Home Fit Gear Reviews Fitness Tracking Tools: 7 Days With The Jawbone Up, What’s Wrong With It?

Fitness Tracking Tools: 7 Days With The Jawbone Up, What’s Wrong With It?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

The Jawbone Up isn’t without its issues, or even its flaws. It’s also not without its complicated past.

The Up actually released about a year ago, and was considered revolutionary – er, as revolutionary as a nosy fitness gadget can be – in its kind. Jawbone, known for its bluetooth technology, was stepping way outside of its box and onto a path only tread by pedometers, which were coming pretty cheap at the time.

Reviews were originally great…until:

Jawbone is offering consumers who have problems a full refund, no questions asked, even if they choose to keep their $99 device. Or they can ask for a new device. Consumers can request their refund starting Dec. 9 here. People who received an UP as a gift will also be able to participate in the refund. As an alternative to the refund, Jawbone is also offering users credit toward a purchase of another Jawbone product.

The company said it will resume taking orders once the issues have been fixed. And it will continue to push out software updates.

The move is aimed at shoring up concerns about the UP wristband, which is helping highlight the growing interest in mobile health monitors. Jawbone has identified two specific capacitors in the power system that affects the ability of the band to hold a charge. They’ve also found a problem with syncing related to the band hardware.[source]

According to many different sources, Jawbone didn’t quite understand what people will do with a product when you tell them “Yes, you can take it everywhere!” So, when you tell them they can take it everywhere, they take it everywhere… like… the shower… where there’s soap… which caused many people’s wristbands to malfunction.

And, though it took them about a year to re-tool the band… they eventually got right down to it.

Spending a week with the Up was definitely interesting (you can catch those other two posts here and here), but I do have a few pointers I’d like to mention:

1) The Up, created by a company that specialized in Bluetooth technology, isn’t wireless. Though you aren’t syncing it hourly to figure out how many steps you’ve added or how many calories you’ve burned, there’s still at least twice a day that you’re de-capping the headphone jack, plugging it in, pressing sync, unplugging, and re-capping the headphone jack on the end of the band. (And yes, it’s stylish and cute, but heaven forbid you lose that little cap for the headphone jack. Ohh, good grief.)

2) The lack of a wireless connection means that the only time you can update the app with your data is when you’re syncing, and that means no real time updating. Those of us who have heart-rate monitors that we can look at, with tickers that tell us how many calories we’ve burned right down to the hours, minutes and seconds? We couldn’t get that same kind of satisfaction from the Up.

3) The charger. The charger for the Up is this weird little cord that is nonexchangeable with any other device. It doesn’t pull a charge from your mobile device while you’re syncing, so you can rid yourself of any fantasies of just leaving it on your desk and letting it charge instead of vibrating to remind you that you’ve been staring at Facebook (or your favorite fitness blog) for the past 30 minutes straight. You must connect it to the company’s own special little headphone-jack-receiver-to-USB cord (at least, I’ve never seen it before), and from there you must connect it to your computer. (I tried to connect it to my Apple USB-to-outlet cord, and it worked, though I was told you shouldn’t do that. Do as I say… not as I do.) In other words, much like the little cap, hell hath rain down upon you should you lose that cord.

4) The wristband, though it’s sensitive enough to be able to tell whether or not you’re walking or just swinging your arms like a jerk trying to cheat the system, it’s not able to give you credit for, say, time spent on a resistance bike, a spin class or even if you’re a big cyclist. Though it calculates your steps, there’s no way for it to give you credit for the intensity of those steps. Did you climb a hill, or are you walking flatland? Are you climbing stairs? While it seems like minimal nitpicking, you have to realize that the ability to measure intensity contributes to accurate calorie counts. This leads me to my last point…

5) This one is a huge one for me… but there’s no way that “calories burned” metric is accurate. Like, by no stretch of the imagination could that be accurate. To properly gauge how many calories a person burns throughout the day, you need two important figures that the Jawbone Up never asks you for: your body fat percentage, and your heart rate. Now, granted, when you input your activities for the day, the Jawbone asks you for your estimate of your level of intensity throughout the activity… but 1) we all know how notorious self-reporting is for its inaccuracy and 2) the Up estimates from your estimate what your heart rate might’ve been throughout the activity.

I actually tried to check the Up up against my trusty rusty heart rate monitor, and it fell short by a good 75 calories. That’s not, necessarily, a bad thing, but it signifies two key points: 1) people may overestimate or underestimate the intensity of their exercise, and 2) there’s a real problem when there’s no ability to simply input the actual calories burned as reported from a more reliable device. It’s almost as if the Up would have you going on believing no other device could exist that’d provide more accurate information. Not only do they exist, but they strap to your chest and show you your heart beat on the screen of your watch, buddy.

All things considered…would I still buy the Jawbone Up? You’ll have to check in tomorrow for that post! 🙂

 

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11 comments

Marylyn December 10, 2012 - 4:05 PM

Have you tried the Fitbit against the Jawbone…I wonder which is more accurate?! I would love to test the Jawbone.

Erika Nicole Kendall December 11, 2012 - 8:39 AM

I haven’t, but since the Fitbit isn’t a HRM either, I’d imagine it has the same problems. I’m interested in the Fitbit, only because I’m curious about the scale that you can purchase as an accessory to it – it apparently guesstimates your body fat percentage, which actually sounds kind of dope. I may give it a test run closer to the holidays, since I’m almost certain someone will be having a sale on it around that time, and I’m paying for this stuff out of my pocket. LOLOL

Leelee January 14, 2013 - 3:27 PM

I was interested in purchasing this, but I ended up going with the Body Media armband. (mainly because it was one of the few devices that actually works well with Android) I’m curious to see the next post on this. 🙂

Kory March 19, 2013 - 5:44 PM

It was annoying how biased this article was

Marylyn March 20, 2013 - 9:14 AM

I’m interested in your opinion. I’ve have been doing my research on the best Heart Rate Monitor. I currently use the Fitbit (not a HRM) everyday, regardless if I’m exercising but it has its limitations. I don’t believe in buying gadgets because of trends, I want something that will be beneficial to me even if I have to spend between $100 – $150 (on a serious budget). Which HRM would you recommend to your clients??!!

Erika Nicole Kendall March 20, 2013 - 10:22 PM
Tracie March 25, 2013 - 9:27 PM

I LIVE to get the Up2! Hubby ordered me one for my birthday (sure he’ll be tickled to find out that little fact). I’ve read a zillion reviews~I’m ready! Great review girly 🙂

Gabe H. July 9, 2013 - 1:10 PM

Thanks for the great review of this and the Jawbone UP, I needed a HRM and something to track my cycling distance and routes…your posts really helped me hone in on the device I need. Think I’m going with the RS300x and the G1 GPS.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 9, 2013 - 1:16 PM

You know what, I have a piece of equipment that I’m reviewing now that I think would work perfectly for you; Polar’s RCX5 with the GPS clip. This thing is a DREAM. Tracks distance beautifully, allows you to track intervals and laps, and even allows you to take stock of your average time as well as your individual lap/mile times. I’m in love with this thing for road work. You should check it out.

Jim August 15, 2013 - 4:28 PM

The charging cable is actually not unique to Jawbone. It is a TRRS to USB cable and runs about $10 from electronic supply stores. The reason to use TRRS vs. a micro-USB or other connector is that TRRS is the only USB variant that is (or can be made) completely waterproof. You’ll find it on some backcountry oriented electronic devices where adding a door or cover over a micro-USB connector wouldn’t be practical or rugged enough. Interesting enough the TRRS connector (the headphone jack on the UP) is usually engineered to be submersible to 6 feet for 30 minutes. It’s likely that Jawbone’s “don’t submerge” warning is simply extra protection against what happened to them with UP version 1.

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