Review: Jawbone UP24
If there’s any one category of app-enabled accessories that’s seen the most widespread acceptance among iPhone users, it would be fitness tracking devices. Thanks at least in part to its placement in Apple Stores, Jawbone’s UP was one of the first commercially successful models before it was recalled, retooled, and rereleased. Since then, the options have significantly matured with a selection of truly great products available such as Fitbit's Force and Withings’ Pulse. Today we look at two more recently released bands competing in the space: Jawbone's UP successor, UP24 ($150), and Shine ($120) from Misfit Wearables.
Visually, UP24 is almost identical to the original UP, which has both advantages and disadvantages. The activity tracker is housed inside a permanently curved, rubber-coated band that is available in two colors and three sizes. Cleverly, the packaging has a segment that folds out, with a hole the size of the band, so that you can slide your wrist through to ensure the right fit. Jawbone has always shown a penchant for textures, and UP24 is no different, with an attractive raised wave pattern over the outer surface. Instead of closing, the band has two exposed ends; one has the device’s sole button, and the other includes a cap that comes off to expose a charging plug. There’s still no watch functionality though, or display of any kind — a serious drawback for a device of this style.
The original UP had to be plugged into an iPhone headphone port to transfer data, and at the time we seriously questioned why Jawbone, a company known for Bluetooth products, would rely on a physical connection. The good news is that UP24 finally does away with that, using Bluetooth 4.0 instead. It’s an improvement to be sure, but there is a downside: battery life drops by three days from the previous edition, although UP24 should still be good for about a week of use between charges. Since the plug at the end is no longer required for data transfer with the UP24, Jawbone has incorporated a narrower, headphone-plug style design for charging, still requiring the use of the included proprietary adapter cable to connect to a USB power source. We wonder why a standard micro-USB connection could not have been incorporated into UP24 instead.
The UP24 hardware really only tracks two things: steps taken and sleep patterns, both of which are displayed in the revamped UP app. Steps are displayed along a histogram, which shows when you were most active, and also includes information such as approximate calories burned and longest idle times. UP24 also tracks not only how long you sleep, of course — holding down the button until it vibrates toggles to sleep mode — but also the amount of deep sleep, how many times you woke up, and more. You’re also able to set alarms, with UP24 vibrating to wake you around the time you need to get up, but finding the optimal state of light sleep to do so.
The food tracking aspect of the app has also improved greatly from the prior version, which was limited to snapping a picture of your meal and saying how it made you feel using a smiley face rating system. Now, Jawbone lets you pick from preset meal options, or even scan barcodes, to add calorie information. If you want more in-depth information, the app also connects to a number of others from various companies, including MyFitnessPal, IFTTT, Withings, GymPact, and more. This integration is great for people who are serious about fitness and want to have all their data interact.
It’s worth noting that in testing alongside Shine and Fitbit Force, UP24 consistently registered far fewer steps. As an example, one day saw Shine record 3,072 steps, Fitbit 2,802, and UP24, only 1,826. Without a control to test against, it’s not clear which of the three is most accurate, but for those who are really interested in the best possible results, it’s something to consider.
Between the two, Shine would be our pick for obvious reasons. The slightly lower price and more beautiful design are big factors, but so are the battery life, watch functionality, and waterproofing. It’s not quite as fully featured when compared to other options like the Fitbit Force, though, and has an app that’s lacking integration with other services, but it’s still a good choice, and worthy of our general recommendation. UP24, on the other hand, is a nice improvement on the prior version, but still doesn’t compete with the current crop of bands — especially at its $150 price point. Although Bluetooth has been added, and the app has been improved, the lack of a screen is a serious deficiency, and decreased battery life is a strike against the device. So while UP24 is better than before, with so many better competitors, we don’t recommend it, and it earns a C+ rating. There’s really no true advantage we can see to this one compared to anything else on the market.