Jawbone UP2 review

In terms of wearables Jawbone is the (not so) little company that did. Its Jawbone Up24 activity tracker has been a smash hit in weareable terms, managing to find its way on to the wrists of tech- and fitness-savvy beautiful people in London and San Francisco (and therefore the entire world).

Also see: Best Black Friday Fitness Tracker Deals

Jawbone makes activity trackers that eschew on-device displays, instead making do with a series of LEDs on the bands themselves. You use the LEDs for basic functions, and explore the detail of your quantified self via a connected smartphone app. Defiantly not smartwatches, Jawbone's wristbands work on the basis that people are more concerned with wearing something that looks okay than they are with squinting at a tiny screen to find out what is happening on their smartphone. By and large they have been proved right.

The UP2 replaces the almost ubiquitous UP24, and is the middle child of Jawbone's current fitness family. It sits between the bargain basement Jawbone Up Move pendant and the UP3, Jawbone's new flagship wristband. As such it is intended to compete with the likes of the Fitbit Charge and the Misfit Shine. (See also: the best activity trackers of 2015.)

Jawbone UP2 review: UK price and availability

The Jawbone UP2 is widely available in the UK, and retails for a reasonable £89.99 in both black and silver at retailers such as Expansys , PC World and Currys.

But listen: you can grab a bargain. Head over to Amazon and you can save 4p on your Jawbone UP2. What? Come back. I can change.

Jawbone UP2 review: features and specifications

The Jawbone UP2 is a splashproof activity tracking wrist band that connects to your iPhone or Android smartphone via Bluetooth. It contains what Jawbone describes as an 'LED display', but which is in fact a series of three coloured LEDs. There is an accelerometer, and a battery, and it charges via a proprietary USB-charging cable.

A one-stop health shop, the UP2 is activity tracker, sleep monitor and food tracker. But really, it is an activity tracker - sensing your steps and extrapolating the data that generates to measure your exercise and calorie burn.

It delivers all of this information via a colourful smartphone app. In principle the all-new Jawbone app is a kind of virtual coach. You tell it how much you eat, it monitors sleep and movement, and gives you semantically designed tips as to how to be a better you. (See also: Microsoft Band review.)

Jawbone UP2 review: design and build

As I mentioned earlier, Jawbone's big attraction is attraction: its wearables look like something with which you would like to be seen. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, however, and it would appear from at least one reaction that Jawbone has dropped the ball on this one. My colleague Luc - who is a Jawbone superfan and long-term UP24 wearer - took an instant dislike to the silver/grey UP2 we were testing, describing it as feminine and 'blingey' (but not in a good way).

On the other hand another male colleague, Joao, who is not a habitual activity tracker wearer, described the UP2 as looking 'cool'. He said he would definitely wear it. So the issue isn't black and white - in fact it may well be black and grey. Because over the on the female side of the office (we don't *actually* segregate), the response was almost universally popular.

I spoke to three of my colleagues who have two X chromosones, and they all said similar things. Denise, Fay and Laura all seperately commented on the slim looks and lightweight feel of the Jawbone UP2, as well as the way the grey and silver UP2 would work with silver jewelry. Two of them specifically said that black activity trackers look male. They all said they would wear the Jawbone UP2.

Jawbone UP2

So on what are all of these PC Advisor staffers commenting? Well, as I may have hinted there are two colour schemes for the UP2: grey and black. Both come with a textured metal plate appended to the top, but in the case of the UP2 that metal is black. The device itself comprises a thin rubber strap and that metal midsection. It's a one-size-fits-all gadget, with an all new metallic watch clasp. In our experience the clasp was initially super fiddly, but then a welcome addition in that it allowed us to set the UP2 to be sufficiently tight as to live on the same wrist as my watch without the two clashing. That aside, it seems a shame that Jawbone has cast aside the more elegant claspless solution of the UP24.

Like that activity tracker the UP2 is robust and splashproof. The metal plate does pick up scratches, but it is impossible to tell on the top side because of the textured finish. I wouldn't take it swimming, but it survived the odd shower with no problems. And that is a good thing, because like the UP24 that rubbery strap will get sweaty and grubby when you workout. Remember that you are going to be wearing it day and night: you need to be able to clean it if you want to retain any friends.

The UP2 weighs in at a measly 25g and measures just 220mm x 11.5mm x 3.0-8.5mm, Jawbone does accept that some wrist sizes will be too big or too small, but claims that it will fit all wrists ranging from 140mm to 190mm in diameter. We couldn't find anyone for whom it didn't fit.

Overall then the UP2 is well built and designed to be both discreet and stylish. You will either like it or dislike it: and I am a fan.

In terms of the user experience the lack of physical buttons or a screen is both a boon and a pain. A pain because althoug you can switch between modes by tapping on top of the unit, we found this fiddly and counter intuitive. And because I am used to being able to see how far I have run by glancing at the Microsoft Band or a FitBit or similar. But a boon because it is really simple to refer to the all-new Jawbone UP on your smartphone. When you do that you see more detail on a comfortable display. And it is way easier to control your activity tracker via the app than through a variety of taps.

Don't get me wrong: I am not claiming the absence of a feature as a feature. I think the on-device user interface of the UP2 is poor. It is worse than the more simple single-button, two-LED UI of the UP24. But the price you pay for having a slim and stylish activity tracker is the absence of a screen. And my point is that unless you require up-to-date speed heart rate and calorie info while you work out, that absence is really no problem. (See also: the best activity trackers of 2015.)

Jawbone UP2 review: smartwatch poll

Jawbone UP2 review: battery life

Generally speaking we don't like the kind of proprietary charging cable sported by the UP2, as it requires you to carry it around with you when you are in need of a charge. But given that it charges via USB, and quickly, we are prepared to give it a pass. The UP2 clips into the charger using a magnet, so you can do it in the dark (so to speak).

Battery life is nothing out of the ordinary for this type of device. There's certainly no noticeable increase over similar trackers which have screens. We are getting seven or eight days (and nights) out of the UP2 and its Li-Po 38 mAh battery. This is no better than the equivalent Fitbit Charge. The only activity trackers we can think of that beat the UP2 by a large margin are the Misfit Shine - that display-less device can last for several months, but requires a new and non-rechargeable watch battery when it runs out - and Fitbit Zip. So we will take around an hour of charging once a week, thankyou very much.

Jawbone UP2 review: as an activity tracker

You will note from the features section that the UP2 does not have a GPS capability. Instead it uses an accelerometer to act as a pedometer, measuring your activity based on weight and height data you give it. Reader, this will never be as accurate a method as that of a device with onboard GPS. If you are training for a marathon, the UP2 is not the device for you. (For context, a six-mile run I measured via GPS on the Microsoft Band appeared to the UP2 as a 4.89-mile jog. A significant difference if that kind of thing is important to you.)

Rather, it is a gadget in the spirit of the original generation of activity trackers. It quantifies activity so that you can set a benchmark and challenge yourself to beat that benchmark (or at least match it). You set a target of steps and sleep time each day, and try to hit those targets. The 'Coach' in the app nags and prompts you, praising you for a job well done. Tell the app what you eat, nudge it when you sleep, and you have yourself a good way of measuring and improving your lifestyle.

The UP2 is - in our experience - good at noticing when you exercise. If I go for a run or a walk it notices. The bands lights come on, and the app asks me to confirm the duration of the exercise, and make a judgment on how strenuous it was. You can also tell it that you are exercising by going into the app and enabling the 'Stopwatch' feature. This is all well and good, but not entirely intuitive. With a device that is designed to quantify activity as it fits into your daily life, having to enable a feature before you head out is annoying. And the UP2 is still going to 'end' the exercise when you pause. So if you are out for a gentle stroll, and you stop to ask for directions, the app will record the end of the exercise. In our experience it is better just to get on with it and let the UP2 notice. Which it generally does.

Jawbone UP2

Other good points include the ability to tell the app what your exercise was. Not restricted to the usual walk, run, cycle, the UP app will allow you to be as specific as selecting a 'hike' or even something called 'Zumba'. The app itself is brightly coloured and easy to use. It looks like the existing Jawbone app, but is an all-new piece of software for use with the UP3 and the UP2.

Your stats are laid out clearly, and targets are easy to set. I could live without the hints and tips, as they tend toward the Californian end of the scale (and I am a miserable sod). But it may be that a prompt from a virtual coash is what it takes to get you up and moving.

Within the restrictions of an activity tracker without GPS or a display, the UP2 is as good as it gets.  

Jawbone UP2 review: as a sleep tracker

It's also a good sleep tracker, which is a rarer thing. You have to wear the band overnight, of course, but we found that perfetly comfortable. And it measures your movements to track your sleep. Accurately, in my case.

I am a good test, too. Reader: I currently share my bedroom with a three-month old daughter. Unbroken sleep is but a fond memory. Bad for my colleagues, but good for testing the UP2. I found that the UP2 noticed even short spells in which I was awake. It accurately measured my overall sleep length and pattern. I am not qualified to say if it accurately measured periods of deep sleep as opposed to those that were more shallow. But to a great extent I don't think it really matters. As with exercise the trick is to measure like with like and aim for improvement.

One of my favourite aspects of the UP family is the way in which you can set a target amount of sleep, and a target window of waking, and then let the app decide when to gently wake you via a vibrating wrist (not in that way, gutter mind). It's a really smart way of utilising the data gathered - in this case how well you have slept - and using it in an immediate and practical way to improve your health.

I am generally fairly cynical about sleep-tracking, but the UP2 is up with the best sleep trackers I have tried. (See also: the best activity trackers of 2015.)

Jawbone UP2: Specs

  • Bluetooth, splash-proof, LED display, accelerometer, up to 7 days battery life (USB charger provided), compatible with iPhone 4s or newer & Android 4.3 and newer, 25g, 220mm x 11.5mm x 3.0-8.5mm
  • Bluetooth, splash-proof, LED display, accelerometer, up to 7 days battery life (USB charger provided), compatible with iPhone 4s or newer & Android 4.3 and newer, 25g, 220mm x 11.5mm x 3.0-8.5mm

OUR VERDICT

Leaving aside the somewhat feminine look of the grey-and-silver model I really like the UP2. It is comfortable to wear and robust. And it is well priced. Most importantly, the new UP app builds on the success of its predecessor, and is a great way of quantifying and improving your health. This is not a sophisticated runners watch, or a smartwatch. The lack of GPS or an on-device display attest to that. But for those who want a pedometer that can track all sorts of exercise without making them look like a Tech Liberace, the Jawbone UP2 is a great package.