The fitness wearables sector is set to become one of the biggest in the technology sector with an estimated 17 million smart bands set to ship this year and rise to over 45 million by 2017.
Jawbone might be better known for its wireless speakers than for health wearables but with the introduction of the UP24, South Africans will be able to dive into the latest version of the company’s fitness wearable having missed out – probably for the better – on the first generation UP released in 2011.
Unlike competing products such as Fitbit’s Flex and Nike’s FuelBand, the Jawbone UP24 has no display to speak of which allows it to maintain a much slimmer profile. There are just two LED indicator lights, a sun and a moon, used to indicate whether the UP24 is in sleep mode or not.
The band itself comes in three colours; Onyx, Persimmon and Pink Coral, with a textured, rippled, rubberised surface. A solitary button lies to one end and the 2.5mm charging jack (like a headphone jack only thinner) is found under a pop-off cap on the other.
Unlike its aforementioned competitors, the UP 24 doesn’t have a clasp or a clip to keep it closed; instead it simply fits around your wrist, overlapping slightly at the end. It’s a design choice that makes the Jawbone UP24 fantastically easy to slide on and off your wrist but frustratingly on one occasion it also allowed for it to pop off while I was asleep, which messed up the sleep tracking.
It has a simple, understated design that may appeal more to office-based professionals who have been vocal about the unprofessional look of some other health trackers.
Using the UP24
The lack of a display on the Jawbone UP24 means that almost all interaction is carried out through the ‘creatively’ named UP app. It allows you to set daily activity and sleep goals which will then be tracked by the accelerometer in the UP24.
It uses Bluetooth 4.0 to connect to compatible iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. If your phone is not compatible with the UP24 then the regular UP, which uses the 3.5mm headphone jack to sync, is also available.
You can also manually log the food you eat and the exercise that you do to give the app a more accurate reading on your daily caloric intake and output.
Better still a host of third party services including MapMyFitness, RunKeeper and Strava can be linked with your Jawbone profile to have the exercise that you log immediately imported into the Jawbone platform.
However it’s the sleep-logging feature that we found to be the most interesting and useful with the Jawbone UP24. By holding down the solitary button and turning on sleep mode the UP24 will begin to monitor your movement while you sleep. Of course it means you’ll have to wear it while you sleep but it wasn’t uncomfortable and I quickly got used to it within two nights.
It records how long it took you to fall asleep, how many times you woke up during the night and how long you spent in light sleep and deep sleep by using its accelerometer to measure how much you’re moving. Should you forget to turn on sleep mode, the UP24 will still allow you to manually enter your sleep times and assign the movement it tracked during those hours anyway.
We have heard of cases where the UP24 may not be that accurate for those who move around a lot in their sleep, mistaking the movement for waking up but in all of our testing it worked perfectly.
The Jawbone UP24 uses Bluetooth 4.0 to connect which means it is constantly connected to your smartphone or tablet in order to transfer data to it in real time. While it might sound like that would kill the battery quickly, the 32mAh battery is able to last for around 7 days of constant use both night and day because of the low-powered nature of the connection.
Charging the UP24 is rather annoyingly accomplished with a bespoke USB-to-2.5mm jack that could be easily misplaced. It’s not nearly as effective as the built-in USB connection on Nike’s FuelBand, and rather infuriating at times.
Thankfully a full week’s charge only takes about 90 minutes so that frustration is short-lived and seldom experienced.
The Jawbone UP24 is very good as a pedometer and a sleep-monitoring device, however it falls short in some areas like monitoring exercise and food intake, which can be irritating to those who want a holistic view of their lives in one app. Thankfully it has third-party app support which helps to bridge some of those shortcomings.
If you’re in the market for a fitness tracker then Jawbone have got a very strong case for getting your money with the UP24. It offers as much, if not more than any of its competitors and does so with the least intrusive design we’ve seen so far.