Jawbone Up24 review

We've reviewed the Jawbone Up in its previous guises, so you may already be familiar with this fitness tracker and sleep monitor. The latest iteration is the Jawbone Up24, an updated product that works in greater detail than its predecessors.

Up24 works in three major ways. It helps you track your calorie intake, it monitors your sleep and counts activity. By doing this, its goal is to motivate you to constantly improve. Walk more, sleep for longer (but not too long) and eat a better diet.

Visually it's a pretty simple looking device: the wristband has one button and an LED to tells you when it's in sleep mode, but there's no display. Because of this, the battery life lasts about a full week per charge, which is pretty good considering how tiny a product it is.

We had a lot of love for the earlier Up models, so has our time with the Jawbone Up24 proved just as positive?

The big change

What Jawbone has done differently in the Up24 is to add Bluetooth which means communication around every 20-minutes for up-to-date data. We had asked the company when it released the last Up band why it was absent, but then Bluetooth 4LE was only just starting out. It is this technology that makes the Up24 possible, because it sips power rather than guzzles it like regular Bluetooth.

However, the Up24 does have shorter battery life than the previous band - which you can still buy - but it's only shorter by three days, and you still get seven days between charges. We think this shortened life is of no real concern.

Charging the Up24 is a reasonably quick and painless process too: as with the previous generation there's a cap at the end that pops off and you charge via a USB adaptor (the headphone-style jack plugs into this). We do it when we're working, so it isn't off our wrist at night, or when we need it to count steps. 

With the addition of Bluetooth, suddenly the Up24 becomes less hassle than the previous generation. Not that the last one was much of a bind, but needing to sync every few days did somehow frustrate us and, what's more, we really wanted the phone app to have up-to-date information at all times too, rather than having to plug it in to find out how long we slept.

Now, you can look at your phone at any time and you'll get an up-to-date idea about how your exercise and sleep is going. The app is getting better all the time, which is great news.

Look and feel

The original Up looked and felt great. And not much has changed with the Up24. The newer model is more limited in available colour options at launch, but the two there are both appeal - one is black and the other is orange. We picked the orange one because we've grown bored of plain black accessories.

We wore ours opposite our watch, and we didn't really find it dragged on the desk as we worked or anything like that. It's a low-profile device and really no hassle.

There's not much change to the feel when you're wearing it either. It's nice and light, and you can wear it all day and all night without it really becoming a burden. There are three different size options available - small, medium and large - and you'll need to select this option right when you buy. We have quite average wrists and we felt that the medium was a bit tight, but Jawbone does provide a size guide and measuring method to ensure you get one that will fit.

The only problem we encountered was when putting a coat on while wearing the Up24 it was all too easy for it to be ripped from your arm. Worry not though, it's tough enough to take such punishment, just don't lose it by accident.

Activity

The Jawbone Up is geared to walking and running. You can enter other activities, but it's still not as simple as letting the band monitor that.

A cool feature is that it's now possible to sync features with other apps - such as MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper and many more - as well as look at data from your Up24 and include it with your other exercise programmes. It's a two-way conversation too so it's beneficial all round.

It could be argued that Up24 is aimed at the more casual exerciser than, say, Nike's FuelBand, but that suits us just fine as we fall into that category. If you do a lot of very varied exercise, you're going to want to get a full-blown sportswatch we suspect. But even so, Up24 will still have value for you when it comes to sleep and steps tracking.

Software

As with so many devices of this kind - and there are an increasing number of competitors - it's the software that makes Up24 a winner.

Congratulations to Jawbone, because last time around we felt like the Android app was a second-class version of the iPhone app. We noted lag and less responsiveness. This isn't the case any more, as the new app feels very sprightly indeed.

The app has changed little in the important respects. There are still teams should you want to work with friends to track how each of you is doing. You can still manually enter food information, or search for products you've eaten. Best of all is the built-in barcode scanner: if your food is not listed then adding it in is no effort at all, just line up the box and the product will appear. Of course improved health probably starts with eating less pre-packaged foods and more homemade things.

We love the software's focus on movement and sleep. Sleep tracking is a contentious issue to some extent and some people will dismiss it as irrelevant. We think Jawbone has got it right, though, because it ties how you "feel" to how long you slept. Doing this means that the app can monitor what you're doing and make suggestions.

We don't get enough sleep, and the software did nag us a fair bit about that. We suggested to the Jawbone people that perhaps they should add in a "parent with young child" option, for those of us who distantly remember what six hours sleep felt like, but haven't actually experienced it for many, many years.

The activity tracking remains much the same. Essentially, Up24 is a smart pedometer. Much of that smartness comes from the software rather than the device, and we did think that it over-counts steps taken a touch. No matter though, compensating for this is not complicated, you just up your daily target a bit and you'll feel great for it.

As before, you can also set alarms. The Up24 will monitor your sleep and will wake you by vibrating when you're in a light sleep. This is good as you'll wake feeling more refreshed rather than groggy - something that the iPhone "duck alarm" set to super-loud can certainly achieve. The Up24 doesn't make any sound as there's no such feature.

Impact on your phone

After we installed the Up24 software on our Samsung Galaxy Note 3, we spotted a couple of things.

Firstly, the GPS would come on looking for a lock quite a bit.

Secondly, we found battery life took something of a hit due to it. Nothing major, but remember the Up24 does talk to your phone about once every 20 minutes and if Bluetooth is in idle standby it's still going to impact battery life. If you notice your handset's battery life suffering then it's worth just turning off GPS and Bluetooth when you're not using them. This will stop the Up24 syncing, but that's no problem as the data can simply be acquired when you need it by turning Bluetooth back on.

Verdict

The Jawbone Up24 is a massive jump forward from the earlier Up device. It's a fraction more expensive, and the battery life isn't quite as good, but the Bluetooth wireless data transfer means that neither of these things matter a jot. Really, the Up24 adds a feature that was much-needed and it makes all the difference.

It's not an over-expensive device, and the sleep tracking really does give you a good idea of what's going wrong in your night's sleep. It also helps you monitor how you "feel" and that's much more valuable than simply telling you off for sleeping four hours instead of six.

It's as comfortable and pleasant to wear as ever. The design is fantastic and as always Jawbone packs its products in a way that makes you wish more people thought about unboxing your new gadgets. The only feature we want now, is wireless charging. If you ask us, that will be along next year, because it's the final step in making the up a device that has perfected the convenience of activity tracking.