The exception-al UP?
December 13, 2011
On browsing the feed for Stephen Hackett’s excellent blog, 512 Pixels, we came across a post quoting Garret Murray on the Jawbone UP:
Don’t buy this piece of shit. It doesn’t work, it will fail, and the software is terrible. Jawbone is still selling them even though they know they’re all future bricks. Don’t buy one.
For what it’s worth, our Jawbone UP has worked fine since we bought it on the first day of release. We own a medium UP, and the one issue we experienced with a night of sleep not getting logged was because of a software bug not accounting for daylight savings time. That bug was fixed a day or two after the UP’s release with an app update. Beyond that, we haven’t had any frustrations with the device, though we’ll caveat that with three other remarks:
- We’ve experienced the occasional “sync error”, but unlike Murray’s experience, it’s been far from “75% of the time”. In fact, we’ve had, maybe, three sync errors in the several weeks we’ve owned our UP.
- The battery life does not meet the expected 10-day operating window. On average, we estimate the UP loses about 15% of its charge per day, which means we have to plug the UP in every six or so days for a recharge. Is the battery getting weaker over time? It’s too early to tell.
- The software feels like a beta, not because it’s “buggy” like Murray claims (because it’s not), but because it’s not as feature rich as we’d like, especially in regards to food intake. Jawbone’s actions seem to suggest they’re aware of this, and plan to increase the scope of what they track.[^1]
Murray complainsabout the UP movement tracking being off, but it’s no more off than similar devices. There’s a limit to what the UP can and cannot track, and we feel that as a daily average, it does fine. Yes, it’s logged steps as we brushed our teeth, but it’s also not logged steps at the local market because we were holding a Starbucks coffee cup and weren’t adequately swaying the respective arm. Again, we’re looking for a reasonable daily estimate. If you want highly accurate tracking, then track only specific events using UP’s workout mode, and don’t wear the UP when you’re at your desk and you know you’re not moving around.
This problem partially extends to sleep as well. The UP uses movement to determine your light versus deep sleep patterns. The problem is that its alarm utilizes this movement to decide when to wake you up in a 30-minute window. For a single person or someone who does not have pets, this might work fine. But when you share a bed with another person and have cats that like to crawl around on you all morning, what this leads to is being woken up within two minutes of that window’s start time.
We’re not sure what Murray’s getting at here. Is he moving to swat at his cats, or are his cats pulling at his arm? In other words, what is causing him to move, which ultimately sets off the alarm? If he’s physically moving his arm (meaning he’s no longer in deep sleep), then the alarm should be going off, cats or not.
Was it truly a coincidence that I happened to be in light sleep at the start of that window every morning? Based on how insanely tired I felt when it woke me up, I doubt it. A further problem is there is no way to snooze the UP, so if you don’t get up right away, you’d better have a backup alarm.
This confirms that Murray just doesn’t get what the UP is designed to do here. If you’re not getting adequate sleep in the first place, you’ll be tired whether or not the UP goes off because of movement or because it hit the alarm time. Adding a snooze button entirely defeats the purpose of this system, as it’s supposed to wake you when you’re in a lighter sleep and therefore less tired when getting up. If you’re willing to ignore the alarm and go back to sleep, then this system isn’t for you, because you’ve just acted contrary to its design: get a “normal” alarm clock and stop bitching.
I’ve yet to hear from anyone who has had an UP for more than a few weeks that works.
Well, we’re one. Maybe we’re lucky, but it’s doubtful that we’re the one exception that proves the rule.[^2] Maybe our UP will die tomorrow, but for the last several weeks, we’ve enjoyed using our UP daily, and would still recommend it to others. We’d tell them to be aware that some UPs are having issues, but that if they get one that doesn’t, they’ll have a convenient movement tracker and alarm that works wonderfully alongside an iOS device.