Jawbone Up4 Review

Many wearable electronics companies are starting to release fitness tracking products, and Jawbone is no exception. Jawbones new UP series of fitness trackers are sleek, stylish, and boast a wide array of interesting features. There are 4 different UP products, but the differences are comparatively minor. This review will focus on the UP4, which is functionally very similar to the UP3 but has the added advantage of being able to be used as a mobile payment device for American Express card holders. For all intents and purposes, this write up could also be considered a Jawbone UP3 review and a Jawbone UP2 review as well. Without further ado, here is our jawbone fitness tracker review. 

Design

The UP is a flexible rubber like wristband with no heads up display. The device has a removable clasp which results in a very comfy, albeit loose fit. The frame is made of anodized aluminum and contains no allergic compounds. The rubber is also hypoallergenic to cut down on rashes. It measures 8.5 inches long by a half an inch wide. It is about a quarter inch thick. There are 3 led lights on the front, and they will emit certain colors to signify the devices statues: orange for sleep, blue for monitor mode, and white for notifications. 

There are gold plated metal sensors are on the inside of the band which stick out a little bit. These are for measuring your heart rate via a bio impedance sensor. While they are smooth to the touch, I had to wear the device pretty tightly to get an accurate read and this caused me some minor irritation. But I am highly sensitive to these kinds of things. Your mileage may very with this one.​

As for visibility, the device is highly concealable and resembles a small bracelet. You could easily wear this to a social function and it would not stand out much at all. 

Hardware

In addition to the accelerometer and temperature sensors, Jawbone has included a bio impedance sensor with the advent of the UP3/4. While not as accurate as an optical heart rate sensor, it still trumps most accelerometer only devices when it comes to accuracy. According to Jawbone, the device supposedly measures your resting heart rate to give a rough estimate of your overall fitness level. I was fiarly impressed with the UPs ability to measure heart rate, but it seems to do it in intervals rather than constantly. From what I gather, the device will read your heart rate passively 3-4 times per day.

Originally the UP did not offer active heart rate monitoring, but with a recent software update has enabled this feature. I found that the UP now gives a much better read of my overall BPM for the day so this is a welcome addition.

There are gold plated metal sensor are on the inside of the band which stick out a little bit. While they are smooth to the touch, I had to wear the device pretty tightly to get an accurate read and this caused me some minor irritation. But I am highly sensitive to these kinds of things.

App

Jawbones app is fairly robust. All of the basic are there: active time, calories burned, idle/active times, and resting periods. The app can also cycle through each part of your daily exercises and will display a timeline with a graphical breakdown. There is also an embedded smart coach that will give you helpful tips about sleep and nutrition. Cute but not very useful.

Additional, if you don’t like the include Jawbone app the device has a high compatibility with most of the popular third party apps on the market. I was able to pair my UP with the Misfit app no problem, since this is the one I prefer since it pairs with my sleep tracking sensor.

Tracking

The UP series records (steps, calories, distance) everything you'd expect a basic fitness tracker to do. The step count can be a little off sometimes, but this is to be expected with devices that don’t have a GPS, as the distance and steps are calculated mathematically. The UP was able to automatically recognize what sport was doing and log it correctly. Jawbone claims that it is able to measure almost any step based sport, like Tennis or Zumba, thanks to its "Motion X technology". The device will also allow you to log non step based sports manually, which is a handy feature.

The tracker can send you activity notifications in the form of vibrating alarms. This can be useful for those are a sedentary for long periods of time and may need some extra “encouragement”. The app allows for a great deal of customization with this. I was able to set the alarm to go off if i was idle for more than 45 minutes, or go off at certain intervals. 

Sleep Tracking​

Jawbone has made some haughty claims about the UP's sleep tracking capabilities, so I wanted to put this device to the test, as sleep tracking can be a difficult thing to get right.

The UP4 was able to measure my different periods of slept fairly well - REM and deep sleep were on par with my dedicated sleep tracker, the Withings Aura. However it did miss a few of the times that I woke up and got out of bed. I’m not sure if there is some sort of delay or something. It may just be a software bug. I had much better luck with the manual sleep mode but this only works for the up3/4. The other UP devices use a passive system that seems to be hit or miss. For the most part the sleep tracking is about average, and if you are looking for a fitness tracker that has this functionality it would be wise to stick with the UP3/4.

Battery

Jawbone lists the battery life at right around a week. I found this to be pretty accurate. One thing I noticed was the devices quick charging time- less than 2 hours from fully drained. Not bad.

Amex Payments

The UP4 also has built in NFC for mobile payments. For some reason you can only use this with American express cards though. Since i don't have an Amex card, i was unable to test it. But that doesn't matter anyway. For the most part this feature comes off a more of a gimmick, and most people use their phones for this type of thing anyway. The idea makes sense though, since you wear the tracker on your wrist for extended periods of time, its a natural progression of the technology. With better support I could this type of thing becoming more popular in the future.

In Closing

I hope you enjoyed this jawbone up review. Jawbones up series has some interesting offerings, but it falls short of the competition. While software updates have addressed some of the major issues, like the heart rate monitoring, the device is too expensive when you compare it to similar offerings from Fitbit or Garmin. At around $199, it is close to smart watch levels in terms of pricing. The Amex mobile payments are a nice feature but they aren’t enough to justify the price tag.

​Take a look at our sleep tracking guide here for more product recommendations.