My buddy (and favorite Chemicals Professional) Bennett reports he's interested in a fitness tracker. I've been using my Jawbone UP 24 for about four months now, so it's a good time to write about it.
First, some background: I got burned by being an early adopter in this area about a year and a half ago. I went through six different copies of the Jawbone UP, v. 1, which was truly a horrible device. Once the pain of that experience faded, I tried some other trackers -- the Larklife (which I think has been discontinued) and the Fitbit Flex (which I wrote about here). But I finally got an UP24 and have been very happy with it since. Most tech writers seem to favor the Fitbit Force (assuming it isn't giving you horrible skin rashes), but I think the UP24 is an under appreciated piece of tech. Here's why.
Aesthetics and comfort. Let's get this out of the way first: I think the UP24 is one of the best-looking fitness trackers out there. The orange ("persimmon") is what I have, and the black is also a solid choice. If you go with the standard UP (to save $50), there are other nice colors available. These things look more like bracelets or fashion accessories than connected devices. They're also comfortable, too -- this is something you're buying to wear, literally, 24 hours a day (hence the name) -- so you can't understate the importance of this issue. The only times the UP24 gets uncomfortable or weird is when I'm pulling my arm out from underneath a pillow in the middle of the night. It's super easy to put on, take off, and charge. (Bennett is a swimmer, though, and the device is not waterproof. Rather, it's described as "showerproof.")
Fitness tracking. Want to record a workout with your UP24? Press the band a few times and it goes into stopwatch mode. When you're done, press it again to turn it off. If your workout was a run, you're basically done. If you did something else that the UP24 can't sense (e.g., bike riding, cross training), you go into the app and tell it what you did. Distance, time, calories burned, and so on are all baked in, and you can edit the intensity of your workout to fine-tune what's reported. I mostly use my UP24 to measure running workouts, so the device especially excels. The pedometer is generally accurate at measuring distance assuming I'm running at my usual slow pace. If I try to speed up or slow down even further, the estimates can get off (but never by more than half a mile or so). The biggest downside of the UP24 is that there's no screen on it, though, so you have no idea how far you've run while you're running. This means that before a workout, I'll have to map out my route and try and recall it during the run to make sure I do the right distance.
Sleep tracking. One of the main reasons I got the UP24 was to track my sleep. This hasn't been as useful as I thought it would be (although you can view my own public sleep data by clicking here -- although it seems to have broken, and I don't know why). Jawbone released a new UP Coffee app in the interests of helping users discover correlations between their daily activity and sleep habits, but knowing what we know about statistics, this sort of stuff requires a whole lot of data to be collected before "insights" become accurate.
Interconnectivity. Honestly, this is what makes the Jawbone UP24 the winner for me. Jawbone has spent more effort than any other fitness tracker has to ensure interconnectivity and interoperability between different "internet of things" devices. Here's what I mean. When I wake up, the living room lights turn on. When I hop on my scale, the data is sent directly to the UP app. Everything is simultaneously copied to my Google Drive, too. I could set up even more triggers, thanks to IFTTT (no other tracker supports this, to my knowledge), to text me when I hit a step limit, send an e-mail or a tweet if I've had a lazy day, or write a blog post if I report that I'm sad. I find this reassuring because it means that when it becomes time to try a new fitness tracker, I can take my data with me (perhaps with a bit of wrangling). Considering that personal fitness tracking has the potential to be a lifelong hobby, an eye toward archival and longevity is huge.
App. I like the Jawbone app a lot, too. I'm not going to get into it here, though. One warning: These guys seem to build for the iPhone first.
The bottom line: The Jawbone UP24 is a comfortable, fashion conscious wristband that provides a (relatively) inexpensive way to start collecting personal data. I'm happy with mine and love taking it on runs, and am hugely grateful that the device connects to so many other devices and services that I love. When something comes out with more and more accurate sensors and a screen (like some of Samsung's new offerings, perhaps), it might be time to upgrade. But for now, I don't foresee taking this thing off for the rest of the year at least.