Jawbone Up Observations, 1 month in

This article relates to the first generation Jawbone Up. The technology and insights it provides have improved tremendously in the last several generations of upgrades. I have become a HUGE fan over the course of 2 years and still wear my Up daily.

One month into owning my Jawbone Up, I’m both enamored and annoyed. Beyond the initial features I described in my previous post, Top 5 Likes and Dislikes of the Jawbone UP, after one week, here are subtler observations and complaints after a month of heavy usage. Overall, I love the extra information I glean from my Up, but it’s definitely overpriced for what it offers.

General Observations

1. Novelty of sleep tracking wears off

I was initially fascinated by my sleep data, having never had insight into it before. Total sleep, deep versus light sleep, awakenings in the night. I now know that awakenings are quite buggy (per my previous post – I wake up more often than it catches), and that I average a certain amount of deep sleep (a number difficult to directly influence for a healthy sleeper, it just is what it is). When I have insomnia, I don’t need Up to show me that. The only sleep metric I still check daily is the total sleep length. I’m still trying to absorb this number into my intuition, and it is something I can clearly influence so it’s interesting to me.

2. The daily step score makes me do weird things

My neighbors probably think I have OCD. I just can’t stand not hitting 100% of my steps every day, so I’ll pace or jog inside my house to hit the number before I go to bed. As I found out from a friend, apparently I’m not alone in this behavior. BTW, I used to do this with my pedometer years ago, until the novelty wore off and my step count just became my step count.

3. Insights are informative, fun

Each day the UP phone app shows 1-3 small ‘Insight’ messages. These usually compare your data (e.g. total sleep or % deep sleep or step count) to the general Up population to give you a subtle thumbs up or thumbs down. Sometimes they just offer health tips. These insights are fun and addicting, but leave me wanting MORE, more data, more access. I want links to the research the insights cite, I want charts to explore data about the general Up population to see how I compare.


4. The Up is a Gen2 body tracker. I’m ready for Gen3.

First there was the pedometer – I’ll call that Gen1.  Then there was the Up and its sibling wearables, Gen2 devices. The Up is in many ways a glorified pedometer with a shorter shelf life and much higher price tag. Like the pedometer, the Up gives you a good feel for how much you typically move per day.  But the UP adds some sleep insights, albeit slightly imprecise ones, and integration with other fitness & calorie/weight tracking apps to have a more well-rounded ‘health’ snapshot. The multiple data sources are still too segmented though, and too much onus is still on the user to derive deeper correlations between specific aspects of their health and activity.

Gen3 devices will improve on all the pain points of Gen2, providing deeper correlations and explorable, configurable insights for users. Gen3 will offer truly integrated, holistic experiences across multiple sources of data (sleep/activity/calories) with increasingly passive tracking. More physical sensors will correlate stats like blood pressure, heart rate, and blood glucose in real time with the user’s activity and sleep, for truly meaningful understanding and measurement of behavior change.  Can’t wait!

Specific Jawbone Up Complaints, one month in

Safe to say I’m a power user, and after one month, I’ve spent a lot of time looking for ways to keep learning more from my Up. Generally speaking though, the Up is a one-size-fits-all design, and it’s designed for people who don’t ask a lot of questions.  There is no window for exploration nor advanced feature set.

1. Trends feature is VERY weak

I can’t stress how insufficient the Trends feature is. The mobile app’s “Trends” feature lets you manually see a bar chart for any 2 tracked metrics, but just the raw data for those metrics. This looks great at first glance, but gets annoying fast.

  • Why is there no ability to see (and store) more than than 2 charts?
    • I care about more than 2 metrics. I don’t want to lose my previously configured charts when I look at another chart, but there’s no memory feature.
  • Why is there no Web portal for the Up with a bigger, clearer window into my data trends?  This is a GLARING omission.  Free fitness and calorie tracking apps offer this, but not a $129 device?
  • Why only offer independent, raw metrics in Trends? What about correlations and derived metrics?
    • Having to read ‘Raw hours of deep sleep’ and ‘Total hours of sleep’, then do my own calculations, is a lot less powerful than letting me see ’% of night spent in deep sleep’, which is what I really want to know, and what the Insights say is important.


Pick 2, but ONLY 2.


2. RunKeeper (and external fitness app) integration doesn’t count towards daily steps.

  • I ran 6 miles with RunKeeper yesterday but forgot to wear my Up. The Jawbone pulled in the Runkeeper map and distance, using it towards my calorie burn, but logged that I had met 0% of my daily steps.  WRONG.  There’s no way to manually log missed steps, so this count is just plain wrong. Wrong for my historical Trends data, presumably wrong for Insights. I didn’t get the credit I earned, so I will be penalized in Jawbone’s metrics.

3. I project a short lifespan for this device

  • My Mint Green Up is now a brownish mint green, due to dirt and sweat buildup associated with frequent heavy exercise and gardening activities. I lightly clean it regularly. The rubbery outer coating is starting to look a bit bunchy and aged, and I see what appears to be a soon-to-be-crack, after only 4 weeks. No way this thing lasts a year.  If you buy one, go with dark grey or black!

Valerie Lanard

I am a fitness buff, engineering leader, and wearables lover. This blog originally started as part of my now-defunct fitness video startup, Gigabody. It has evolved to encompass my writing on tech and work culture as well. Find me on a bike, on a hike, in a skort, or near a usb port.

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