My Jawbone UP Armband

I finally have my Jawbone UP wristband and it’s been an interesting experience with my first fitness system since moving up from a very basic pedometer. It’s more telling in terms of when I exercise and what I do, but I also selected it for very specific reasons. Some of these, however, are not working out as planned.

I signed up to get a Jawbone UP at the beginning of 2012, just when they were pulled from store shelves because the design was just breaking down. A letter from Jawbone said they would stand by their product, but gave little indication what they would do moving forward. Nine months later, Jawbone introduced a new UP wristband that they said built on the experiences learned from the failures of the first. Better design, more testing, etc. Finally in November 2012, they began shipping, but I had to wait till February 2013 to get mine.

The question you’ll immediately ask is “why wait when there are so many other solutions that are shipping?”

One of the key features I wanted was the “Idle Alert.”
I sit and edit video. Or I write about video production. Both of these tasks are very sedentary and I was seeking a way to help myself ameliorate my inactivity. A little run in the morning does not, IMHO, counter 8 more hours of sitting. Of course, looking at today’s white-collar workplace, I’m not that far from the norm. But I wanted to do something about it. I have it set to remind me to do something every 30 minutes.

This is a handy feature for sedentary occupations. "Hey you, get the hell up and walk around a bit."
This is a handy feature for sedentary occupations. “Hey you, get the hell up and walk around a bit.”

The second thing is that it touts that it’ll track my sleep.
I’ve long wondered how well I’ve been sleeping. I know I toss & turn. I know I wake up to readjust my pillow, my blanket, etc. But without measuring things, I really didn’t know HOW MUCH sleep I was really getting. I hoped that this would open that door to getting that information.

The UP wristband is comfortable.
You pick your size and then put it on. There’s no clip so it handles different placements and slight differences in arm sizes pretty well. It’s not a watch so there’s no wristband with a half-dozen holes to make it fit nice. So I wonder how it will fit when the weather heats up and I normally loosen my watch a notch to be comfortable.

The APP is Great.
It’s fast, colorful. Not too cluttered. Setting up the wristband is simple and synching is pretty painless, even if it is a little laborious (more on this later).

I like the graphic representations and I can see how good, or bad I'm doing at a glance.
I like the graphic representations and I can see how good, or bad I’m doing at a glance.

And entering in food data is pretty good too. It’s a challenge to have the large database there yet still make it so it isn’t overwhelming and I think they struck the balance pretty good. I’ve gotten lost in between adding items and adjusting portions a couple times, but I think I’m getting the hang of it.

The price is on par with other electronic fitness trackers at the moment. I think the market is ripe for one to come in at the $50 level, but around $100 and up is where they seem to track now. Got to pay off the R&D you know.


A little star, or a moon. That's all you get. I think this means charging.
A little star, or a moon. That’s all you get. I think this means charging.

The Display?
If you could see the little multicolor star, or moon, through the rubber band you’d not be impressed. That part of the band could have been a tiny numeric display with some actual, usable feedback. More on this later. It would also greatly lessen the need to sync the UP wristband to get access to feedback.

Two-Way Communication.
Since the UP wristband has a motion sensor in it, I would have liked to be able to program in some communication TO the device as opposed to only hearing from it. For instance, it buzzes at me to remind me to get up and move. I’d love to be able to postpone this for five minutes because I’m often intent on finishing THIS ONE THING… and if I could do something as simple as tap my wrist to the table three times (tap, tap, tap) then the UP wristband would know to remind me again at an interval I set with the UP app. This way, I could finish what I was doing and then be reminded again to get up and move around. THANK YOU. SOOOO much more useful.

As it is now, I miss many of the reminders because I’m on the phone, or waiting for a render, or something where I really do need to stay right HERE for the next minute. A three tap snooze would be AWESOME.

Sleep Tracking – Maybe.
Now, I really don’t know how well it does this because it’s the only sleep tracking hardware I have, but I know I get up several times a night when I’m tossing & turning. I check the baby monitor. Fix my pillow, adjust the blanket from sliding off the bed, and then try to get comfortable again. The UP App says I never woke up.

Did I really sleep that much? I don't know. I _do know that I was awake for part of it.
Did I really sleep that much? I don’t know. I do know that I was awake for part of it.

The Rubber.
The Up has a nice texture. Easy to grip. Comfortable on the skin. Etc. The trouble is that it also grips on shirts and sweaters I try to put on, so getting dressed means several repeated “fixings” of the UP wristband. I also have kids, so picking them up or having them squirm in my arms means they have literally taken the UP armband off my wrist with their shirts or pants rubbing against the UP wristband.

This is how you're supposed to wear the UP. And how I can't.
This is how you’re supposed to wear the UP. And how I can’t.

Metal Tips
The metal tips on the UP wristband and tasks like writing on a desk or laptop are completely at odds with each other. The metal push button in particular is like waring a chisel on your arm- it digs into everything- at least when you wear it like you see pictured in, well, every picture of the UP Armband I’ve seen. I’ve had to spin it around so the metal pieces are on top of my wrist and now my right hand is a centimeter higher than my left when typing. Not that much of a bother really. But it could have been avoided with rubber ends.

My Jawbone wristband, the way I need to wear it.
My Jawbone wristband, the way I need to wear it.

No Display.
Compared to the Nike FUEL, which can be used as an actual watch, the UP Armband demonstrates that it cannot _replace_ any wrist gear, it has to be an _additional_ piece of wrist gear. This is a bit of a stretch in an area with very limited real estate- i.e. my wrist. I’d have preferred a Nike-FUEL or FitBit-like small LED display to tell me time or more detailed feedback on settings.

Look, it's a clock, and a whole lot more. It's about FEEDBACK.
Look, Nike FUEL is a clock, and a whole lot more. It’s about FEEDBACK.

For instance, It’s noon and I want to glance and see how many steps I’ve taken, or haven’t taken. But this information is completely unavailable on the UP Armband until I take it off, uncap it, pull out my phone, unlock it, activate the Up app, plug the armband into the phone and wait for a sync session. Needless to say, this rigamarole is not happening many times a day. Less feedback makes tracking my physical effort less useful.

There’s a stopwatch in the UP Armband. I was surprised to see this because of the lack of a display. You can time something, but you’ll never know the results until much later, or after you’ve done the connect-n-sync rigamarole. I have a stopwatch in my watch on my other hand. Without even looking at it, in two taps, I can be timing something and see at a glance the status.

Use Morse Code to start it, then tell it to stop. The results? Film at 11.
Use Morse Code to start it, then tell it to stop. The results? Film at 11.

Having a stopwatch so convenient, I find myself timing many more things than I ever would otherwise. How long the tortellini has been cooking (2 minutes). How long to get to the store (12 minutes). How long to get to a meeting (26 minutes). All kinds of things. I even use it to get my little girl to do what I tell her. She’s only five, but if she hears the two beeps and I say I’m timing how long it’ll take her to get her shoes on to go, she’s been able to do it in 13 seconds. Otherwise it takes, oh, about a millennium.

It’s only been about a week. I’ll see more how things progress and if it continues to be useful beyond the initial novelty faze.

It's all just chips & wires. We determine their influence on us.
It’s all just chips & wires. We determine their influence on us.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑