My experiences of using a Jawbone UP2

Years ago, I got involved in one of those workplace campaigns to see which department did the most steps and it mainly involved wearing an annoying little pedometer.  As someone who doesn’t drive and co-ordinates events on a fairly regular basis, I was pretty interested to work out how many steps I do – both on event days and not. 

It feels like there’s been a bit of an explosion in wearable tech, particularly in trackers measuring steps and sleep, as well as others doing things a bit snazzier (like heart rate).  And I love a good graph with data, so at the end of January, I decided it was time to get myself and a friend recommended the Jawbone UP2.

Wearing my Jawbone

I did a little research and the web seemed pretty convinced that for the price the Jawbone UP2 was a pretty good deal.  I wasn’t sold on the strap, which looked a bit fiddly, although I didn’t get it caught nearly as much as some of the reviewers suggested.  Also, is it just me or does most wearable tech just look a bit ugly?  The Jawbone is less blocky than some other popular wearables, but still isn’t the nicest thing; I’m hoping as their popularity increases, manufacturers will more inclined to make something less functional and something more appealing.

The Jawbone Up2 lasted a week, if not a little longer – which I think tended to be on weeks when I didn’t sync with the app as much.  To me this is a major bonus as I could charge the Jawbone once a week on a Sunday whilst watching Netflix and not feel bad for not moving.  The USB charging cable wasn’t my favourite; it’s small, wasn’t overly helpful if charging from a desktop and the magnetic element is helpful, but you have to remember to get it the right way round – thankfully the flashing lights tell you if it’s charging.

Sing me to Sleep

IMG_5557As someone that has suffered from sleep problems for over a decade, the sleep tracker was something I was really interested in.  I’ve previously tried one of those apps where you leave your phone under your pillow so the tooth fairy can leave you a graph to tell you how well (or not) you slept – and frankly I found it a bit crap. 

After three months of using the Jawbone UP2’s I was impressed by how well it seemed to pick up on my sleep habits; on mornings I’d woken up feeling like I’d had a rubbish night’s sleep, the Jawbone seemed to agree.  And as someone who fidgets a lot, even asleep, the Jawbone did a good job of recognising what was me moving around during my 40 winks and what was me being awake.  It also did a fairly good job of knowing when I woke up, hit the snooze button and went back to sleep for a few more minutes.  It also does this automatically, so there’s no need to tell it when you’re going to bed and worrying how long it’ll take you to fall asleep, which I thought was a major bonus.

Steppin’ Out

There’s a lot out about how accurate wearable tech is, given that most rely on a accelerometer, and frankly those guys did more research and testing than I’d done – the most I did was try and see what my iPhone and Jawbone UP2 thought about the steps and I don’t know enough to know which was more likely. But it seemed fairly alright as a general guide.

The UP2 app also allows you to track bursts of activity – and is responsive enough that it will often prompt you to do so if it thinks you’ve been doing something energetic.  Apparently if I’m on a bit of a mission, my Saturday morning power walks to the bakery would count.  As there’s no heart rate monitor it asks you to decide the intensity of the exercise, which I struggled a bit with, as there’s no guide so deciding whether a hilly hike is harder work than a faster walk is up to you.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 22.36.14I Get By With A Little Help

In hind sight I should probably have looked at using the tracker to monitor my longer walks, but some of the reviews I’d read suggested that they weren’t too keen on if you stopped – although I didn’t find this on my walks to and from the bakery.  I tended to use Map My Walk for longer walks (5+ miles) and the app integrated well with the Jawbone UP2’s.  Actually, there were a few apps that I ended up syncing with it, including the Apple Health app and My Fitness Pal (although I was less good at remembering to use that).  Having had a look, Jawbone also created a bunch of other apps and I quite liked the one to measure caffeine too, although it was annoyingly geared towards the US market and measuring drinks wasn’t as easy.

Can’t Keep Checking My Phone

IMG_5672The Jawbone UP2 app itself was simple and easy to use, and I liked the interface which gave you the details simply – and that celebratory pattern on the step/sleep bar if you’d hit your targets was a nice touch.  I didn’t find the food tracker particularly helpful, and so when I did use this I found it far easier to use My Fitness Pal, which had a lot more UK foods and generally felt a bit easier to use.

Smart Coach, one of the things Jawbone seems to pride itself on, was for the most part pretty good.  There were a few things that made me go “hmm” a little, mainly ones on mental health and physical beauty, but for the most part it was encouraging and gave some nice little snippets of trivia.  Although it was really very excitable and (over) enthusiastic, something which I suspect works a little better in the US market than the UK one, but I did enjoy that for the most part it didn’t feel judgemental if you missed your target, rather than supportive – and gave you the option to choose your own targets to begin with.

Generally though, it was the weekly insights, which I also had on an email, that I was interested the most; these told you how you’d slept and stepped compared to the previous weeks.  Whilst you could see a how you were doing daily, I enjoyed seeing the weekly compare and contrast.

So in conclusion have I made my decisions clear

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 20.15.10Aesthetics aside, for three months I really enjoyed the insights and the reminders to get myself moving more.  The Jawbone UP2 for the price is a nifty little gadget and seemed to work well.  However, one thing I have to mention is that just over three months of daily wearing, the strap seemed to inexplicably brake and dropped off my wrist with no warning.  And whilst the tech bit worked fine, the wearable element was redundant and sadly had to be taken back.  Having had a look online, this seems to be a reoccurring problem (at least from photos on Amazon) and I’m hoping that the lack of stock in store means that Jawbone are looking to resolve its problem. 

Sadly for me though, it means I was unable to replace my Jawbone and have gone for another make of wearable tracker, so will review in due course.

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