Jawbone Up review

4 out of 5
£69.99

For

Great idea, powerful analysis of activity and sleep patterns, enjoyable to use

Against

The end cap falls off too easily, alarm often goes off just too soon

Get ready with those new year resolutions. If one of them is going to include trying for a fitter, healthier you in 2012, Jawbone is here to help. Jawbone is best known as the maker of excellent Bluetooth headsets and a great portable speaker, the Jambox.

Its latest innovation is a wristband with built-in motion sensor. The idea is that if you’re trying to be healthy, just being conscious of your daily activity is likely to increase how active you are. The Up aims to be your fitness assistant.

What is it, exactly?

It’s a light, comfortable rubbery band that flexes open to put it on and off your wrist. To make the most of it, you need a smartphone. Right now, there’s an iPhone app, with Android to follow. There’s no Bluetooth on board this doohickey, so you connect it to your iPhone by popping off the little silvery Jawbone cap that sits on one end of the band.

Inside is a headphone connector that plonks into the phone so you can synchronise the Up’s data. You see, every step you take is noted by the Up, and recording the number of daily steps you take is one of its main functions. You can decide to start off low with a 5,000-steps-a-day target, or aim higher with 10,000, say. Synchronise the Up with your phone at the end of the day and it’ll give you the good or bad news. Manage 100 per cent of your target and the screen shows the achievement bathed in sunbeams.

If you’re going cycling, where your arm may not move much at all, you can use the iPhone’s GPS to measure your exercise accurately. And you can create challenges which other Up users can contribute to – walking to the moon (or the equivalent distance, obv) seems a big ask but if there are 1,000 of you, it’s doable. The idea is that communal challenges inspire you more.

Keeping track of sleep and food

There are two other elements Up manages – food and sleep. Food is average at best: when you have a meal, take a picture of it on the phone’s camera and a couple of hours later the phone will ask you to judge whether you’re energetic, stuffed, tired etc. The plan is you’ll get a clearer idea of what makes a good and nutritious meal.

Better is the sleep element. Press the end of the bracelet and it’ll switch to sleep mode, measuring your movements in that context. It knows when you’re awake, lightly asleep or deeply asleep just from the motion sensor. This gives you a clear analysis when you transfer the data the following morning. It’s excellent, confirming that you really did have a good night’s shut-eye or that you have good reason to feel bleary-eyed if you didn’t.

Wakes you up gently

And there’s another neat wrinkle: you can set a smart alarm. The best time to wake is when you’re coming out of deep sleep into lighter sleep. So if you set your alarm for, say, 7.30am, it’ll start monitoring your movements for the half hour before that. As soon as it senses you’re going from deep to lighter sleep, the bracelet starts vibrating. It has woken us with utter reliability, and has the advantage that if your significant other is waking later, this is a silent wake-up call that needn’t disturb everybody.

The problem is that in reality, it has almost always woken us 30 minutes before the alarm time, so we now set it 15 minutes later than we need to get up.

You can only set the smart alarms at 15 minute time differences: greater precision would be better. On the other hand, there have definitely been times when it has woken us at just the perfect moment, sleep-cycle-wise. If you have problems feeling lively in the morning, it may help.

A few little niggles

It’s a very cool device that has a lot going for it. But there’s one big downside and that’s the band itself. The silver cap that hides the earphone jack pops off easily. We’ve already lost one, and nearly lost a replacement cap about 20 times. It’s just not secure enough. Sure, it’ll work without the cap but it doesn’t look so pretty.

And the other end of the band has four sharp edges to the tip which scrape down the lining of your sleeve as you take a jacket on or off. It’s not hard to remember to take it off before you make this movement, but a less abrasive end would have been better.

Verdict

If you need a nudge to become more active, the Jawbone Up is great to use, offers lots of detailed information. It can really help you to stay conscious of how active you are, what you’re eating and the quality of your sleep.

It’s light, comfy to wear for extended periods (make sure you get the right size) and even comes in a bunch of colours to suit your taste.

UPDATE: On the 8th of December, Jawbone announced that it is stopping production of the Up temporarily. It has taken this action because a number of users have reported serious problems with their units.

Our review was written before this recall, but published after and our testing showed none of the more serious problems that some users have found.

As a result of these issues, Jawbone has offered all current users of the Up a full refund. They don't have to give their units back either and are free to carry on using them. The company says that the Up will go back in to production in 2012, with changes that should solve the problems.

We'd like to thank users who pointed these issues out to us. Although it's clear this product has its problems, our reviewer liked the product and found it useful. Indeed, he is still using it with no problems. Hopefully, when the problems with production are resolved everyone will have the same positive experience we did.