Update: After 6 months, my Jawbone UP24 broke. The internals snapped while I was sleeping. Sadly, as I had purchased it in Amsterdam, there was no way of returning it for a refund without incurring some substantial costs. So instead, I went bought myself a Xiaomi MiBand. How’s that in comparison to the UP24? I’ll let you know shortly.
A long time ago I wrote a post talking about how I felt that wristwatches were a dying accessory because of the rise of smartphones. No longer did we need a single function device when our smartphones could do that, and so much more.
Turns out, I may have been onto something, or not.
Smartphone manufacturers such as LG, Samsung and Motorola, that were once the biggest threat to wristwatches are now the ones trying to re-invigorate the market with their smartwatches. And I’m willing to take another bet at this stage – smartwatches, in their current form, will be a disaster. No matter how much I eye the Pebble Steel or other smartwatches, I can’t bring myself to purchase one.
At over USD 200, smartwatches are pricey for what they can do. That’s not all, I believe that smartwatches haven’t really evolved to serve a meaningful purpose yet. Apple could prove me wrong. Other than showing the time, and perhaps messages and emails (which I still have to open from my phone to reply), smartwatches are fairly pointless. Then comes the point of bulk and battery life – I already have range anxiety with my smartphone, do I really need another device to make me more anxious? Do I really need to charge my watch every night?
Our wrist could be (or is already) the next battle ground for tech companies. The space is limited and is usually reserved for fashion accessories for many people. And because the wrists are always active or moving during the day (yeah, I know what you’re thinking), I wouldn’t want anything bulky strapped around them.
So when it comes down to wrist-real estate, my hunch is that it’s going to be fought between smartwatches and smartbands (fitness bands), and at this stage, I believe that smartbands serve a clear purpose.
So after that slightly lengthy introduction, let me talk about my smart/fitness band – the Jawbone UP24.
Why I bought a fitness band?
Ever since I have become obsessed about fitness, I’ve started tracking a lot of metrics – how much I eat, what I eat, how much water do I drink, how much do I sleep, etc. etc. My smartphone comes really handy in tracking these metrics, but there was an obvious gap between the data collected on the phone vis-a-vis what could be collected through a smartband.
Why did I choose the Jawbone UP24?
The predecessors of the UP24 were huge failures. You can Google their shortcomings. Not to mention, majority of the people who I spoke with before I bought my fitness band owned a Fitbit and seemed quite satisfied with theirs. But I was never a fan of the Fitbit with its flavourless band and tiny lights. Ever since Jawbone released its first bluetooth headset, I’ve admired their rugged designs with technology to match. Granted, the UP24 was a whole lot more expensive than the Fitbit Flex, but with its glowing reviews and colours, I could hear it call out to me over all the other bands in the display case.
I wouldn’t say that the last three months with the UP24 have been life changing, but it’s something close to that. I simply love the hardware – the colour may have worn off a little but it still looks and feels perfect around the wrist. I love that it has no screen or display and that everything resides a solid yet flexible single unit. I still think the hardware is the best looking in the market even with all these new entrants.
The software syncs perfectly with the band, although it can be a bit slow at loading pages at times. I have seen some other fitness band software, and I have to admit the Sony software for its band looks better and has a beautiful lifeline animation.
And like other bands, if you have friends who also own the Jawbone UP24, you can team up via the software; and set your own goals (sleep, walk and weight) and track their trends.
The battery life is incredible. The band easily lasts for 7-8 days on a single charge. And charging it back up takes less than an hour.
The UP24 tracks what all bands track – steps, calories, distance, sleep patterns. The accuracy may be questionable but it also has a couple of neat features:
Inactivity alert – You can tell the band to buzz your wrist if you’ve been idle for too long. It’s a pretty cool reminder to tell you to get your ass off the chair.
Power nap – Tell your band that you’d like to take a power nap and it wakes you up when you’re coming out of a deep sleep cycle so that you feel the most refreshed.
Of course you can set an alarm on your band so that it slowly buzzes your wrist to wake you up in the morning. You could also set a reminder the same way.
So I don’t have anything negative to say about the Jawbone UP24. It works beautifully and looks great. However, my concerns are to do with smartbands in general.
How accurate are these smartbands when it comes to measuring your sleep cycle or steps? And what about workouts. If for instance, I do a heavy upper body workout, or for that matter even a circuit of sit-ups, pull-ups and push-ups, I don’t think my UP24 has any idea how many calories I’ve just burned or what I’ve done.
Food intake – Obviously there is some voodoo calculations involved behind this. First you have to input what you eat manually, which is a pain, and then there’s the randomness with which the app generates a calorific count for what you just ate. Guess we’ll just have to wait for this magical device to become mainstream, till then, it’s going to be a hit or miss as far as counting food intake is concerned.
We’re still in the stone ages of wearable technology but these smartbands and other smart wearable devices are a sign of things to come. The smartwatch is yet to figure out a purpose other than mirror your smartphone alerts. And as long they are priced over USD 200, are bulky and have poor battery life, there will be very few adopters in my opinion.
Smartbands on the other hand have something more going on for them. Even if they aren’t an exact science yet, they are able to provide you with ample data to be able to track your life (if you’re into that sort of thing of course). Personally I love looking at my sleep quality stats, how much I’ve just ran or walked during the course of the day.
I believe that more the information, the better the decision. That can pretty much be applied to anything really. So even if these modern day devices may still be primitive, they’re a step in the right direction. Soon these devices will be able to monitor your heart beat, send stats to your doctor, call an ambulance in case it picks up some irregular activity, predicting illnesses and finding you a compatible date (I’m not kidding).
My bet is that wearables are going to be about health and fitness, and not about telling the time.