In a world where fitness nuts can load every smartphone under the sun with apps to track their progress from tubby gym newbie to shredded ubermensch, you might wonder why pedometers still exist.
However, if you don’t like strapping your phone to your arm or having it bounce around in your pocket when you go for a run, the UP2 is an unobtrusive device that that, amongst other things, can track your cardio workouts – provided they involve running or walking.
Jawbone UP2 review: Hardware
Available in black or light grey, the UP2 is fastened to your wrist with a metal clasp system. An aluminium case houses a Bluetooth module that can communicate with a phone, a tri-axis accelerometer and three LEDs: blue for sleep, orange for activity, and white for notifications.
The accelerometer is what you should focus on, as this is what will measure all your movements. After about a month of measuring thousands of steps we can say that the UP2 is quite accurate. It was able to grab all our steps, whether they were from the desk to the coffee station or a run around the park. It was smart enough not to record the bobbing from car rides.
The Bluetoooth managed to keep a solid connection to our testing device (a Motorola Moto G 4G (2nd Gen)).
The included LEDs are rather simple: you can be set to ‘active’ when you’re awake and switch it to ‘sleep’ when you’re not. A few taps of the cross-hatch surface of the case allows you to switch settings easily. While in their respective modes they will track steps taken and sleep… erm, slept.
The white notification LED was the let down here, though. We imagined it could be set to light up and cause a vibration when we received an message or email, but that’s not what it’s here for. It lights up when the Jawbone UP app sends it notifications, and it can be set to indicate various reminders (discussed later in this review).
The UP2’s band is made of “medical-grade hypoallergenic TPU rubber”, and feels great on your skin. Unfortunately, once you start to sweat or there’s any water under it, it starts to slide right off of your wrist, and the moisture build-up feels uncomfortable.
Even worse, though, is the clasp. It answered a question we didn’t know to ask: what is the most impractical, difficult to use system to connect two bands together? The answer is the clasp on the UP2.
The adjustable portion of it won’t budge until you forcefully bend the metal, meaning that quick adjustments just don’t happen. The “hook” that fastens onto the adjustable portion inserts at an odd angle and prevents a decent connection. The corners (while rounded) are sharp enough to cut skin: on two occasions we got hurt while changing shirts.
The charging solution is the stand out here. The flexible rubber cable has a regular USB connection on one end, and a magnetic connection point on the other. The strength of the magnets in addition to the lightness of the UP2 means that the two will stick together reliably.
The battery in the UP2 offers around 8 days of life. While we would be impressed by this, especially when we are used to charging wearables daily, it’s less impressive here as there is no screen to speak of here.
All the battery needs to power is the accelerometer and the Bluetooth connection. We would have loved some kind of display for time, but we know some people will prefer the battery life over that feature.
Jawbone UP2 review: Software
With the UP2 packing mediocre hardware, the software needs to impress. After downloading the UP app (Android or iOS) you’ll pair to the UP2 very easily. Once paired you can set yourself goals in terms of steps taken and amount of sleep per day.
Those two activity indicators can also be linked to your diet. There are a multitude of apps supported by UP that can do this, but there is also built-in support.
We used MyFitnessPal in our tests because we had been using it months beforehand, and the UP app integrated it perfectly, from including our food eaten to showing the calories burnt in the MyFitnessPal app.
The UP app also does its best to turn what you eat into a game: everyday you get a “Food Score” out of a possible ten. The score isn’t related to how much you eat, but rather the quality of it. We’re not usually swayed by such tricks, but eating of fruit or vegetable and watching the score climb was quite satisfying.
The app also allows you to compete against mates who own their own UPS2s to see who is the healthiest. We’ve always found these types of efforts a gimmick at best, and you’ll have to get lucky with a group of people you know who also own a Jawbone device (which we were not). The app offers team leaderboards so you can track who is doing the best, and you can start a duel with a team member to see who covers the most distance.
You can set the UP2 to vibrate and alert you of an alarm, activity or a reminder.We get a lot of use out of the idleness alert too, which will let you know when you’ve been sitting down for too long. We incorporated this into a 20-20-20 eye strain routine (even though the app can’t be set to 20 minute intervals), and we must admit that we felt better after about about a week. As much as we liked this, we still wish our emails and message could set the UP2 off.
You can also use the UP2 as an alarm clock. If you’re a heavy sleeper you may find the vibrations work better to get you out of bed than a phone ring. It can also be set to wake you up at at a lighter stage of REM sleep (which can be up to 30 minutes before your actual alarm), so you wake up feeling more refreshed.
As inspired as this is, its effectiveness will depend greatly on the individual, so we won’t comment on our results as they’re meaningless to you and your sleep patterns.
Jawbone UP2 review: Conclusion
We’re still at odds with the UP2. On one hand it is extremely solid and never missed a beat, but we are constantly reminded that everything it does, both with its hardware and software, can be accomplished, with most phones and a splattering of free apps.
The real value of the UP2 is rather in the centralisation of your data. Dumping all your activities and habits into one place while allowing integration with whatever apps you were using before is the real selling point. All you have to decide on is if that is worth the R1 599 price to you.