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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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Once, there was a Jawbone…

About a year and a half ago, I purchased a Jawbone Up, only to have it fail to hold a charge. It was a well-publicized boondoggle, with a product that was clearly rushed to market without adequate testing. After some initial shenanigans, the support and refund process was smooth. I didn’t feel any real animosity towards Jawbone, but I’d pretty much written off the Up.

Then, there was a Fitbit…

Early this year, at the same time as most people making promises to themselves that they’ll fail to keep, I purchased a Fitbit One. It’s a clip-on device that’s relatively small, with a comfortable but irritatingly warm sleep band to hold it during the evening. It doesn’t do a regular activity reminder. It also can’t be worn in the shower and doesn’t really want to get wet. Otherwise it’s more or less functionally similar, with the added benefits of an altimeter, on-device status display, and syncing over Bluetooth.

The Fitbit app isn’t great, but it works well enough. That it syncs regularly and seamlessly with either computer or app is pretty handy. Where the Jawbone had to be regularly plugged into a phone to sync, it just does its thing whenever convenient. You get a notification in the app when the battery needs to be charged, etc.

What’s not to love? Well, the little clip-on holder doesn’t hold that snugly to things. Additionally, it creates a hanging rubbery thing that any bag strap or heavy garment is likely to snag. This is how I ultimately lost my Fitbit, when the strap to my camera bag yanked it out of my pocket and deposited it somewhere in the New York Botannical Garden.

Wearing a bracelet (FitBit has one, now, though it gets rid of the screen, which I find one of the most useful aspects of the One) gets around this sort of problem, and doesn’t require the neoprene sleep band. So, I decided to give the Up another try now that it’s been re-engineered.

And then, there was a Jawbone again…

I didn’t ruminate on it too much at the time, but the app that shipped at launch with the Up was pretty rudimentary. The new app is somewhat confused in terms of UI, but is rather powerful and capable. The Integrated food/mood tracking works smoothly, configuring the device is painless, and the detailed charts of activity and sleep are fantastic (getting this sort of capability with history requires a subscription payment with the Fitbit, absurdly). So, it’s clear that they’ve invested substantially in the software since launch, along with reworking the hardware.

It’s too early to say whether the thing’s going to keep working this time around. So far it’s been great, but I could have said that at this stage in the last copy. I’ll certainly update if it fails again, but hopefully this one works for good.

What’s lacking? Well, wireless syncing would be nice. A way to track progress without syncing might also be nice (say a distinctive buzz every 1000 steps, since there’s no LCD readout to check). It doesn’t have an altimeter, but then I don’t really care, since this was only used by Fitbit to report “flights of stairs climbed,” to rather dubious accuracy. Otherwise I think it’s doing about all it can within the current packaging and context.