Review: UP24 wristband by Jawbone

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 10:26am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 10:26am

Mainland people don't walk enough - an average of 6,699 steps, or about 5km, a day - and sleep less than they should, at about six hours and 40 minutes a night. That's according to data from a survey of Jawbone's seven leading global markets for its UP wristband, which tracks activity and sleep.

Compared with the US, Britain, Germany, France, Japan and Australia, UP wearers in China walk the least. Only users in Japan slept less at five hours and 47 minutes. The survey data was mined from "hundreds of thousands of UP users" in total, says Jawbone's head of channel and partner development, Jorgen Nordin. He declined to provide an exact figure.

Overall, no country hit the widely preached recommendations by health and medical experts of 10,000 steps daily and seven to eight hours of sleep for good health. Users in Britain topped the table for walking (8,261 steps) and sleeping (seven hours and five minutes - edging out Australia and France by a minute).

In a rapidly expanding market of activity trackers, Jawbone hopes to set itself apart by turning data into personalised insights that "nudge" users towards smarter and sustained lifestyle changes.

"Our competitive advantage is making sense of data and allowing the end-user to use the data to act differently," says Nordin.

He offers other nuggets gathered from UP users: those who use a phone in bed within an hour of going to sleep get 13 minutes less "sound sleep", while laptop users lose 37 minutes. Those who sleep with a partner get 15 minutes more deep sleep on average.

With the latest incarnation of its activity tracker - the UP24 - launched about two months ago, Jawbone hopes to direct users towards healthier behaviour through real-time coaching. The main difference between the UP24 and the UP - which was introduced in 2012 - is the addition of Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless syncing. Users no longer need to remove the band and plug it into the earphone jack to transfer data to an iOS or Android device.

It also means that users can now get notifications throughout the day. When you wake up, for example, you'll get a push notification saying "good morning" and a summary of last night's sleep. Have a 10,000-step-a-day walking goal? You'll be notified in real-time on how you're progressing towards it - and when you've reached it.

"With the original UP, you wouldn't know until you've synced your band with the device," says Nordin.

With this wireless capability comes a sacrifice in battery life: now seven days with a single charge, down from 10. Apart from that, the UP24 has only a minor cosmetic difference: the criss-cross pattern on the rubber wristband is now swirled.

It still has a tiny end cap covering the jack and a small proprietary USB charging cable - both of which are easily lost. And it still has no display and isn't waterproof, unlike many other activity trackers on the market. Nordin says sticking to this design was a "conscious choice" since research shows we look at our mobile phone screens about 130 times a day.

So is it worth forking out HK$1,348 for the UP24, HK$250 more than the original UP (which is still being sold)? And what about other bands on the market such as the Fitbit, Nike Fuelband or Samsung Gear Fit?

After testing the UP24 for about six weeks - and having used the UP for about six months last year - I wouldn't pay the extra for added Bluetooth. I don't want to be pushed notifications; I want to look away from a screen as much as possible. So, throughout the test, I've actually just used the UP24 exactly as I did the UP - syncing it with my iPhone once or twice a day, when I wanted to.

In reviews online, the general consensus seems to be the UP bands still have the edge over their competitors because of its app. The latest version of the app allows users to create "Today I Will" challenges - pop-up messages which set users an optional goal, such as walking more steps, sleeping by a certain time, or drinking more water. Users can choose to accept or dismiss the challenge.

"We're very happy to report that these challenges are actually working," says Nordin.

According to Jawbone research, those who were sent and opted into a "Today I Will" sleep challenge logged 23 more minutes of sleep than average and were 72 per cent more likely to go to bed early enough to hit their sleep goal.

The study took data from more than 1,600 UP users and 5,000 nights of sleep in three separate surveys.