Last year, Jawbone's original UP was one of the first wristbands to track your general fitness and health, but was plagued by poor design. Now, the company is back with the second version of the UP, only this time, it's facing a more crowded market. Has this $129 device made enough improvements to pace the pack?
Like the first version of the Jawbone UP, the second iteration is a small flexible band that overlaps on the bottom. A zigzag pattern, not unlike one that can be found on Jawbone's Jambox speaker, runs along the outside. The band, 0.5 inches at its thickest, tapers at the ends, so it's not uncomfortable to wear while typing, an issue we had with the Nike+ FuelBand. On one end is a small metal cap, which doubles as a button, while the other end pops off to reveal a 3.5mm jack.
The Jawbone Up comes in three sizes (there's a measurement guide on Jawbone's site) and eight colors: Onyx, Mint Green, Blue, Light Gray, Navy Blue, Red, Orange and Hunter Green. Personally, we think the last color looks the best. Unfortunately, only the first three are currently available.
The band is water resistant -- it can take some splashes, and you can wear it in the shower, which we did without incident -- but Jawbone advises against swimming with the UP. At 0.8 ounces, the UP is slightly lighter than the FuelBand (0.95 ounces). The band also comes with a USB recharging cable.
Of all the apps that accompany fitness armbands, the Jawbone app feels the most complete. After plugging the UP into your iPhone's headphone jack, launching the app downloads the data from the band to your phone. However, we wish it would sync via Bluetooth like the Lark band.
The Home screen shows, at a glance, how far along you are toward meeting that day's goals. Right below are daily suggestions for making small improvements to your daily activity.
Pulling up on the screen reveals charts with more granular data on the quality of your sleep and activity. Selecting an individual chart brings you to another screen showing more data. For example, the Sleep chart showed that we woke up four times during the night, and were in deep sleep for 2 hours and 41 minutes.
Swiping to the right from the Home screen brings up other menu options, such as Trends (which shows your activity over time), your Team (friends who are using the UP) and Settings.
Swiping to the left from the Home screen offers more immediate options: Setting your daily goals, a Smart Sleep alarm, Idle Alert, Stopwatch, Power Nap, and logging a workout and sleep.
Of course, sleep and exercise are just two-thirds of the overall health equation. What you eat is just as important, but even for the most committed, entering that info can be somewhat of a drag. Jawbone tries to make it as painless as possible. When you want to log something you ate or drank, you can either scan its barcode, snap a picture or enter its name manually.
Food is also divided into categories, if you choose to search that way, too: Drinks; Breakfast & Pastries; Fruits, Greens & Veggie Dishes; Sandwiches & Soup; Pasta; Grains & Bread; Meats; Fish & Beans; Common Foods; Snacks; and Desserts & Sweets.
Jawbone's nutritional database is dizzyingly large. Search for "apple," and you get hundreds of different permutations, from baby food to a Burrito with Fruit, which was new for us.
We like that the app saves what you ate in a section called My Library, which makes it easier to find certain things you consume regularly, such as coffee or tea.
Like the Larklife band, the Jawbone UP also can be worn at night to track your sleep. Unlike the Lark, though, you're not required to switch bands. Between the Larklife and the Nike+ FuelBand, we found the UP the most comfortable to wear, and weren't as conscious of it during the day or night.
Smart Sleep will cause the wristband to vibrate when it detects you're in a light sleep mode, waking you more gently. Idle Alert will also vibrate the wristband to remind you to get up and stretch your legs. If you're not getting enough rest, the app will give you tips, such as working out during the day, or avoiding a nightcap before bed.
Jawbone says the Jawbone UP should last about 10 days before needing a charge. In our testing, that claim was fairly accurate; after three days, we were down to about 70 percent battery life. That's about double the time we saw with the Nike+ FuelBand, and five times longer than the Lark, which needed to be recharged every two days.
Of all the casual fitness wristbands we've tested, the Jawbone UP feels the most complete. It certainly helps that the company is on its second version while most are still on their first. The UP felt the most natural to wear, lasted the longest on a charge, and had the most comprehensive app. Still, wearing a bracelet 24/7 isn't always the most practical, which is why some prefer dongles such as the FitBit Ultra. But among wristbands, Jawbone's has a leg UP.