December 12, 2011
Up by Jawbone

As Loyal Cruft Readers have noticed, I've been on an exercise kick for a few years now. Combine that with being a geek, it's no surprise that I wanted to try out the Jawbone Up. The Up is a new fitness device that tries to combine a simple way to monitor your health with a data recorder that fits easily into your life.

Issues with the hardware failing are in the news. Mine hasn't failed, so I won't go into it. Mat at Gizmodo is keeping track of it well.

The basic idea fits in nicely with my wife's trifecta of health philosophy. For those unaware:

Trifecta of Health = Exercise daily, eat good food, get plenty of sleep.

You need to do all three to have a healthy lifestyle.

The Up takes on all three of these to some degree.

The Up is a rubberized bracelet with electronics hidden inside. There is a buzzer inside you can feel, a single button, and a couple lights that explain what state the Up is in. Fairly comfortable to wear, the only drawback is the cap over the plug, which can get lost. I lost mine this weekend, some time during the Christmas tree purchasing/transport/home placement process.

The Up app loads onto an iPhone and is easily synced with the bracelet.

To use the Up, you don't do a lot. You tell it when you go to sleep and wake up, when you are going to exercise, and that's about it. Sync it, and this is what you see in the app.

The app tracks your sleep, your steps/exercise, and your eating. I gave up on tracking eating once I realized that all it did was allow you to take pictures of your meals.

Here's the exercise detail. The red section was my run during the day. Up says I did over 8 miles while my Garmin GPS watch says I did just over 6.

The Up doesn't have the concept of cycling, swimming, or many other sports, so everything looks like walking to it.

To me, the most interesting this about the Up was the sleep monitoring. You can see the graph of my sleep habits. On other nights when I wake up to pee or something, you can see when I'm up walking around. The Up will also act as an alarm clock and buzz when you are out of deep sleep in the time period you specific to wake. I had never looked at my sleep patterns before and find it pretty cool.

Overall the idea is great. The more aware you are of your eating, exercise, and sleeping, the more you will work on improving it. This is good stuff.

Should you buy it? Yes and No.

If you already exercise regularly and track you data "quantified self" style, you will find the Up lacking in many ways. It doesn't compare to Garmin Connect, Strava, Runkeeper, or any of the data heavy exercise tracking systems.

If you are seriously trying to lose weight and keep a food diary like with Daily Plate, the Up doesn't compare.

But, if you don't exercise, feel crappy, eat junk, stay up till the wee hours, and need some motivation, the Up is PERFECT for you. It's just enough motivation to get you moving forward to a healthier life.

Will I keep using mine? Probably not. I'm not the target market. I already track my heart rate, cadence, performance, and location in nauseating detail.

I hope Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman keeps this moving forward and that this is just version 1.0 with more to come. I'd love to see it mashed up with Daily Plate and accept Garmin TCX files to make it more attractive to people that are already data oriented. Finding a way to exchange the data with other sites would be great. Maybe something similar to the Runkeeper Health graph. I wouldn't be surprised if the Jawbone labs have a version with a one line, pager style LCD to show messages as they prepare for v.2.

Once they get serious about the team system, the Up should shine with people for looking for that extra moral support ala Health Month. So far, the social aspect isn't tapped very well, but that will change over time.

So many opportunities here to help with healthy diets, remembering to take medicine, get up from the desk, taking time to call a friend, and other positive actions. Imagine running your own apps on the Up like the Jambox or Jambone allow. I've got a million ideas, so if you're reading this Hosain, feel free to give me a ring.

I applaud Jawbone's effort and urge everyone to remember this is just the start, don't expect perfection. Bravery and courage are required to step out of the comfort zone of phone accessories and into the competitive zone of fitness.

Posted by michael at December 12, 2011 01:21 PM