If you are not using a gadget to in some way track your health or wellbeing, or perhaps to help you with a diet or exercise – you will very soon be in the minority. Health and fitness is a booming sector in the world of technology and the wearable technology that enables all these things is today’s fashion and tomorrow’s better living. We’ve been road testing the Jawbone Up for the last few weeks and it’s pretty darn impressive.
Jawbone’s idea with the “Up” is an arm-band that you will wear it all the time and allow it to track your every waking and sleeping moment. The device itself will track your steps and your sleep movements and even wake you up in the morning, while the associated app for your iPhone allows you to enter your dietary intake and moods along the way.
Lets look first at the data the armband can’t detect. What you eat and how you’re feeling. In the Up app you can enter your food and drink consumption manually by searching for the item and adding it to your daily dietary intake. This allows you to track calorie intake which when trying to shed some kilos is your best bet when combined with regular exercise.
You’ve got to really want to know your food intake to go this far, for my mind it was a fun feature but without regular prompts or a simple way to enter the data it became more of a chore than a benefit
All seeing – all knowing arm band
This is where the Up really hits its straps, forget the app for a moment. This flexible curved armband clips around your wrist in one of three sizes to suit your wrist. It has just three key components. The button, the indicators and the plug.
The single square button on one end of the armband allows you to switch the armband from day-mode into night mode, and through some nifty modes like workout tracking and power nap mode.
The indicator lights let you know if you are in day-mode, night-mode or if your battery is running low – with 10 days from a full charge you basically need to remember to plug the Up band in to charge each week to be sure you’re not left stranded.
During the day the precision motion sensor is tracking your movement, allowing you to see on a day-to-day basis how many steps you take and how far you walk. Sure any basic pedometer can do that, the difference with the Jawbone Up is that it keeps track of this on a day-to-day basis, and can also show your movement in a chart showing not just a total number but the movement across each individual day.
You could essentially go days and days without plugging the Up band into your phone and when you do you will get your day by day stats at a glance.
On the other end of the Up band is a cover which when removed exposes a simple 3.5mm jack which you’d normally see on headphones. Plug the Up into your iPhone using this jack and the data stored on board will be transferred into the Up app.
Does it look ok?
I’ve been rocking a light blue Jawbone Up arm-band. My kids on day-one told me they liked my new “bracelet” – not a great start. More than anything wearing an arm-band like this does attract conversation. Especially if like me you’re normally only wearing a watch. Overall I think it looks great, it’s pretty neutral in design and comes in multiple colours so you should find one for you.
I found it uncomfortable to wear on my right arm while my watch is on the left. Perhaps I’m used to my watch now so I don’t notice it when typing, but with the Up armband on the right wrist I felt out of place. So, I chose to wear the Up on the same wrist as my watch – just felt natural that way. The only problem was when I wasn’t wearing a watch I’d glance at the Up arm-band for the time.
It’s extremely durable and waterproof – designed and tested ready to be worn at all times, including in the shower. Again, that just felt abnormal to me, so it comes off at shower time.
Can it really help?
The thing about wellbeing is that you need to want to improve your habits. I’ve been using an app called “Sleep Cycle” for several years – sitting my phone on the bed and tracking my sleep movements. Over the 300+ nights I’ve been using it I’ve improved not only the quality of my sleep but also the amount of sleep I’m getting. The Jawbone Up does just the same, but 24/7.
You set a sleep target (hours) and a step target per day and you will find yourself annoyed if you miss the targets and just a little stoked when you break through the targets.
With social being the way of the world you can create a network of friends to share your data with and effectively compete together and share motivation.
The killer-app for my mind is the vibrating wake-up. Just like my “sleep cycle” app, the Jawbone Up is constantly monitoring your sleep, moving between awake, light sleep and deep sleep. The genius here is that you set your alarm time, and within say 30 mins of that time the Up band will wake you up by vibrating on your arm at a moment of light sleep. The idea being you don’t get woken up while in a deep sleep – unless of you hit your desired alarm time. All you do is set the alarm time (say 6am) and a duration before (say 30 mins) and the Up might wake you any time from 5.30 onward.
The combination of these things alone will ensure it has a positive effect on your overall wellbeing.
So – what’s the Upshot (intentional pun)
The Up app for iPhone is beautiful, a stunning user interface which matches the design effectiveness of the band itself. Entering all the things you eat and drink is tedious and frankly useful only for the total dietary narks. Once you get used to wearing the arm band itself the data will make you border on obsessed. Trying to reach and beat your daily targets as well as looking at when and how well you sleep will make you think twice about staying up for that one extra TV show.
If improving your sleep, getting a better alarm and understanding your daily movements is your thing, this is an easy win for you and at $149 it’s not too high of a price to pay.