Jawbone UP – valuable or expensive gimmick?

jawbone-upThe next big thing in tech is wearable technology. And the fitness industry is a prime candidate for accessories that can be used to augment your journey. One such tool is the Jawbone UP. At a recommended price of $150AUD, this bracelet collects data about your movement while awake and asleep. But the real magic isn’t the bracelet but the free app that supports it.

The Hardware

The Jawbone UP bracelet is the secret sauce. JawboneUP-teardownThe main components are the motion sensor and a battery. Jawbone suggests that the battery will keep the device going for about 10 days. In practice, it gets close but I’d suggest that seven or eight days is more realistic.

Charging is via a USB connector and requires a computer or USB power supply. The same connector that is used for charging is used for syncing to your iOS or Android device. Syncing is achieved by connecting the UP to the 3.5mm headphone port. It can store up to nine months of movement and sleep data.

The movement sensor collects data and runs it through a proprietary algorithm. For example, by monitoring your movement while asleep, the UP can determine whether you’re in deep or light sleep.

A common complaint in the iOS App Store is that the UP stopped functioning after the recent iOS 7 update. This is because the UP app needs to be given access to the port via iOS’s preferences. Just go to Settings | Privacy | Microphone and give the UP application the right access.

The sync and charge connector is covered with a cap. Our only grip is that it can be easily lost so we suggest not syncing the UP unless you’re in a location where a dropped cap can be easily recovered.

The Software

In my view, the UP application is the key. jawbone-up-app

As well as allowing you to sync the data that the UP bracelet collects, the application allows you enter your meals by using an extensive library. It can also read barcodes from labels. We tried it with several items and while the hit-rate wasn’t 100% it was useful.

Entering meals was easy and we could add new items to the library with all the nutritional information we could get from the packaging.

Jawbone has done lots of work integrating their application with other online fitness services. For example, if you MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, Strave, Sleepio or a number of other popular health and fitness apps, you can have your data sent from those apps into the UP app so you have a single view of all your activity and nutrition.

You can also see information from other UP users that you have as friends. The UP application can look for other UP users among your social media contacts so you can, in theory, encourage each other.

In the Real World

After a couple of weeks, we’re kind of addicted to the UP.

Like some critics, we did find the UP bracelet a little bulky initially. But we grew accustomed to it and it now feels weird to not have it on – much like when you forget your mobile phone or watch.

There are times when the bracelet gets caught on clothes. As the bracelet is an open loop, there’s always a chance that it will catch as you pull a jacket or jumper on. This caused it to come off on one occasion.

The one button on the end of the bracelet is easy to press for toggling between sleep and awake mode. I had it set with a reminder to get up and move if we’d been sitting for more than hour but turned that off as I rarely sit for an hour unless I really need to get work done.

Entering meals is reasonably easy however, there’s no way to save “standard” meals. For example, I eat the same things for breakfast most mornings – two Weet Bix, some yoghurt, low-fat milk and fruit. However, I have to enter full list each time. Also, there’s no way to create a list of favourite foods.

One of things I would really like to see – and this is a criticism of many data-driven fitness services – is the ability to do my own analysis. For example, I’d like to correlate my weight, calories in and calories out over a three month period. But there’s no way to do that. It would be helpful for the UP to give me access to its data in a manageable form.

One of the benefits of deivces such as the UP is that the act of monitoring your food and exercise leads to grater awareness and, therefore, motivation to exercise regularly and eat sensibly. There’s research that supports this.


The Jawbone UP is an interesting device. The hardware is a combination of technology and fashion. But the real magic comes from the app that would be handy even without the bracelet.

The lack of serious analysis tools is a shortcoming of the entire fitness data industry but it would be nice if the UP bucked this trend.

Would I recommend the Jawbone UP? I’d suggest that anyone serious about monitoring their health could do the same with a $5 pedometer, a free app like MapMyRun and a food diary. But having it all in one place is useful and the connections with other popular apps is great.

Pros Great app

Cons Bulky

Cost $149AUD or $129USD

Score 7/10

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  1. Pingback: Jawbone UP – Nine Months Later | Run and Lift

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