Review: Up fitness wristband by Jawbone


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The Independent Tech

Research says that when you measure your fitness activity, you tend to be more active, by an average of 26 per cent. So wearing the Up wristband could help you become fitter. It’s a step-counting wristband, and it monitors your every movement – even when you’re asleep.

Wearable fitness monitors are a popular form of tech. There’s an excellent band from Nike called the Nike+ FuelBand, a clip-on from Fitbit and more.

The Up is a bendy, flexible length of rubber that springs together to form a loop that sits comfortably on either wrist. It was one of the first of this kind of gadget when it was released at the end of 2011 but there were manufacturing problems. It wasn’t fully water-resistant and the cap that sits on one end of it would pop off unpredictably.

So Jawbone took it off the market and issued refunds to anyone who was unhappy – letting them keep the band as well if they wanted. After much careful research and an enormously improved companion app, the Up is back.

There’s no screen on the Up to tell you how many steps you’ve taken or calories burned (both the Fitbit One and Nike+ FuelBand have this information quickly visible). To find out, you have to pop that little cap off and plug the exposed connector into your smartphone’s headphone socket. Then the app will bring you up to date on your activity. Though this is less convenient than pressing a button on the device, the information is much more detailed.

And the Up has other natty features. You can track what you eat much more easily than before, for instance by scanning the barcode on a ready meal or typing text into the search box – the Up has access to a comprehensive database of food products and their calories, fat content and so on.

And then there’s sleep. Sync the Up with your smartphone in the morning and it’ll tell you lots of fascinating details of last night’s sleep: how long before you nodded off, whether you woke up during the night and how many hours and minutes were spent in light or deep sleep states.

You can set a smart alarm on your phone, sync the Up and you’re ready. The best time to wake up is when you’re in light sleep, not deep. The Up monitors your movement for the half hour before your alarm is set. If you’re deep asleep it’ll leave you slumbering until you move (a sign that you’re in a lighter sleep state) or until the alarm time.

When it wakes you at the optimum moment, the effect is dramatic: I awoke refreshed and eager to get up. Which is not normally the case. On the other hand, if I was only lightly sleep already, it would wake me up early. Nevertheless, the alarm, a gentle vibration of the band, was an utterly reliable waker-upper.

The band now has an extra sleep-related feature – power nap. You can set it without the need for the app (two quick presses then one long press on the button that sits at one end of the band) and it will choose the right time for you to nap, based on your recent sleep data.

Then there are more detailed features such as personalised insights – based on your recent activities – and little tips which appear in the app every day.

The absence of a screen, and of Bluetooth – from Jawbone, a company that manages Bluetooth better than pretty much any other – are a shame but at least this keeps the price down, and the size and weight of the band. It weighs 19g so it’s easy to forget it’s there.

The improved build makes it properly water-resistant, so you’re safe to keep it on all day, even in the shower.

So which band should you choose?

The Nike+ FuelBand may help you work harder: with one touch of the band you see on its screen how close you are to your goal. If you’re just short it can encourage you to try that bit more.

But the lightness of the Up, its brilliant sleep aspects, the slick and detailed smartphone app, plus the range of cool colours it comes in, make it a desirable, highly recommended buy.