The Jawbone Up

Everyone’s reviewed the hell out of the Jawbone Up over the last couple of weeks, all in a wishy-washy maybe-sorta way. Nothing I read said “buy it” or “don’t buy it”. I’m saying: “buy it and hope for updates”.

I’ve been using the Jawbone Up for a little over a week now. The Up is a rubber band you wear around your wrist. It records your steps, eating habits and sleep patterns in conjunction with the iPhone-only App. It costs $99 and may be worth about $79 of it.

The Band

The band is made of rubber, has a removable cap for the headphone jack that you plug into your iPhone to sync data and is surprisingly comfortable. You’ll probably lose the cap if you’re a loser incapable of holding on to a small piece of plastic, but I’m not worried about that. Because I have the sense to sit down at a table when I’m working with small things.

It’s waterproof, which means you can shower with it…and count your steps? I never wear mine in the shower. That just seems silly. And they recommend you not swim with it. So, feel free to walk out in the rain and use the band to cover your head.

It is comfy, though. I don’t notice it when I’m typing or sleeping. It’s easy to put into sleep, workout or default mode by hitting the little silver button on the other end of the band. And, the package allows you to get the right fit — small, medium or large. I’m a medium but I thought I’d be small. Small would be for kids, I think.

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The App

You use the app to take a photo of your meal. Two hours later, it’ll send a Push Notification reminding you that you ate two hours ago. It’ll ask you to give you feedback about how you feel: energized, normal, tired, hungry, etc. After a while, you’re supposed to use that to help you figure out how you’ll feel next time you eat a similar meal. Of course, if you don’t already know that eating a bowl of ravioli is going to make you feel tired, there’s little this App’s going to do for you. This portion is lame and I never remember to take a picture of my food. I usually end up taking a picture of an empty plate or bowl instead. And you can’t really use it for snacks. If you eat a banana, how are you supposed to feel two hours later? “Freaking phenomenal” isn’t likely.

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The app also shows you graphs and charts about your activity and sleep patterns. More on that in a bit.

Lastly, the app is also how you enroll in challenges. Challenges are Up’s way of being “social”. Since there’s like, ten people using challenges, I’m number one in all the challenges I’ve enrolled in.

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The Reason I Bought It

Up tracks your sleep habits and vibrates on your wrist to wake you up in the morning. It also vibrates during the day to remind you to get up for a break on an interval you set (mine’s 90 minutes). But the sleep tracking is interesting and works pretty well. I have mine set to wake me at 8, which is really “wake me between 7:30 and 8 a.m.”. As I roll around in bed, it knows based on my unconscious movement whether I’m awake (orange bars), in light sleep (light blue bars) or deep sleep (dark blue bars).

I can’t profess to it’s complete accuracy, but in the mornings it wakes me by 8 a.m. when I’m in light sleep and it’s a much more pleasant way of waking up. For that, it was worth buying (although, I think $99 is a bit much at this point). Later, you can see a graph of your sleep, which is kinda neat. In this case, it knew I got up around 4:30 a.m. to get a glass of water:

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It’s only woken me up in deep sleep once, and that was because I had been in deep sleep for the entire half hour before, so it defaulted to just being an alarm. One morning it wakes me at 7:40, another 7:50. If you’re such a baby that you think you must get every last second of sleep the world somehow owes you and the idea of waking up 15 minutes before you “have to” offends your weak little self, I guess you’re not going to get much use out of it.

You wouldn’t think a little vibration on your wrist would work, but it’s a very intense vibration. When it vibrates, you feel it, but it’s not loud or violent like a cell phone’s vibration.


The app is very 1.0. The band only tracks steps, so if you do a lot of cycling or other arm-stationary exercise, it’s not going to be very accurate. At least with me, when I cycle, I take my iPhone in one of my panniers and the App can use the iPhone’s GPS to track my movement. The band, however, still clocks some “steps” as I hit bumps in the road, but it’s horribly inaccurate on that since I’m not really walking. It’d be worthless on a treadmill or stationary bike.

The app needs calorie counting in an easy way to be really great. If I take a picture of a slice of pizza, I’d like to see it say, “That looks like pizza. The average slice of non-meat pizza is XX calories.” Then I could get a clearer picture of my diet and intake.

The band is comfy, has 10 hour battery life (and I believe that) and is stylish enough not to look dorky.

Overall, it’s better than nothing when it comes to metrics. The sleep cycle monitor is worth it, in my book. This would be perfect if you’re modestly fitness-inclined. I think I’m too far above that to be really impressed by it, but for $99, buy it, enjoy what does work and look forward to the free app updates in the future.

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Photo of Justin Harter


Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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