Shane BarnhillThursday,27 December 2012

The Snap:

Jawbone recently released the second version of its UP fitness band. The new version comes almost one year after the disastrous launch of its first-generation UP in late 2011, which saw Jawbone offer refunds to all customers due to massive failures of the product. I remember that debacle well; the Jawbone UP was target #1 on my 2011 Christmas wish list. With a late November release of the new version, the fitness product again became my most-desired tech gadget. Fortunately, Santa was good to me this year, and I unwrapped a new UP on Christmas day. I’m lucky Santa even bothered, though, because he (well actually, she), nearly pulled his her freaking hair out while Jawbone promoted a rainbow of colors for the UP while only offering black, mint green and light blue for sale online (I had asked for red).

(Editor’s note: This is a bit of a longish post for this blog, so here is the tl;dr version of the report card below: Unboxing: D-. Set Up: A-. Comfort: B+. Software: A. Social: C. Functionality: A.)

The Download:

Despite my gift-giver’s frustration with buying the UP, I’m happy to report that my initial impressions of the product are actually quite good. The UP is easy to set up, comfortable to wear, and features a well-designed, handsome app. But will the UP actually help me to become healthier and more active? Read on to find out, and note that I’ve covered the UP from several angles, and each one includes a 140-character-or-less tweetable snippet (You know, in case you want to tweet them. Hint, hint.).

Unboxing: Now granted, I struggle with buttons, zippers, and many other things that require fine motor skills (What the hell did my mom consume while I was in the womb, anyway?), but the unboxing process was way harder than it needed to be. The UP was encased in hard plastic, with an attached black box directly underneath, and it was difficult to get to the actual device inside. You really shouldn’t make it hard for new customers to get highly-coveted gadgets into their hot little hands, but Jawbone made me work for it. Tweet version: “Unboxing a Jawbone UP = a pain in the ass (unlike unboxing an iDevice!). Tough to get the UP out of its plastic case:”

Set Up: Fortunately, the UP was extremely easy to set up. I misplaced whatever directions were inside the UP’s box as I ripped and cracked it to pieces, but no instructions were necessary. I simply downloaded the Jawbone UP app, plugged the band into my iPhone’s headphone jack, and tapped through an easy registration process. The app’s set up screens were delightfully simple, and I was up and running (literally) in minutes. I probably would have figured out that I could right-swipe and left-swipe to view the app’s features on my own, but I didn’t have to. The app’s simple tutorial walked me through the advanced features without TMI. Tweet version: “Downloaded the Jawbone UP app, which has dead-simple guidance. Plugged it my iPhone, then registration was a snap:”

Comfort: I forgot about the UP shortly after putting it on. In that way, it’s much different than wearing a wristwatch for the first time. The device is light and just tight enough to fit snugly without sliding around too much. My only complaint — and I’m reaching here — is that while typing on a computer keyboard, the metal ends of the UP tap conspicuously on the underlying surface (in my case, a kitchen table). I overcame this mild annoyance by rotating the UP so that the metal ends were facing upward, leaving only the rubber body underneath. And voilà — No more tapping. Tweet version: “Jawbone UP: Comfortable, almost like bedroom slippers for your wrist. Tech-hipster jewelry with health benefits:”

Software: I’m an app junkie, with more apps on my phone and tablets (yes, plural — I’m a gadget junkie too) than I’d care to admit. Because of this, it’s rare now that actually react verbally (out loud) to an app when I use it for the first time. Path did it to me. The new Gmail for iOS did too. And yes, the UP app did (“Ooooh, sexy” were the words, BTW). With bold use of color, a timeline-like main screen, and left- and right-swipe options, the app nails both simplicity and beauty. And that’s remarkable, really, because there is so much functionality in the device, that the app could easily be overwhelming if it wasn’t so well-designed. Tweet version: “The Jawbone UP app: Beautiful, simple, feature-rich. Certainly doesn’t hurt the whole ‘staying healthy’ thing:”

Social: I’ll give credit to Jawbone for its attempt to create a social network to connect UP owners and allow them to encourage each other to stay healthy. Within the UP app, you can connect with other UP owners by scanning your Facebook and mobile phone contacts, and then adding them to your UP “Team.” You can see whatever data your teammates’ choose to share with you, such as sleep and activity levels, and then comment on these items. This is fine, but it’s damn near impossible to create a derivative social network these days, and I’m not convinced I’ll use the social functionality all that much. I’d probably be much more interested if Jawbone could connect me with my Twitter friends. I’m not sure if this is Jawbone’s fault, really, or whether it’s due to Twitter’s unfriendliness, but it sucks. Twitter connections are usually much more interesting, at least for me. Tweet version: “Jawbone UP allows you to create your own ‘Team’ (a fitness social network). But no Twitter connectivity = #fail:”

Functionality: Oh yeah… I almost forgot to cover the UP’s actual features, given my oooh’ing and aaah’ing over its comfort, design and software. In a nutshell: it’s feature-rich. The UP band tracks your sleep, your food intake, and your exercise/activity levels.

To me, the sleep tracking functionality is by far the most interesting. You can set an “alarm” within the UP’s app, and the band will vibrate silently to wake you from your overnight slumber. But the cool part is that the UP band tracks your sleep patterns, and will rouse you at your desired wake-up time, or within a half-hour window earlier, based on when you’re sleeping more lightly than soundly. Supposedly, this helps you to wake up feeling more refreshed, even if it means sacrificing a few minutes of sleep.

Tracking your food intake seems like a pain in the neck, and thus, I haven’t tested it. You can scan barcodes or enter foods manually, but meh. I don’t intend to do either. Way too much work.

On the activity end, the UP band tracks your steps, and also allows you to manually enter workouts. It’s simple to use. My only complaint, however, is that I feel like I’m slowly being conditioned to accept 10,000 steps per day as a “good” level of activity, because I’ve set that as a goal. 10,000 steps just means I haven’t been sitting on my ass reading all day. It’s certainly not indicative of a healthy level of activity.

Anyway, the Jawbone UP is packed with features. You can choose which to use, and which to ignore. Tweet version: “The Jawbone UP has tons of features, though I doubt you’ll use them all:”

The Overall Report Card: I have to say, I’m thrilled with this device. I like being able to set the UP to vibrate when it detects that I’ve been inactive for too long. Plus, it’s comfortable, provides a great mobile app experience, and thus far is motivating me to stay active. Here’s the overall report card, which I’ll update in the future (with a new post) if my experience changes:

Unboxing: D-. Set Up: A-. Comfort: B+. Software: A. Social: C. Functionality: A.

Hat Tips:

The Verge, Engadget, The New York Times


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