Geek Fit: Healthy Living Gadgetry Review

I love all variety of gadgets. I tend to jump on the bandwagon being pulled behind any new and interesting technology as fast as my wallet will let me. Sometimes I am rewarded, sometimes I’m disappointed, but I always enjoy the thrill that comes from experiencing vast leaps forward in technology. When Jawbone introduced the UP, I was in the middle of my fitness revolution and was immediately excited to try it out.

Not only does this little bracelet count your steps like a standard little pedometer, but it also tracks your sleep cycles. Jawbone promises that the UP’s gentle vibrations would wake you up at the optimum time in your sleep cycle to ensure a pleasant waking experience every day. Combine all of this with a colorful, fun iPhone app and you’ve got me hook, line, and sinker! I picked up this cool little device as soon as it hit the shelves of my local Target (Target always has all the coolest stuff).

The pedometer function was pretty cool. Not only would it track your steps, but after entering in your body stats onto the UP website or the iPhone app, it would also calculate the calories you had lost. The app also allows you to set daily goals for steps. Tracking things creates a sense of competition, even if it is just with yourself. I found that setting a goal for steps every day provided me an excuse to get out of my cube and do a few laps just to make sure I would beat my number. Eventually I would even try to beat the previous day’s steps and not just my goal. Things got a little out of control when I started just standing up at my desk and walking in place while I typed away”¦someone finally had to come tell me to sit down.

One thing I was not really a fan of was that the only way you could check all of your stats was by manually syncing the band with your iPhone (sorry no Android or Windows phone apps yet). The UP doesn’t come to a complete, closed circle. The pieces at the end actually overlap slightly with one side containing the singular button that acts as the power or sleep button, while the other side is a capped plug that you insert into your phone to sync with the app. It wasn’t a tremendous pain, but it was frustrating to have to plug your band into the phone and wait a few minutes for the data to collect in order to check your stats. Still, the app was pretty enough that I didn’t mind playing with it now and again.

The ultimate highlight of this device is the sleep cycle monitor. When setting up your profile one of the things you are asked is when you like to wake up every day. Jawbone says that you should pick a time that offers a half-hour window prior to the time you actually want to wake up. I chose 6:30am so that at the latest I would be woken up at 7:00am. The bracelet, which was quite unnoticeable while sleeping, monitors your REM cycles to determine when you are in your deepest sleep cycle and how many times you “wake up” during the night. The first night I woke up 27 times and only entered true REM sleep twice for a total of 2 hours. That’s right, according to this little bracelet; I am not good at sleeping. The wake up function was awesome. Utilizing it’s magic sleep monitoring powers the little bracelet determined when, from 6:30-7:00, I was closest to being naturally awake and it would vibrate slightly to bring me out of sleep fully. This vibration was barely as much as my iPhone in my pocket on silent, but it woke me up instantly. I was shocked at how immediately awake I felt as the little band naturally brought me out of slumber. Over the next several months I think that the sleep function alone made the bracelet worth the $100 dollars it costs.

While the syncing with the app itself was rather annoying, the information you were give access to after syncing was quite cool. Brightly coloured graphs display your sleep cycles for the entire time you were out and your steps are also tracked in a bright and fun display. The app also allows for a sort of food tracking service, but it’s kind of lame because it has nothing to do with calories and only asks you for a picture and description of your meal. I suppose if you can’t fit all your dinner into one frame then perhaps you are eating too much? I didn’t really get the food portion, but it was implemented well, at least. The app also plugs in to some other random services that allow you to accept “challenges” that are aimed at helping you work out, eat a certain way, or sleep more. It’s a clever idea but they haven’t really committed to it well enough to have it be a good tool. It seems more like an afterthought for the app.

Here is the sad news about this seemingly awesome bracelet from Jawbone. After about two months of use the band wouldn’t hold a charge for more than half a day. Obviously this presents a problem when you are trying to track things for longer than a handful of hours. Come to find out, Jawbone issued a statement shortly after I began having my problems that this was not an isolated event. People returned their bracelets in mass. I however, kept mine. Dealing with the battery issue has not been all that challenging seeing as I can plug it into my computer for a bit while working to get a good charge for the evening. The big news is that eventually Jawbone quietly pulled these bands from shelves. I know, I reviewed something you can’t even buy anymore! Never fear, the re-imagined bracelet it coming soon according to my connections at Jawbone. You can still track these down on eBay for cheap and personally I feel like it is a safe investment (for less than $100). There are a variety of other products like this one. The Nike FuelBandor the FitBit are both great ways to have fun tracking your steps, food, and whatnot. Getting healthy can be fun and these tools are great aids!

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