The Lowdown on the Jawbone UP

About a month ago, Matt Mullenweg (of WordPress fame) blogged about 2 pieces of technology he had been wearing in order to track some aspects of his health. One of them was the Jawbone UP, which I debated buying for about 60 seconds before actually buying it.

Ever since, it’s been quite the conversation starter, with people asking me what it is and what it does and how it works. Well, using a heart-rate monitor and pedometer, the Up works hand-in-hand with your Android phone, syncing data and giving you some nice personal analytics through its aptly named Jawbone Jawbone Up Android app.

The first thing people ask me  — after, “What’s that thing?” — is why I chose the Jawbone UP over things like the Fitbit. My honest answer is that I didn’t really do research on the topic, I saw the blog post and then impulsively bought the UP. That said, I did want something simple/unobtrusive and was unaware that Fitbit has a bracelet as well. I also really liked what Matt had to say about it, especially with the sleep data

The Hardware

Let’s start there: the Jawbone UP is a simple bracelet that comes in three sizes: small, medium, and large. It also comes in an array of colors.

Behold, the Jawbone UP

I really wanted the Onyx color, but I guess that’s really popular, and it was sold out.

The bracelet actually has a good set of functionality attached to it for being of simple design. There are 3 modes: Move, Sleep, and Nap. While you’re awake — ie. in Move mode — it will track your steps, calories, miles walked, active time, idle time, and more. When it’s set to Sleep mode, it will track the time it took you to fall asleep, hours slept, number of times you woke up, and much more. The final mode is Nap mode, which will track when you fall asleep and then wake you up after the optimal amount of time, based on the previous night’s sleep.

You can also set a “power nap” alarm in the app. That is really, really awesome.

Move and Sleep Stats

You’ll notice from the screens above the percentages listed. Those numbers evaluate how much you worked towards your goals, which you can set within the app.

That Syncing Feeling

To sync the data with the app, you plug the bracelet into the phone’s audio jack, open the app, and press the Sync icon.

Jawbone UP sync and Overview

The biggest complaint about the UP seems to be that there is no bluetooth or other wireless communication between the bracelet and the device you’re syncing with. While I think it would be a nice feature to have, it’s not all that cumbersome to manually sync; it makes me set time aside to actually review the data, and it’s not destroying the battery on either the bracelet or my phone by constantly checking for a connection.

Speaking of, the Jawbone UP has a battery life of about 10 days. Remember when phones used to get that?

The other complaint is that the Up uses a proprietary charger with the audio plug in the bracelet, but seeing as there’s really no place for a mirco USB port on the UP, I don’t think it’s too big of a problem.

The Software

We’ve already seen parts of the Android app in the article, namely when it comes to viewing synced data from the bracelet. Aside from that, the app offers a few nice features to really help you dig into your personal analytics.

Food Input

On top of sleep and movement data, which the app does get from the bracelet, you can track the things you eat and drink. You can scan barcodes or search by name, with the ability to also add photos. Choose your serving size and the UP will give you the amount of calories you consumed as well as things you should eat, eat in moderation, and avoid completely.

Food stats and categories

There is quite an extensive list you can choose from and it can get pretty specific, with entries like “Chicken Caesar Salad (Chic-fil-A).”

Since there is no way this can be automatic, you have to be pretty dillagent about inputting information, and I sometimes slack. My biggest complaint about the app is that you can’t go back a day to add new entries; you can only add meals to the current day or edit what’s already there on previous days.

If I do miss a meal or two, I will usually go back and edit my latest entry, adding everything I missed onto it.


Aside from the three big features, UP has some nice additions to really help you stay on track. There is your feed, with a list of all activity you add for a nice overview of your intake, movement, and sleep; also added onto the feed are tips personalized for you, making recommendations on how to increase your walking, weekly totals and averages, and more.

Advice and Activity Feed

On top of that, the app has two really killer screens for you to get a high-level view of your activity. The “Lifeline” places all of your activity side-by-side, according to hour, so you can see exactly when you’re asleep, when you’re awake, and when you eat.

I’d like to use a Lifeline, Regis.

There is also an area called “Trends,” which allows you to look at your activity by days, weeks, and months. You can even switch what the bar graphs show. I’m really excited to see how this looks once I have 6-8 months worth of data in it!


There’s also a few features I haven’t really tapped into yet; logging workouts, naps, and a social aspect so you can share information with friends.

Final Thoughts

The idea of Personal Analytics really appealed to me, which is why I purchased the Jawbone UP in the first place. I really liked the idea that I could see things like how many miles I walked, or more impressively, how long it took for me to fall alseep. The bracelet, from what I can see, is incredibly accurate and the app is not only data-rich, but beautifully designed. While there are a couple of areas that could use some improvement, this is definitely an impressive device that does not disappoint!