Jawbone UP Review

The lack of Jawbone UP reviews has inspired me to write my own. I’m hoping other early adopters will find this and share their thoughts. The inability to find many reviews also shows that either the product isn’t considered to be as “cool” amongst the tech world as I had anticipated, that people are skeptical of its accuracy, or that it’s priced incorrectly.

Note: I’ve only had the wristband for a couple of days and I’m not using the social/team features or food tracking.

Is it “Cool”???

If it’s not cool then I’m a much bigger dork than my girlfriend claims. I’m fascinated by the product and I’m super stoked for the future based on this first gen. Being able to analyze your life (activity and sleep) is very fucking cool and quite frankly, I’m shocked it’s not something that most common folks have been able to do until now. The product tagline, “Make Healthy Living Fun & Social” doesn’t actually interest me. I’m more interested in just knowing and being able to quantify my daily activity (or inactivity) for no other reason than the fact that I think it’s cool to be able to do so.

Why I Bought It

The cool factor obviously played a role in my purchase decision. If I could have bought a $100 iPhone app, $100 ankle band, or a $100 business card-sized device that offered the same ability to track and analyze my activity and sleeping ‘performance’ than I would have. However, I was not interested in the identically priced Fitbit because I knew I’d wash the clip in the washing machine or forget to attach it on a daily basis.
I wouldn’t have bought the UP and wouldn’t find it nearly as “cool” if it didn’t track my sleeping patterns. In fact, I may have bought it if the only thing it did was track my sleeping patterns (which shows that there’s a unique market opportunity there). Sleep interests me because it’s mysterious… we don’t know much about our own sleeping habits or what goes on while sleeping. I’ve long suspected that I’m a light sleeper and hopefully I’ll be able to quantify that soon.

Secondly, I wanted (and still want) to see how they incorporated game mechanics into the UP experience. As I disclaimed earlier, I have not taken advantage of any of the social features (which itself looks like the primary game mechanic). I’m a true believer that everything we do in life will be ‘gamified’ over the next few years because games are true motivators. It’s hard not to believe this after watching Jane McGonigal or Seth Priebatsch speak.

I primarily bought it because of a developing personal fixation to work on things that improve people’s lives (which involves incorporating gaming). This is a fire that has been slowly spreading inside and products such as the UP wristband and the Glooko glucose monitoring solution make this seem like an area I could realistically work in because I know I could help improve the applications by making them more useful and user friendly. As an old mentor had written on his whiteboard for over a year, “Data, data, data.” Collecting this data is the first step but making it pretty and helping its owners visualize it and make meaning of it is extremely powerful. This is a world in which I could make an impact on technology and people’s lives while thoroughly enjoying doing so.

Product Improvements

The majority of my recommended product enhancements are obvious and shared amongst the other early adopters’ reviews that I’ve found.

  1. An accompanying Website – The current website allows you to sign in and manage your Account Info (Name, Gender, Address, Password, Email Preferences, etc.), and … Oh wait, that’s it. I’m assuming Jawbone will roll out a full-fledged website to accompany their native app before the next-gen wristband comes out but I’m pretty disappointed that they don’t already have one, considering how underwhelming the native iOS app is. I want to see detailed reporting including actual analysis with intelligent tips. I want to be able to export data and add notes inline with the graphs. Data, data, data… I bought this to track and make use of data so please help me do that, or better yet, analyze it for me. Also, what is a step exactly? What exactly is light sleep versus deep sleep? According to my math, a step has been 2.5 feet for me but I want to be told this by Jawbone. Please improve your help and education.
  2. Ability to Set a Default Sleep Time Range – I and 75% of other UPers will forget to manually put their wristband in sleep mode at least once a week. I’m rarely awake after 1 am and sleeping past 7 am so let me set my default sleep mode to those times in case I forget to push the button one night. If I manually throw it in sleep mode then great. I’m pretty sure Jawbone could roll this functionality out with a software update.
  3. Wireless Syncing – This seems to be the most common complaint but if you bought the first-gen, you shouldn’t be complaining… It’s not like Jawbone didn’t make this known ahead of time. I’m assuming that Bluetooth or wireless hardware would either not have fit inside the wristband, and/or would have blown up the price. Either way, I understand it and accepted it but most consumers won’t. Wireless syncing isn’t just becoming expected anymore, but more importantly it improves the overall experience. It’s about creating magical products that just work the way they’re supposed to without any human intervention. Consumers don’t want to think. They want and need their interaction with products and services to require little to no thinking. They have to be effortless. You look somewhere and you see what you want. Not, you plug in, look, and see what you want. Not a huge deal when reading it in a blog but it becomes one when you’re interested in seeing your data several times a day but need to plug it in to do so. As I said, I accepted this by buying it but completely understand why most people will wait until the second-gen comes out with wireless syncing capability.
  4. Expose Network Data – Jawbone has probably refrained from doing this to push their social features but I still think they should expose top-level data. I want to know how I stack up against others in my demographic and across the entire UP network/community. You’re starting to collect a wealth of knowledge so share it!
  5. Inactivity nudges – I literally laughed out loud when my band vibrated while working today. It tickled and I wasn’t getting up to walk around or stretch. Perhaps I would have if it vibrated repeatedly until I moved around but since it was one quick vibration, I wasn’t motivated enough to remove myself from my computer screen.
  6. Improved Native iOS App – The app has a loonnngggg way to go (even though I think it’s a great start). Considering there is no web app yet, I’ll put all of these recommendations under the native iOS app but I’d expect them to persist on the website as well once it’s up and running.

Actual Analysis and Tips – I got 1 hour and 28 minutes of deep sleep and 5 hours and 28 minutes of light sleep last night. Awesome. That’s great to know. It would actually mean something if I knew that was average (or good or bad) from a medical point of view. It would be great to know how I stack up against other 24-year-old males. It would be great to know how I may be able to improve it. Thanks for telling me that my sleep quality is 69 but what the hell does that mean? Tell me all about that!

I walked 4.6 miles today… Awesome. How far did I walk at 7:34 pm? How does that compare to the same time the previous day or the average for the same day the entire month before? How does this stack up against the rest of the network? I have no clue because the app can’t tell me any of that.

Recommendation

Don’t buy it. “WTF, Why not!” …

Despite my abundance of excitement, I don’t recommend buying the product yet. I’m soo happy with the first generation that I’m convinced the next generation will be worth the wait. Jawbone doesn’t need to make many improvements but the few they can (and I think will) make will be worth the wait.

With that being said, this market is extremely young and I’ll be proud in 5 years when I say that I bought and still own the first generation UP wristband and am thrilled (but not surprised) by how far we’ve come since then.

Holes

Because of the fact that I’ve only had the wristband for a few days, I didn’t talk about a lot of things including but not limited to the social and gaming elements (challenges & goals), food tracking, or accuracy (which is probably more important than anything else). More notably, I didn’t talk at all about whether I feel encouraged to live healthier. I can’t yet say that I want to walk 100 more steps tomorrow than I did today or sleep for 10 more minutes. That’ll determine the true verdict. If that happens then the $100 price tag may be a bargain and this thing will really take off. Until then, I’m going to continue collecting my own data and thinking of ways that I can make positive impacts on people’s lives with unobtrusive technology.

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