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Jawbone Up2 review: An attractive price and superior software make it a winner

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Jawbone Up2 review: An attractive price and superior software make it a winner



THE GOOD The Up2 has a discreet design, good battery life, simple activity and sleep tracking, and it can be worn in the shower. The Jawbone mobile app includes smart coaching and can be paired with many popular third-party apps.

THE BAD It doesn't have a display to quickly check progress and sleep tracking isn't fully automatic. The band can occasional get caught on clothing and fall off.

THE BOTTOM LINE Even with no display, the Jawbone Up2 is an affordable, easy-to-use activity and lifestyle tracker for those who want a little extra coaching in their life.

The Jawbone Up24 was one of the most popular activity trackers available. The company has since replaced the band with the Up2. Unlike the new and more expensive Up3, which tracks heart rate, the Up2 has the same features as the older model, but is more affordable.

It's $100 in the US (converted to £65 and AU$125), which is $30 cheaper than the competing Fitbit Charge and less expensive than the Up24 used to cost. Out of all Jawbone's new fitness bands, it's the one we'd recommend. And yet still, Jawbone took two steps forward and one step back with the Up2. It improves upon earlier models, but it still isn't perfect.

What can it do?

The Up2 is capable of measuring the steps you take each day, your distance traveled and calories burned. There's sleep tracking onboard, too. A double tap on the top of the band will display an activity light to indicate which mode the tracker is in. While this light is active, a long press will enable sleep mode. I had some trouble with this gesture, and found it to be unresponsive on multiple occasions; I had to tap the band several times to get it to work. You can train the Up2 to automatically recover sleep data you forgot to track by adding the range of hours you slept. 

jawboneup2

(Sarah Tew/ CNET)

Still, it's a shame that Jawbone hasn't released a band with worry-free automatic sleep tracking, a feature found in recent trackers from Misfit, Fitbit and Garmin. The Up2 doesn't have a display, but it does have a vibrating silent alarm, one of my favorite features on an activity tracker. You can set an alarm that will gently vibrate on your wrist to wake you. There's even a "Smart Alarm" feature that will attempt to wake you when you're in a state of light sleep.

I used the silent alarm feature every night as I tested the Up2. I find it a lot more peaceful to wake up to, rather than the blaring sounds coming from my smartphone. I chose not to use the Smart Alarm on weekdays, only because I was scared it might make me miss work.

Design

The Up2 is more discreet than Jawbone's previous trackers. The Jawbone Up and Up24 were sometimes viewed more as fashion accessories rather than activity trackers, but this isn't the case for the new Up, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. While the new band strips the textured design of previous models, it's 45 percent slimmer and adds a clasp for improved wrist security. It's comfortable, lightweight and you barely feel it on your wrist, which is the way an activity tracker should feel. 

jawboneup2

(Sarah Tew/ CNET)

Despite these improvements, though, the Up2 still fell off on more than one occasion. I had to be extra careful removing my coat or a long-sleeved shirt, or if I were to bump into the wall or cabinet. Oddly enough, the Up2 is incredibly difficult to put on, but once it's on, there is little reason to remove it. The Up2 is water-resistant and can be worn out in the rain, while doing the dishes and even showering. It cannot be worn while swimming, however.

None of Jawbone's activity trackers include a display, which may be a turn off for quite a few people. The band is essentially a data collector that syncs with your Android or iOS device. I found myself frequently glancing at my wrist hoping to see the time, which was never there. It was also annoying to have to open the Jawbone app every time I wanted to check my activity progress. 

jawboneup2

(Sarah Tew/ CNET)

Jawbone is no stranger to build-quality problems. I know quite a few people who are on their third or fourth band. Jawbone's superior customer service is usually great about replacing broken bands, even in cases where the warranty has already expired. But, my concern is with the new clasp on the Up2 (the Up3 has it, too). It doesn't feel very secure, and while I've experienced no wear and tear over the past week, it's something to keep an eye on.

One of my colleagues pointed out that the new design of the Up2 doesn't allow it to be worn around the ankle, which he would do with the Up24 when cycling. I never thought of using it around my ankle, but it's an interesting concern for bikers who do.

Software

Perhaps the best thing about Jawbone's Up activity trackers is the software. The Jawbone Up mobile app (available for Android and iOS) is colorful, powerful and one of my favorites. The app provides you with a lot of the tools you need to live a healthier lifestyle. Aside from activity tracking, there's food, drink and mood tracking, and you can create teams to compete with others. The software can also connect with a huge selection of third-party apps, such as MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, Strava, IFTTT, Nest and more. (Just make sure you're using the purple app for syncing since, weirdly, Jawbone has two different apps and they pair with different sets of devices.) 

jawboneup2

(Sarah Tew/ CNET)

The first thing I did after I created a Jawbone account was join a team with my CNET colleague Scott Stein. As he tested the Up3 and myself the Up2, I was able to keep tabs on his daily activity progress. A leaderboard that displays our total step count over the past seven days kept me motivated. Unlike with the Fitbit app, however, there was no way for me to challenge Stein to daily competitions.

After the first few days of use, I started to receive smart coaching tips and feedback on my activities. I was challenged to walk more than 9,478 steps one day and when I completed that, I was challenged to do even more steps the next day. These challenges don't just cover steps, but also sleep, hydration, and food intake. Challenges aren't automatic and you can choose to accept or pass on specific ones. Along with the challenges, I began to receive reminders and activity insight. A small notification explained the benefits of sleeping more than 7 hours a night, while another reminded me that swapping out chips for crackers would aid in my weight loss. It's this sort of feedback and smart coaching that makes the Up shine. 

jawboneup2

(Sarah Tew/ CNET)

I walk at a brisk pace in the mornings as I venture toward the subway. When I arrived at work, I opened the app and was asked if I had performed an activity 20 minutes prior. The Up is capable of automatically detecting a rapid change in pace and active exercises. I confirmed in the app that I was walking at a moderate pace. You can also manually log activities for lifting weights, running, cross training, hiking, cardio, biking, yoga, basketball, and zumba, among other activities.

When it was time for lunch, I opened the food and drink journal in the app and logged my meal. You can either type in the food you are eating or scan a barcode, which will then search for the food in Jawbone's database. I'm no stranger to food tracking, having used MyFitnessPal for many years to maintain my weight, but I wasn't a fan of Jawbone's database. Barcode scans weren't always accurate and sometimes couldn't read the information at all. As I mentioned however, the Up can sync with third-party apps, including my favorite MyFitnessPal. 

jawboneup2

(Sarah Tew/ CNET)

Aside from viewing your data, the app also lets you customize your sleep, step and weight goals. There's even an option to set idle alerts, which will vibrate to remind you to get up and move. You can set reminders that will vibrate the band and alert you through the mobile app of upcoming events too.

After a long day, it was finally time for bed. I double tapped the band and long-pressed to enable sleep mode. The next morning I found that the amount of sleep data recorded by the tracker was particularly impressive. Despite not having a heart-rate sensor, the Up2 was capable of measuring the amount of light and deep sleep I achieved. It also tracked how many times I woke up during the night, how long I was awake, the amount of time I was actually in bed, and how long it took for me to fall asleep. All of this data was displayed in a colorful chart, along with a percentage for how close I was to achieving my sleep goal. 

jawboneup2

(Sarah Tew/ CNET)

I tested the Up2 on an Android device running version Android 4.4 KitKat. It appears the band didn't always sync in the background and would only begin the syncing process after I opened the app. The same occurred when I paired the band with an iPhone 6 Plus.

Battery life

The Up2 is rated to last up to 7 days on a full charge. This estimate appeared spot on, as my band lasted exactly 7 days on the first charge. A week of battery life isn't bad, and that's similar to what the Fitbit Charge can achieve. For some perspective, though, the Up24 lasted up to 14 days, and the Garmin Vivofit and Misfit Shine each have a coin battery that can last up to one year. 

jawboneup2

(Sarah Tew/ CNET)

The Up2 and Up3 share the same charger, a magnetic four-pin connector that plugs into your computer or wall charger. It takes approximately an hour and a half for the battery to go from zero to full.

Conclusion

The Up2 lacks more advanced features seen in recent competitors. There is no heart-rate sensor, no display, and it can't be worn while swimming. I'm also not wild about the design or build quality. Despite all of this, however, the Up2 is hard to beat for a general fitness band, and that's because of the attractive price point and superior software.

Not only does Jawbone's software provide in-depth information on your sleep and daily activities, but it also offers smart coaching and daily insights to help you live a healthier life. This software is what propels the Up2 ahead of the competition. You don't even need an Up2 band to take advantage of Jawbone's software (you can use your phone, or a smartwatch app available for Pebble, Android Wear and eventually the Apple Watch), but it's a good match.

The Up2 is the band-based tracker I would buy, and I have no problem recommending it to others. Jawbone has stellar customer service and even if the band were to break, you won't be left behind. Before you run out and purchase a new Up2, though, I would recommend checking out a discounted Up24. Both devices do the same thing, with the only difference being in the design. The Up24 is being phased out and prices have plummeted to almost half that of the Up2. If you could snag a good price on the 24, I would jump on it. If not, the Up2 is a solid choice for health-focused individuals who want a little extra coaching in their life

Sport: Fitness and wellness

Proficiency level: Expert/Intermediate

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