Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review: Jawbone Up Activity Tracker

As the Apple Watch becomes the latest in a long list of wearable technology, I thought I would write a brief review of the wearable technology I have experimented with, and some pros and cons I see.

I was at a software developer's conference called UberConf in 2013 when I heard one of the speakers, Stuart Halloway, hold up his wrist to display a Jawbone UP activity tracker, and talk briefly about how far we have come in the realm of technology. Stu is an incredibly intelligent dude, a brilliant developer, a compelling communicator, and an avid runner. His display of the UP piqued my curiosity. So, as per usual, I began exploring different trackers and the pros and cons of each. I finally landed on the up band for a few reasons.

It was one of the first activity trackers developed and it worked well with older smart phones at the time (iPhone 4 and beyond), and I had an older phone. I thought the fact that I could plug it into my headphone jack to upload data to its partner app was pretty cool. It also seemed to have a less "tech device" look to it compared to other devices.

Now why was I interested in a tracker in the first place? Well, for starters, roughly from the beginning of Nuru, I had developed a habit of getting 4.5-6 hours of sleep a night instead of the recommended 7.5-8. I thought that a device that sort of "held me accountable" and helped me track toward a goal of a normal sleep pattern would be helpful. In addition, Jamie and I were training for our first marathon, and I also had a goal of mobility each day. The UP has a cool app that tracks sleep patterns as well as running and walking, and it syncs up with other apps I like such as Runtastic and My Fitness Pal. For folks who want to track things like drinking at least eight glasses of water, or keeping a digital food journal, the UP is helpful as well. In addition, you can set smart alarms, so if you have been staring at your computer too long, binge watching netflix, or just plain lounging, it will vibrate and remind you to not sit still. More and more studies are showing that a sedentary lifestyle is incredibly unhealthy.

So what were the results of my UP? Well, I was able to become more disciplined about sleep. I started getting the recommended amount of sleep, and I was able to develop a habit of 7.5-8 hours a night. The UP was incredibly helpful. I was also able to track steps taken, whether I was walking or running, and that helped me cultivate greater discipline in being active. Additionally, a few of my friends also had UP bands along with the app, so we could encourage each other when we hit our goals. Finally, the app provides articles related to health, motivational quotes, and a really cool visual display of activity and sleep patterns. I would highly recommend the UP for anyone who needs a kickstart to a healthy lifestyle.

But, I don't wear an UP or any other wearable tech these days. Why not? Well, my UP started "warping" (The rubber exterior came unglued from the device) a few months after purchase. Warping caused the button on the UP to not be able to be pushed, and I couldn't charge my UP or upload data to my phone. This happened to me twice in my first year of owning the UP. When it happened a third time this spring, I was 1) outside of warranty and 2) the version of UP band I had was no longer being produced. The folks at Jawbone were really nice and sent me a discount code for purchasing a new product, but I haven't been able to bring myself to purchase another. I had hoped Jawbone would produce a water-proof device--my wife is a swimmer, and I thought it might be a cool gift, and we could both have one.

But then I had this realization. The UP band had been an accountability partner, a coach, and a tool to get me moving and more disciplined with regard to my health, but now I had developed better habits. I didn't need the extra nudge for sleeping eight hours because I knew how great it felt to get enough sleep. I didn't need to to know how many steps I took during a day, because I knew I was being consistent with moving. So the activity tracker had served its purpose. In addition, activity trackers are not cheap, and if I just don't know if it is worth replacing one of these devices every 1-2 years, unless, you need the accountability and the nudge. Then, these devices are WAY cheaper than a personal trainer or something similar. Of course I am still a fan of the UP band, and super impressed with Jawbone's willingness to replace my band twice, and I would recommend their device to anyone in the market for an activity tracker.

Are you looking to push yourself toward a health or wellness goal? Maybe the UP or another tracker would be a good device to get you started. Regardless, may you rest well and get out and move toward a healthier life.

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