Expert Review: The Jawbone UP Smack-down

First came the Fitbit Flex.

Then the Jawbone UP was born.

Actually, the Jawbone UP came out in November 2011, while the Fitbit Flex was released in May 2013. Why do I mention this? Because, as you’ll see, those two little dates make all the difference in a comparison between these activity-tracking wristbands.

This is the Jawbone UP:
 

 

Pros:

  • Best app of them all! Amazing graphs and helpful little tidbits that really serve to encourage you.
  • Carries a battery charge for way longer than its competitors. I always forget to charge my Fitbit Flex every couple of days, so it dies on me quite often. But the Jawbone UP battery lasts twice as long as the Flex–up to 10 days–making it easy to schedule a weekly (or longer) battery charge cycle.
  • Great sleep tracking with higher sensitivity and extra data about sleep cycles. As I mentioned before, I’m a light, fitful sleeper, so the additional information about my sleep cycles would prove more helpful than the vague “restless” or “awake” bars that Fitbit supplies.
  • Greater step-counting accuracy. When compared side-by-side with the Flex and the normal hip pedometer, the UP came consistently closer to the hip pedometer than the Flex.

 

Cons:

  • #1 and most important: it breaks. A lot. Though covered under warranty, the UP is infamous for its hardware and technical issues. They came out with a second batch which supposedly had all issues fixed…but they weren’t. The Gizko UP belonged to the second batch, which you can determine by the writing inside the band.
  • It’s bulky. If you remember, I particularly appreciated the thin band of the Flex. On the other hand, the UP is fat and square and very blocky. Rafa complained a lot about the thickness of the band, especially when he went for a run. Apparently it made his wrist sweatier than normal…?
  • And it’s old tech. As I mentioned at the beginning, the UP was spankin’ brand new in 2011. But nowadays, with more companies cashing in on the wearable tech trend, it’s old news–even though it still costs a whoppin’ $129 $79 online (because they totally slashed the price recently….)
  • Oh, and it doesn’t have bluetooth syncing. The UP 24 sports a bluetooth connection (since, ya know, Jawbone is known for their bluetooth capabilities!), but the regular UP requires you to plug it in via the headphone jack to upload your info.

 

The Design

 
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Sporting a soft grey color, the wristband itself is the actual device, including its charging jack and button. The UP comes with a trendy-looking pattern imprinted on the band, which is a definite plus versus the Fitbit Flex. However, once you choose a color for your UP (and they have a number of different ones), you’re pretty much stuck with it and can’t change it like you can with Fitbit trackers.

Nevertheless, the feel of the band is soft and smooth. Blocky and thick, it might prove a problem for people with small wrists or those unaccustomed to wearing accessories. I personally found it fine for daytime use, but it constantly pressed up against my wrist when I was asleep. I woke up with large zigzag patterns imprinted in my skin, which may or may not bother you. Rafa also preferred the thinner Fitbit Flex band for comfort, though he did like the “cooler” look of the UP.
 

The Hardware

 

 
Again, we got a Jawbone UP–the cheaper of the Jawbone fitness trackers. As such, it doesn’t have a bluetooth sync available. The UP24 does have bluetooth support, but the older version does not. Is that a deal breaker? Well, originally it wasn’t. Then we realized that constantly pulling it off and plugging it in was a reeeeeeaaal pain in the butt.

So syncing was a huge inconvenience over time.

However, the best part of the UP was the “nap” mode. Rafa is a big proponent of naptimes, and the short 30 min wake up “buzz” option was a favorite.

On the other hand, the thing didn’t always work. As you undoubtedly have heard, Jawbone has had some pretty bad issues with quality control and lack of communication with their overseas manufacturers. They’re very prompt in replacing your UP if it breaks down within the warranty period, but unless you like buying-using-returning-waiting, using-returning-waiting, ad nauseam, a Jawbone tracker’s probably not worth the investment in terms of time and money.
 

The Decision

 
If you’re looking for an activity-monitoring wristband, the Jawbone UP wouldn’t be a bad choice.

If it worked.

Which it doesn’t.

The app is spectacular, and totally, utterly wins against the Fitbit app. It provides way better information, and it presents your data in a more easily understood manner, with additional layers of info for those who need/want it. But, at the risk of over-repetition, the UP breaks down way too much. Who wants to spend $129 on a piece of “old” technology that doesn’t even work all the time? If it weren’t for the technical issues, I would declare the UP a clear winner on nearly all fronts. It just tracks more. Period. But it doesn’t sync via bluetooth (for us lazy people) and it sports a slightly uncomfortable design (which might not bother those accustomed wearing large wrist accessories).

Do you really, really want it? I’d recommend against buying it, unless you want to try your luck and hope to get one of the few working ones. Because, if it works, you’ll have a nice activity monitor on your hands. Better, though, to wait until the new ones come out this year.
 

Gizko Grade: 3.0/5.0