Eating, Sleeping, Walking Health: The Jawbone UP24
Physical design and digital integration features make the Jawbone UP24 a solid choice for a fitness tracker
Healthy actions don’t always come naturally in the 21st century, with long hours and quick, unhealthy food readily available. Fitness trackers like Jawbone's UP24 are powerful in their ability to quantify and monitor areas of your life that so easily go unnoticed.
During set-up, the UP24 prompts daily goals for movement and sleep, and a starting weight and height, used to calculate BMI and determine an ideal weight range. Body fat percentage can also be recorded in the companion app, which can combat the inaccuracies of BMI: for example, I currently weigh 94kg with 23.3% body fat, and according to the UP24's BMI calculations, I should weigh at most 77kg, which is pretty low for my height and build. The weaknesses of BMI aren't exactly the UP24’s fault, but it’s worth noting when you set your goals.
The band tracks how many steps you've taken, how long you sleep, how well you sleep, and if you choose to tell it, how healthily you're eating. It comes in a variety of different sizes, with a choice of either black or a dusty orange colour. It's water-resistant but not waterproof, so no bathing or swimming. Hypoallergenic TPU rubber means the band feels comfortable against the skin. It's also very light; I actually started to notice the weight of my watch more than the UP24. The band itself coils around your wrist, and while it never feels like it’s going to fall off during vigorous exercise, it does have a habit of getting snagged on clothes.
Unlike some other trackers, the band doesn't have a display: all data is presented via automatic Bluetooth sync with the smartphone-based companion app, which is both a good and bad thing. While it’s pretty easy to access your data and ideal not to have to remember to sync, it would be nice if you could see all that glorious information through a webpage, too. More importantly, it rules out people who don’t have a compatible smartphone. The band is charged via USB, connecting to a 2.5mm headphone jack, and gets around seven days of battery life. It's a shame you can't plug it into a standard 3.5mm smartphone headphone jack to give it a bit of juice, but it does charge pretty quickly if you pair it with a USB AC adapter, which was my preferred option.
The UP24 is wonderfully minimalistic and features just one button, which is pressed once to set either Active or Sleep mode. To track a specific activity, Stopwatch Mode is reached via another combination of button presses. In terms of its tracking ability, the UP24 is pretty accurate: after manually counting our steps and comparing it to what the UP24 had recorded, it was only a few steps out. You can further improve the accuracy of the band by calibrating it to match your stride.
It also does a fine job at tracking sleep. It accurately recorded the number of midnight awakenings, and nights with more deep sleep recorded definitely matched the next day's lower levels of fatigue. If you do happen to forget to put the band into Sleep Mode, you can tell it in the morning how many hours of sleep you got, and the band will retroactively try to estimate your sleep pattern. It also assists with power naps: it’ll analyse your movement as you sleep and calculate an optimal nap lasting between 27 and 45 minutes, after which it’ll wake you up by vibrating gently.
The UP24 loves notifications. Upon waking you’ll be given a summary of how well you slept, while push notifications update you throughout the day to provide motivational prods as to how much progress you’re making towards your daily goals. “Today I Will” challenges give you additional tasks to strive for, whether that’s a certain number of steps, drinking a certain amount of water, or getting a certain amount of sleep. The app doesn’t do a tremendous amount of data personalisation at the moment: it gives you the data, but doesn't tell you what you personally need to do to improve your health. The ‘Trends’ section in the companion app does help you examine your data over days, weeks and months though, which is useful when you’re trying to pick out recurring themes. If you’re not a deep data person, you’ll be able to get on fine with simply setting your goals and just trying to meet them.
Other rather nice options include Idle Alert, which will vibrate your wrist once you sat still for too long (great for those who never move at work) and Smart Alarm, which works in conjunction with sleep tracking to wake you up during a period of light sleep up to 30 minutes before your alarm is set to go off. The idea is not only to wake up feeling less groggy than if you’ve been woken from deep sleep, but also to wake up you with vibration so that you don't disturb anyone sleeping next to you. A fantastic little feature is the Team area, which lets friends using the UP or UP24 to see each other's progress on their goals. The competition is surprisingly effective motivation – do you really want to sit on the sofa all day when it’s there for all your teammates to see?
One of the few weaknesses of the UP24 is the companion app. Because the device is so reliant on the app, if the app doesn't work properly, you’ve got yourself a very expensive bangle. Problems emerge with any manually entered data, especially with the food-tracking section, which is poorly implemented with an incredibly counter-intuitive user experience. Luckily, you can integrate MyFitnessPal, which makes things so much easier.While it’s a decent workaround, the UP app only imports top-line information such as calories consumed from MyFitnessPal, not recording what you've actually eaten.
Other integration features or more thoroughly implemented. The UP app can access other services like Withings’ Wifi/Bluetooth scales, RunKeeper, and most interestingly 'If This Then That' (IFTTT), which turns your band into a thing of immense power. Imagine waking up to your Smart Alarm, and as you bring the band out of Sleep Mode, it triggers a rule in IFTTT that switches on your lamp across the room lit with a Philips Hue bulb, all while your Nest is firing up the boiler for your morning shower. The only thing that's missing from this picture is the hoverboard.
All in all, the Jawbone UP24 is a fantastic piece of wearable tech, even despite the aforementioned issues with the companion app. While Apple are trying to make inroads into the health/wearable tech arena with the recently announced Apple Watch, I’d far prefer to go to the gym wearing the durable UP24 rather than a £220+ shiny smartwatch. If you want to make positive changes to your life, the UP24 could make all the difference.