complete without discussing the companion app, especially in Jawbone’s case.  The metrics that you collect with your Jawbone UP would be useless or very difficult to understand without the app.

Jawbone understands this, which is why they put in new features to the UP 3.0 app.  Jawbone made use of big data to analyze what types of new features they would include.  And now, the app delivers more personalized and customized data.  It also helps you keep track of achievements over time.  The UP 3.0 also recommends what other activities you might be interested in with its new “Try This System”.

UP 3.0 has the Today I Will section, which at first lists sleep, drink water and steps.  Then, the more you use the app and the band, it will add more activities depending on what you did for the past 4 days to a week.  If you fail on a goal, it will challenge you on that goal.  For example, if you do not drink eight glasses of water a day, it will tell you so.

With Bluetooth LE, you can get real-time communication between the band and the app.  This makes way for live feedback.  For example, if you have a steps goal and you are very close to reaching that, it will give you a reminder encouraging you to finish your steps goal.  You can also get timely information, such as how long and how good you have slept.

Further, with UP 3.0, you no longer have to worry about switching your band to sleep or active mode.  The app can figure it out for itself.  This means that it can give you a more accurate set of data over time even if you continually forget to switch modes.  Plus, it can also give you its estimates of when you woke up or fell asleep.  But, to be really accurate, it helps to remember to switch modes from active to sleeping.

The app’s social aspects have been updated as well.  Instead of merely allowing you to share your steps and other data, you can now get notifications for milestones.  The new app can keep track of your achievements and milestones, so if you have consistently slept eight hours or drank more than eight glasses of water every day for the last 4 to 7 days, it will congratulate you on that, as well as tell you just how many others have achieved this goal.

What changed from the earlier versions

Aside from the price, there are some changes to the new UP24.

For one, there are lots of added functionalities, like those that we have mentioned above.  Plus, it also has Smart Alarms, which allows you to set discreet alarms to help you wake up or tell you when to sleep.  There is still the IFTTT or “If This Then That” system that allows you to integrate UP with other apps, such as if it is time to eat, you could launch Evernote to keep track of what you have eaten.  But with Bluetooth LE and real time data transfer, you can do a lot more.  For example, if you have a smart home, you can set up your UP app to turn on the air conditioning at your home once you have finished jogging.

All in all, it would seem that Jawbone UP24 would prove to be a worthy competition to the slew of fitness trackers out there, such as the Nike Fuelband and Fitbit Force.  But with Samsung and Apple becoming more and more adept at fitness and movement tracking, it begs the question as to whether devices like this would still be needed.  Why pay £100 for something that is already included in your smartphone?

The answer is simple.  Try bringing your phone into the shower.  Or try holding your iPhone while you jog or do yoga.

What sets Jawbone apart from the rest is not its data logging capability, but how it designed the companion app to work with the data.  The qualitative and personalized recommendations the app gives you goes far beyond knowing how many hours of sleep you have had or how many steps you took in the past hour.  And it is the functionality that would get people interested and that would sustain their interest in Jawbone.

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