I’ve continued to use my Jawbone UP wristband but its usefulness is going down as I use it. It’s designed to be an activity tracker, and there’s mounting evidence that it’s not doing that very well. The app is a nutrition tracker, and I’m finding that it’s not doing what I’d like. So let me discuss my findings to demonstrate what the problem is.
First of all, there’s a basic operational problem. When I enter nutritional information using the scanner, not everything I eat is in the system correctly. The ability to scan a UPC code and have the system pull up the right thing means I can just set a quantity and that’s very fast & convenient. So if I make some SteamFresh corn, some packaged chicken and some sweet potato fries, along with a can of diet soda over ice, That’s four clicks and I’m basically done.
But I found an issue when I tried to scan some Cheetos-like cheese snacks from Aldi. My UPC code didn’t say the name of the product, only the number, and only part of the nutrition information was correct. Certain aspects, like Sodium, were 0mg per serving instead of the 290mg my package says. I could find no way to adjust the information the scanning system brings up. The alternative is to hand enter each nutrition aspect, That certainly is a drag when I just want to record that I grabbed a handful to snack on.
The same can be said for when I clicked the button to tell the UP wristband that I was going to sleep. The UP wristband thought I started the stopwatch. Big mistake. Only when I synched it the next day did I find out the error, exacerbated again by the lack of feedback from an informative display. Now, there’s no way to go in and correct the data.
And this brings me to my next disappointment.
There’s no real overview or “grand scheme of things” which would be the sole point of handling BOTH nutrition information/calorie intake AND activity/calorie usage in one app. There is a way to show, via charts calories consumed and UP’s estimate of my calories burned, but not one overlaid over the other. You can see both on one screen, but what does it MEAN? It’s the results, not the data, that are relevant to me.
The UP app has my caloric intake, to great detail. Fats. Sugars. Sodium. Etc. It has my activity, as vague as it is, but there’s simply no connection between the two pools of data that this one app holds. That makes no sense to me. It asks ME to tell it whether I feel good or not, but I’d rather it show me how well it feels I am doing. You give ME a sad face when I tell you I ate the entire bag of Cheetos in one sitting. (Okay, I didn’t actually do this.) Me giving you the information gives you the right to let me know when I was bad. Give me a sad face and let’s leave it at that.
Let me know that I’m way over on my sodium intake. Or that my saturated fats are just simply not healthy. Conversely, if I have a good level of unsaturated fats, good amount of fiber… give me a thumbs up! If I put the data in, I am giving it to you for you to use it, not ignore it. It’s part of our rapport.
The rubbery silicone catches on clothes and jackets & sweaters as I try to put them on or take them off. That’s annoying. But otherwise, it’s pretty comfortable. You can indeed forget you are wearing it. And since the device only has a couple days of power (up to 10), the possibility for the UP wristband to go dead is actually pretty high— especially considering that it doesn’t notify me in any meaningful way that it’s running low. Mine has gone dead while I’m wearing it.
I go back to what I said in my first article on this— there needs to be a rapport between the UP wristband and me. A back-and-forth conversation. Not just to put off the Idle Timer, but for the UP wristband to talk to me and say- “hey, buddy, battery is running low, plug me in.” I’d suggest three very short buzzes repeated every hour minutes when it gets down to that 1-day of battery life left. I work in video production and I know that battery-based items are woefully misguided in trying to assess their own demise. “1-day” could well be just 12 hours, or it may be a day and a half. Buzz me and I’ll know to plug you in for an hour while I type.
AI / PROGRAMMING:
There’s a bit to programming that could be considered artificial intelligence. For me to tell it I’m going to sleep means that it’s too dumb to know that. It (or the app that the UP wristband hands the data off to) can’t learn that at about 10pm, I go to bed and usually about 5 am (depending on my little boy) I am ripped from an otherwise very sound sleep. Artificial Intelligence (AI) or just good programming could recognize this pattern and know that this prolonged lack of activity is actually “sleep.” The app has the benefit of looking back over hours and hours of data so I’m not asking it to know in real time.
There’s also the whole issue with the device not knowing the difference between a 45 minute kick-ass run, and a walk around the block. All it knows is steps. Up and down. Up and down. It has no idea how strenuous those steps are. That’s a fundamental failing of any basic pedometer which I don’t hold against the UP wristband. Only those that actually measure heart rate or galvanic skin response can know how strenuous a particular activity is.
I never really liked the plug-in requirement for data. Bursts of data via bluetooth every hour or so would be far more inline with today’s techo-savvy customer. We sync with the cloud. But to charge the device? You got to do the same janky disassembly and plug it in to a USB to headphone jack adapter. That’s soooo 1980’s.
Cordless phones (also from the 80’s) have drop in chargers that merely touch contacts. Without risking any of the water-stealthiness of the UP wristband, two contacts could have been left exposed on the outside of the wristband so that it could have been dropped into place into a cradle where those tiny but super-strong magnets suck it into place and provide power to charge it.
The cradle would be able to tickle some data across those contacts to have the armband describe battery status. That is, if the next version of the UP wristband didn’t actually have a useful “fuel” gauge to let us know how charged up it is. Yea, more communication. I’m all about the rapport.
THIN IS IN
Getting back to the UP wristband catching on shirts and jackets and the like. A big part of this is how big and how thick it is. I have the medium, and my wrist fills the UP wristband. I chose this because I don’t like big jingly things.
I’m not one of the men who wear big glittery wristwatches like jewelry and need to constantly rotate them around to actually see the watch face. Mine is snug to my wrist because it’s there for a reason. To tell time. My UP wristband is there for a reason- to track activity & buzz me. That said, the 8mm thickness against the inside of my wrist is too thick. The ends sticking up in the air on the other side annoy me too.
There’s nothing stopping Jawbone, the company that makes different earpieces for each headset, to make the device wider, but thinner. And then make the ends clip together. Need additional reach? add a piece, just like watches with metal bands. Taper the edges so clothing wouldn’t catch on it so easily- although I think the material itself is the issue.
I look at it now on my wrist and it looks like a v1.0 product from a Kickstarter campaign. Design for the sake of design, as opposed to form following function and need. I compare this to the Nike Fuel band and I see where Nike’s expertise in the field comes in to play. The Fuel is smoother, sleeker, it clips closed AND it has a display.
So I continue to track activity & food, but my enthusiasm for the process is waning because the return I get for my efforts is not as great as I was hoping. Aside from the idle time reminder, I’m looking for a more results oriented solution. Because, in the end, it’s not about the process of tracking everything, it’s about the results.