For as long as I can remember, I have been a tech geek. I would say that my overall knowledge of anything tech-related is quite amateur, but that still doesn't stop me from being a fan of gadgets and gizmos. The fact that wearable fitness gadgets are starting to become more and more mainstream and popular now, has both my inner health and fitness geek, as well as my inner tech geek, extremely excited.
I have had an iPhone for a few years now and have sampled a number of health and fitness apps, but many of them tend to be a bit too much work (laziness on my part, I know!). Most apps require an active form of data collection. For example, if I wish to use MyFitnessPal, then I must open the app, enter my details, remind myself every time to repeat these steps every time I eat something, etc. I like the idea of passive quantitative data being collected about my personal self with little to effort. This is where Jawbone's UP24 comes in.
I have been using the UP24 ever since I received it as a Christmas gift from my wife this past December (2014). What was appealing to me was not only the activity tracking, but the sleep tracking as well. With 2 young kids, good quality sleep is hard to come by in our house, so I was interested in a getting a sleep tracker along with the added benefit of tracking the amount of activity I get through an average day.
The Band Itself
The band is very stylish, fits my wrist very comfortably, and even stays on when I am wrestling with my boys. It holds a charge for a good solid week, and only takes a couple of hours to charge. It is water resistant, not waterproof. In other words, I'm not afraid of it getting wet when washing my hands, for example, but would not wear it if I was swimming.
There is one function button on the band that is used to toggle between various settings, which is a great design feature, in my opinion, as it keeps the band very minimalist and basic.
The UP App
The UP app has a very nice design, runs quite well, and is colourful enough to keep things engaging and interesting. I find that the app has troubles locating the band at times, but for the most part runs very well. I found that running the app in the background all day really drained my battery since the bluetooth was constantly activated and running, so I just periodically check in on my progress throughout the day by opening the app, and then closing it down once the data from the band has been synced with the app.
There are some nice little motivational quotes and daily tips that show up on the app's home screen each day, although I have already come across a few tips that aren't exactly "scientifically sound."
Here is the thing about the Jawbone UP24, and many of the smart "watches" or "bands" on the market, most of them only track the number of steps you take. Don't get me wrong, for most people, this can be incredibly motivating and can work extremely well to get you moving more often. Having said that, all it really does is track the number of steps you take. If I was to be doing a set of heavy squats, or even a set of lighter squats for higher repetitions, I'm not actually moving anywhere, but still doing a lot of work. This is one of the major downfalls with these types of fitness bands. Another example of this would be what if you were a cyclist and enjoyed going for long rides. The band would miss much of your activity because your arms are stagnant on the handle bars and not moving.
Where the UP24 really shines, is its ability to motivate you to get more active. I have my band set so that if it notices that I haven't been moving within the last 30 minutes, it vibrates to remind me to get moving. I have found that the pedometer tracking really is quite accurate, and extremely motivating to try and reach that default 10,000 step daily goal. Although I have only been using this for a few months, and winter months at that, I have found that the band is quite motivating to remind me to keep moving.
Ah yes, the sleep tracking. One of the main reasons why I wanted to get a fitness band, especially after reading about how accurate the UP24 band is with its sleep tracking. After a few months using it, I have found that it is in fact quite accurate. Not only does it seem to know when I am sleeping, but it also figures out when I am in that restful "sound" sleep, combined with the "light" sleep periods. It is fun to open the app up the morning following and see not only how much I have slept, but also just how much sound sleep I have had.
Whether it is a placebo effect or not, it is quite refreshing to see the amount of sound sleep that I have accumulated from the previous night. On the nights when I see that I have gotten a lot of sound sleep, I do in fact feel more energetic the following day. For a while now, I have personally witnessed the fact that it is not always the amount of sleep, necessarily, that makes me feel refreshed the next day, but the quality of sleep. The UP24 has confirmed my previous thoughts.
At the end of the day, however, the sleep tracking doesn't necessarily make any changes to my life. I feel as though I have always been a good sleeper, I make the appropriate adjustments in my life to try and maximize the amount of restful sleep I get, and really, the next day just informs me of how much sleep I got. I suppose if you are one to not get as much restful sound sleep as you want or need, this app could signal the days that you are lacking and maybe you can pinpoint the reasons behind your lack of sound sleep. Maybe you had an extra cup of coffee or too much alcohol that day and then realized how much it affected the amount of sound sleep you got. For those reasons, this may be a helpful tool to get.
One of my favourite features with the UP24 is the Smart Alarm. You can set a multitude of alarms based on your schedule throughout the week. For example, some days I need to be up at a certain time to get my workout in before my wife and I leave for work. Rather than setting an alarm clock or my iPhone to wake me up, I can set a smart alarm on my band. When it is time to wake up, the band vibrates and wakes me up without anyone else hearing a thing!
The reason why it is called a Smart Alarm is because you can set a "window" of time that your band will only wake you up during a light cycle of sleep. For example, if I set my alarm for 5:30am, with a window of 10 minutes before or after 5:30am, the band will decide to wake me at any time between 5:20am and 5:40am based on my sleep. If I am in a deep sleep, the band will wait and try and wake up during a period when I am in a light sleep.
I will say that this has worked 100% of the time. I will admit that I was unsure whether or not a vibrating bracelet could wake me up, but I have yet to have a problem with it!
Another similar feature to the Smart Alarm is the Reminders feature. Let's say you are trying to time your meals and/or snacks at specific intervals throughout the day. Maybe you are trying to remind yourself to drink as much water as possible. Maybe you just want to set a reminder to take the dog for a walk twice a day. You can set a reminder to remind you of all of those things at set intervals throughout the day. When it is time to remind you, your band vibrates and then you get a push notification on your phone.
I will admit that I have not used this feature yet. It seems a bit counter-intuitive to have a stopwatch on a band that doesn't have a screen, but this feature can be used if you are heading out for a run, walk, or hike, for example, and you wish to be timed while you are out.
Ever take a nap and feel groggy and more tired then when you woke up? Napping can yield some great health benefits, but sleeping too long or being woken up when your body is in a deep, restful sleep can make you feel groggy. The Power Nap feature is great because the band does its best to wake you up from your nap when you are in a light sleep cycle. Once it notices that you are in a light sleep, you get a buzz, and up you get!
This can be adjusted to fit your needs/goals. I have mine set to remind me to get up and get moving if I have 30 minutes of inactivity between 7am and 7pm. So, if I am sitting at my desk, for example, for more than 30 minutes, the band vibrates, reminding me to get up and get moving. At that point I usually use that as an excuse to either go get some water, use the bathroom, grab a snack, etc. This is an imperfect system, although not the bands fault, as it vibrates, reminding me to get moving when I am commuting in my car.
- Great battery life, only need to charge my band every 6-7 days
- Charging from nearly drained to full only takes an hour or two
- Sleep tracking seems to be really accurate, even with interrupted sleep
- Smart alarm feature allows me to set an alarm to wake up early for a workout without disturbing my wife/kids
- Great reminders that can alert you to either get up and get moving or to remind you to eat or drink more water
- Activity tracker is not always the most accurate, only tracks steps rather than activity
- Band does not track heart rate
- Difficulty connecting band to app/phone at times
- Does not have screen, relies entirely on control from smart phone
The UP24 is a great little tool to help people get active. It does track and provide you with some very useful data, even if it misses some key things at times. If nothing else, it works as a great reminder system to get moving.
I would be lying if I said that I am not extremely intrigued and excited about the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch, based on what value you eventually see/get from it, is either an expensive piece of tech or potentially one of the best purchases one could make for improving their health. Some of the main drawbacks and pitfalls from a product like the UP24 may be addressed with the Apple Watch (along with other smart wearables). Being able to track heart rate, activity that doesn't involve running/stepping/walking, getting a better assessment of total health, etc. is very intriguing to me. If I can save up some coin and pick up an Apple Watch, then I will most certainly blog about my experience with it right from day one. I am still am not entirely sold on shelling out that kind of cash for a watch. Time will tell if I want to go that route (see what I did there?).