Jawbone Up24 Review: How Well Does It Work?

I received the Jawbone Up24 as a Christmas gift this past December, and since then I have been tracking my sleep, meals and physical activity on a daily basis. While there are plenty of superficial reviews for the Up24 online, I wanted to provide a more in-depth look based on real usage over an extended period of time. I've broken things down by the three main areas that the device is supposed to help track/measure.

 Jawbone Up 24 - track sleep, meals and physical activity

Jawbone Up 24 - track sleep, meals and physical activity

Sleep

When I first heard about the Jawbone Up24, what intrigued me most was the band's ability to track your "light" and "deep" sleep patterns. It sounds really cool and is interesting to look at but the problem is the data doesn't seem to be very actionable. In other words, I don't know how to use the fact that I had only 5h18m of light sleep and 1h57m of deep sleep (see picture below) to then increase the amount of deep sleep I get the next night. I have yet to receive any personalized suggestions on how to improve my sleep based on my month of sleep data so far. 

 My sleep chart in the Up 24 app - how am I to use this data to improve my sleep?

My sleep chart in the Up 24 app - how am I to use this data to improve my sleep?

It would be awesome if the Up app would automatically mine the data and find interesting correlations that might help me improve my sleep, but since that hasn't happened yet, I have to crunch the data myself. One thing I continue to be curious about is whether the time that I fall asleep each day (I often hear that I should sleep by 10pm) has any correlation with the % of deep sleep I receive. Hoping that the data I've accumulated within the Up app would help me arrive at an answer to this question, I went ahead and manually entered the data into a spreadsheet to see if I might be able to spot some useful patterns.

Note: for purposes of this article, let's set aside for now the questions of whether the Up's sleep data is accurate and what it means to have deep sleep (Jawbone hasn't released much detail online from what I can gather), and just assume that Up's deep sleep is a good thing and we want the Up app to be showing more of it! 

 X axis represents the time I fell asleep (in terms of minutes after 10pm) and the Y axis represents deep sleep as a % of the total sleep for the night.  

X axis represents the time I fell asleep (in terms of minutes after 10pm) and the Y axis represents deep sleep as a % of the total sleep for the night.  

From the looks of the chart above, there doesn't seem to be much correlation between the time I fall asleep and the amount of deep sleep I get for the night. That's a bummer as I'm back to having no actionable data that will help me improve my sleep. Sure would be great if Jawbone could handle this type of analysis for us...

So is the Up24 totally useless when it comes to sleep? Not completely. What I have found useful are what they call "Smart Sleep Alarms" which are basically alarms that you can set that will cause the band to wake you up by vibrating. In theory the band is supposed to wake you up only when you are in light sleep within a window of up to 30 minutes before or after your alarm time. Anyway, I find the sleep alarms useful because when you aren't sleeping alone, the vibrating alarm is less likely to wake up the person next to you (and she/he will thank you for it!).

Update to original post: it turns out that rather than having to manually type data into a spreadsheet for number crunching purposes, you can instead sign in to jawbone.com, then under settings -> accounts there will be an option to "Download Up Data" as a .csv file. Check out this Jawbone forum post to learn more about what the various columns mean.    

Meals

When it comes to tracking meals, this is a completely manual process that requires you to input whatever you eat, whenever you eat it. There really is no good way for a piece of technology on your wrist to know what you're eating, but the app does have a decent database of food items (with nutritional data) that you can choose from to make your life easier. In the end, I would say that the Up app does what it is supposed to do in terms of acting as a food journal to log the things that you eat. The key is to do your best to enter accurate data if you hope to get any use out of that data. After all, if you enter crap data, any conclusions you derive from the data are going to be crap as well. And similar to what I said about the sleep data in the previous section, the Up app doesn't seem to do any number crunching on your data so you're on your own to take from the data what you will.

 Example of nutritional info displayed after entering the meal into the Up 24 app.

Example of nutritional info displayed after entering the meal into the Up 24 app.

I personally continue to log every single thing that I eat, and the key thing I've realized so far from this newfound habit is that I need to learn how to eyeball a portion of food and, at the very least, be able to make a very good guesstimate as to how much it weighs if I want solid data around the protein, fat, carbs, calories, etc. that I eat. This realization has led me to purchase a food scale for the kitchen that I can use to hone my senses for how much different types of food weigh. I may have to write a post on my "exciting" adventures with the food scale later on after I've played around with it.      

Physical Activity

When it comes to physical activity, where I find the Up most useful is as a pedometer to track my steps. I haven't gotten around to comparing the data with other pedometers to gauge accuracy, but I find that I'm now constantly trying to get in as many steps as I can per day. So whether the data is accurate or not, the fact that I know my steps are being tracked makes me much more conscious of basic decisions such as: do I really need to drive to lunch or would it be easy enough to just walk?

Besides the basic pedometer function, you can track "workouts" by manually entering the workout type (e.g. run, weights, cardio, etc.) and intensity (e.g. easy, moderate, etc.) and then you simply have to trust that the inputs you chose for the workout are accurate in determining the amount of calories you burned. To me, the workout tracking provides limited benefit. It seems the sole purpose for entering workouts is to add additional calories burned on top of the calories you burn based on your basal metabolic rate. To be fair, I'm not exactly sure what else I'd want to get out of this feature, but since I'm not a calorie counter, whether I should bother with logging workouts going forward is certainly questionable.    

 Logging a workout in the Up 24 app.

Logging a workout in the Up 24 app.

Conclusion 

So here are some final thoughts. While the Jawbone Up24 may fall short in many ways for those of us who desire cleaner and more actionable data, I find that tracking something is still better than tracking nothing at all. At the very least, tracking your sleep, meals and physical activity will make you more conscious of the choices you make regarding the most fundamental things that make up your day. Furthermore, there is a cool "Team" feature that essentially acts like your own mini social network comprised of other people you know that have an Up band. This social feature is useful in adding a little competition and peer pressure into the mix to keep you going. In conclusion, despite its shortfalls, I'm a fan of the Jawbone Up24 and recommend that you check it out if you want to start getting into the habit of measuring your life.

UPDATE MARCH 6, 2014

My Up24 started dying on me after 1 month of usage. At the 2 month mark, now I need to charge the band several time per day in order to use the band for a few hours at at time -- not practical at all. Check out the Jawbone forums for posts like "Up24 died" or "Up24 dead" and you'll start to get a good sense. I requested (2 weeks ago) that a replacement be sent out to me here in Shanghai and customer service is still trying to figure out whether they can send a replacement band outside the US. We'll see if I ever get one... 

UPDATE APRIL 27, 2014

Received my replacement band in the mail! I've begun to incorporate the band back into my daily routine but will be using it primarily as a sleep alarm and pedometer. For food tracking, I now use the MyFitnessPal app as it has a much more extensive database and better 3rd party support with other apps and devices. 

UPDATE JUNE 23, 2014

It's been nearly two months since incorporating the Up24 back into my life. I use it exclusively as a sleep alarm and pedometer. Unlike my previous band, my current band is running great! My last band could have just been a faulty band, but this time I did do one thing differently: I charged the band by plugging the USB dongle into my laptop ONLY -- as opposed to plugging the USB dongle into my iPhone and other non-Jawbone, wall-socket chargers. I can't say for sure that sticking to charging the band via a computer USB port will help, but it's certainly something to try if you want preserve the lifespan of the device.  

UPDATE DECEMBER 30, 2014

My Up24 is officially dead. The band no longer charges and the rubber casing of the band has somehow expanded so that both ends (the button and the charging pin) now have rubber extruding beyond where the casing is supposed to end. No more Jawbone fitness bands for me.      

What did you think about this post? Comments are always welcome.