Activity bands are the new hip thing, along with electric cars, drones, and SnapChat. The concept isn’t new – basic pedometers have been around for ages, and for a while, you could get them out of cereal boxes. However, technological advancements, constant connectivity, and new ideas have led to pedometers meeting the information age.

I picked up Jawbone’s UP 24 fitness/activity tracker/band one day, deciding to see what all the fuss about these bands was about.  I figured I might as well give it a shot for a week or so before returning it, in order to be able to know what I was talking about next time someone asked me about them. That was six months ago, and I’m still wearing it. I might be outside the return period…

Basically, this thing is a pedometer that met a LiveStrong band and got into bed with a smartphone.

The Thing

The idea is that you wear it 24/7, allowing it to track your movements and your sleep patterns, reporting to your iOS or Android device via Bluetooth Smart (without taking a toll on your smartphone’s battery). Obviously this is catered primarily to fitness connoisseurs, but it doesn’t really stop there. What attracted me the most about the band was the sleep tracking. Not only are you able to see how long you slept, but how well you slept – seeing how you shifted between sound/deep sleep and light sleep. While this initially sounds like information for the sake of information, you can actually start to see patterns, based on how much exercise you had the preceding day, not to mention you can recall environmental issues that correspond with your poor-sleep days.

During the day, it gives you nice pretty graphs showing how much you’re walking (with spikes showing bursts of activity), and how much you’re lounging. It also has goals and alerts built in that can encourage you (if enabled) to be better at keeping moving. You can set it to alert you if you’ve been sitting for two long, encouraging you to get up and move a little bit, which is considerably better for your daily health. You also set your step goal (i.e.: 10,000 steps/day) and your sleep goal (i.e.: 8hrs/night), and see how well you do in conforming. Once it starts to get to know you a bit better (less creepy than that sounds), it will challenge you. For example, if you’ve been fluctuating your bedtimes like a crazy person for the week, ranging from 10PM to 2:30AM, it may challenge you to go to bed by a more stable hour, e.g.: 11:45PM), and politely remind you of that challenge (if you accepted it) an hour before. Similarly it can offer to challenge you to meet a certain step goal if you’ve been slacking for a while.

The app itself is regularly updated, and they just added new features such as meal, caffeine, and calorie counters that you can input to allow the app to help you track all your daily health needs. Jawbone has recently put out a redesign of the app, which was a welcome update, and it seems to be getting more stable, which is definitely a plus, as it was a little picky at times before. Getting setup with the Jawbone UP and the app is a joy of simplicity – the onscreen guide walks you through everything, and you’ll be up and running in less time than it takes to get it out of the box.

Rise and Buzz

A favorite feature for me is the Smart Alarm function. Instead of relying on the jarring honk of my iPhone alarm to thrust me from slumber, I’ve been using the UP. You can set an alarm (say 7:30), and a buffer time (say 20 minutes). Then, since the band is tracking your sleep, it is clever enough to wake you up anywhere between 7:10 and 7:30, based on your current sleep state. So if you’re tossing and turning and just dozing, it’ll awaken you at 7:10, otherwise it’ll wait until you drift from deep sleep into light sleep before calmly vibrating you awake. I’ve found through use that it’s definitely a more relaxing way to wake up, and all awakenings are happier, except when I’ve totally out and it isn’t able to rouse me until the end of the buffer (7:30).

The negative side of the UP 24 is, to an extent, its design. If you’re someone who normally wears rubber or plastic bands on your wrists, then this will be totally at home. If you don’t (like me), it’ll take some getting used to, and some aesthetic hemming-and-hawing. I wish they made it look a little classier than the LiveStrong-esque rubber (you can get it in several different colors), something that would look more at home with a timepiece or a suit. That being said, much of the time (for me) it’s under a sleeve and out of the way, but those times that it’s not, it a thickish rubber band on my wrist.

The battery life is great – a full week, and it only takes an hour or so to charge it up. The downside of the charging is that you have to use an included adaptor to connect the 1/8″ audio-style jack to a USB port, rather than using a standard micro-USB plug.

The band is activity resistant, from experience. I wouldn’t recommend diving with it, but it holds up fine for everyday activities and sports. This is where the rubber design comes in handy – mine has been smacked against all kinds of objects, scraped along, etc, and shows very little wear for all it’s been through. The paint on the plug cover is a lot less resilient, but it’s not a deal-breaker.

Bottom Line

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about yourself, your patterns, and getting the push to be more consciously active, and don’t mind having a rubber band around your wrist, this thing is great and well-worth it.