The UP is a fitness band that tracks your activity (steps, calories burned, food eaten, and minutes slept).

The idea is that, on your wrist, it’ll remind you to treat yourself better. But you can’t see anything about your activity from the band itself.

For that information, you’ll need to use the iPhone app. Here’s a shot of my sleep patterns from an evening. (The short bars are times I woke. The longer are deep sleep.)

You can see your activity (including sleeping and meals if you add them) in a Twitter-like feed.

The experience is familiar to anyone who’s used social networks, so why not just copy all this info over to a social network, and allow me to view it from Facebook (through private wall posts)?

Another option allows you to view your Lifeline, which puts it all into a big activity graph.

The activity screens are info-rich. While Nike rounds down activity to one core number for simplicity, UP does the opposite, giving you everything a fitness-oriented person could want. Sometimes it’s overwhelming, and it leads to an option-burdened design. But resting vs. active calorie burn is particularly nice.

Another option is the Trends section. You can see how your activity/sleep has played out over days, weeks, or months.

The food section requires a lot of user input. It’s work that can’t really be automated yet, unfortunately. One thing Jawbone has done is add popular meal options to make some items easier to find.

Again, this food section goes pretty deep, allowing you to customize portions (and nutrition info) with precision. It’s too deep to be casual, frankly, meaning I see UP more as a weight-loss device than an active lifestyle device, if that makes sense.

Co.Design

Jawbone UP 2.0: Ambitious, Beautiful, And Still Fatally Flawed

Jawbone’s rereleased UP is an incredible device, but it’s lacking the very element that Nike’s Fuelband nails.

The Jawbone UP fitness band was released in late 2011. It was a 24/7 fitness device to track activity, sleep, and even your diet. It could have been gadget of the year. Instead, it was pulled from the market within a month due to its fragility. Now re-engineered with 3 million hours of field testing under its belt, the Jawbone UP returns to the market. But the world had changed in its absence. The Nike+ Fuelband happened.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been wearing UP everywhere I go: A wedding. A funeral. A road trip. A Thanksgiving feast. A few visits to the gym and more than one couch-laden gaming marathon. And what I’ve found is that UP is a far more ambitious device than the Fuelband, but it gets one crucial design detail—the most important detail, in fact—wrong.

It’s All About The Feedback

UP is a tasteful, tire-like band that sits on your wrist. And while it may serve as a mnemonic device to remind you to exercise more or eat better, it’s, at the end of the day, ostensibly a chunk of dead rubber hanging on your person.

When I click a button on my Fuelband, I instantly see one number that summarizes my activity. To do the same thing on UP, I need to remove a cap on the band, plug it into my iPhone via the headphone jack (an ingenious if flawed idea), sync it with the app, then scroll through that app to find out how I’m doing. Maybe that workflow sounds petty, but in practice, it’s a pocket digging, don’t-drop-that-cap, repetitious labor that deters you from checking in on your health.

I understand why Jawbone made this design decision; they want you to interact with your powerful phone, not the wattage-sipping band. Their app, which feels just as approachable as Twitter and as potentially overwhelming as Facebook, enables all sorts of complex, personalized data analysis that’s so much deeper than the Fuelband. I can check how long I was in deep vs. light sleep last night. I can enter what I’ve eaten today to see the grams of fiber I’ve consumed. I can view, not just the calories I’ve burned, but how many of those calories were from my resting rate vs. activity. And I can even see my activity and sleep trends over days, months, or a year.

UP digs deep, but in doing so, it forgoes the superficial instant-gratification that I need. More and more over the last few weeks, I’ve asked myself, why is UP a wristband in the first place? What is it doing to earn a place on my body? Certainly, UP reminds me all the time to be healthy. But it also snags in the sleeve every time I put on my jacket, and it’s a touch too casual for a suit. A FitBit would hide in my pocket.

It’s A Version Away From Greatness

However, the thrilling part about UP is that it’s so close to being so much better. Undoubtedly, the engineers at Jawbone have a Bluetooth-enabled version running in lab somewhere. And assuming they get the battery situation figured out, this version could be in constant contact with your phone, not only removing the whole plug scenario, but enabling push notifications and other real-time second-screen content.

The app is already doing some smart things that would marry perfectly with real-time notifications. Jawbone hired writers that teamed up with data analysts to pen actionable tips. For instance, if you’ve consumed a lot of calories in a day and not had much activity, the app may actually advise you to go for a walk after dinner.

My experience with these tips was admittedly less helpful (being advised to get more sleep when you wake up tired is just salt in the wound), but the potential is undeniable. Whereas Nike simplified activity to one abstract number, Jawbone could go a step further: Jawbone could simplify your activity to what you should be doing, right now. It’d be big data mixed with casual, constant personal training.

So Should You Buy It?

For what it’s worth, I’m wearing UP right now while my trusty Fuelband sits on my desk, looking sad. I’m still smitten by the Fuelband’s display, but without a clasp, UP is more comfortable to type with, and wearing two bands at once just feels silly. In their current incarnations, I consider the Fuelband a lifestyle device (promoting that you go out and live your life) and UP a health device (asking that you take a good deal of time every day to record your diet and focus on the complex relationships of food, exercise, and happiness). The Fuelband is certainly better realized, but UP is far more ambitious.

UP is available now for $129.

Read more about our impressions of the original UP here, and the updates Jawbone has made here.

Buy it here.

Add New Comment

15 Comments

  • Jason

    Why is there no date on this article? Cool fancy site design, but please don't forget the basics!

  • Klsbaird

    I completely agree. It's in the right sidebar but it gets a little lost over there.

  • shyam131

    I found the real flaw of the Jawbone Up to be its estimate of calories burned.  You can see a comparison of the the Jawbone to the Fibit and Nike Fuelband here: http://getgrok.in/142S17c  

    I still think the two best activity monitors are the Fitbit and the Jawbone Up.

  • carlosecpf

    Fatally flawed? I think you were very harsh to this awesome device. Sure, there is on key flaw in this new incarnation of UP (ie no wireless syncing), but it is for the sake of battery life. I would take that trade-off any day over the power hungry Fuelband.

  • Sophie Prescott

    you want huge flaws?

    Still no Android app! These days, you're losing a ton of customers that way. derp.

  • Stephane Berghmans

    The jawbone resembles the nike+ plus sensor. It also does not give feedback unless it's communicating with your iPod or iPhone. I use it all the time. The fact that it requires some handling before I can see my performance and dashboard does not bother me. Putting in the extra work sort of becomes a ritual.

  • Leonard James

    Bluetooth synching sounds great, but understandably is an energy hog.  So as a compromise, why not go with NFC?  Oh, forgot....Apple doesn't do that!  But seriously, there are tons of Android phones out there and NFC is starting to blossom.  It could be really low power and although it wouldn't continuously communicate with the phone, it takes only a moment to bump your phone to the bracelet and sync the data.  Another option would be bluetooth that activates hourly to transmit data. That would take the user out of the equation and still provide timely feedback.

  • Aaronpo76

    I'm curious to see how the new larklife band will compare/compete with nike+ fuelband and the jawbone up. It sounds like the promise of larklife is combining the innovation of the fuelband - improving on the health/coaching aspect - and its bluetooth smart so no need to 'plug' into your iphone. Interesting that jawbone re-released the up without improving the user experience. 

  • David Shiba

    For those of us who have owned one, two or more Fitbits, the fatal flaw with this product is that it is so easy to lose or destroy.  Death by Washer.  Sound familiar?

    That's what makes me so hopeful for the UP!  Once they move to bluetooth synching, I think they will have created a darn good solution.  I'm used to reaching for my phone to check my steps with Runkeeper or iSmoothRun.  That's not a problem.  What is a flaw - though hardly fatal - is the lack of immediate feedback.

  • Peter

    The thing dissuades me from the fuelband is the design... The fuelband looks like a piece of gadgetry whereas the UP is subtle and sculptural. I don't really like the idea of my wrist lighting up and displaying information.
    My phone is already out all the time so I don't feel that using an app rather than my wristband would really be a chore. 
    Also, I'll admit the earnestness of the Jawbone people got to me... They really seem invested in their product and believe in its greatness.

  • Axforney

    This is what you guys need to be doing when you offer products: analysis. Thank you. Very informative.

  • memanelski

    Really impressed with this device and excited for v2.0. I went directly from this site to Jawbone to order one for my wife for Christmas. Im my mind the major flaw is the software compatibility. I would have expected v2 to get off the iOS bandwagon and support Android and others.