Finally Putting Down the Jawbone UP


At the start of the summer, I wrote about how a good experience with customer support had encouraged me to keep wearing the UP, Jawbone’s Activity Tracker wristband.

Well, I think the UP and I are parting ways for the foreseeable future. But why?

A Sickly Companion

One of the main things most people seem to experience with the UP is that it invariably fails. The first version was awful in this regard, and the second, whilst much improved, also suffered from problems. My replacement band functioned very well for a month or so after I got it. Then it started to develop the usual quirks:

  • Battery life dropped from 10 days to around 5. That’s still a decent amount of time to go without charging a device, but the declining half-life of the battery made me lose confidence in the band. (Is it still on? I don’t know.) As soon as battery life becomes unpredictable, I tend to go into “keep it sipping a charge whenever possible” mode. Given that you have to take off the up and remove the cap to charge it, this quickly became unfeasible.

  • The button got harder and harder to successfully press.

  • It started to get… weird. Like the previous band I’d had, it would occasionally decide that it didn’t really want to sync with my iPhone, or it would flash lights and buzz at odd times. It all seemed a tad too sentient for my comfort.

I’m A Better Me

Back in July, I wrote:

Knowing all these metrics helps me be healthier. It reminds me to get more activity into my daily routine, and it’s helped me work on achieving a better sleep schedule. This really is true, and I can see real changes in the way I think about how I structure my day and how active I am.

In this respect the UP fulfilled its own mission a little too well. The thing is, once you get in a habit of paying attention to how active you are, how you’re sleeping, etc, you start to learn how to judge these things more intuitively. Nearly a year with the band took me from blissful ignorance all the way to being able to predict with decent accuracy how many hundred steps I’ve taken in a day. Being healthy isn’t about the numbers, it’s about a way of life.1

Like a fantasy hero whose great challenge has finally arrived, I feel I’ve reached that moment where I can take what I’ve learned from the wise old UP’s guidance and reach deep within myself to find what I need to slay the dragon of sedentary living. This is my crane kick moment.

Just Make It an Implant

The UP is about as close to a fashion accessory as you can get. It doesn’t scream “electronic device”. This is — presumably — great for people who are into that kind of thing.

My problem is that I am the kind of guy who would prefer something that didn’t look quite so effete. I don’t really pull off fashion accessories. If the UP looked more like a wristwatch, I’d be happier. As it is, I’m sick of explaining it to people who think I’m making a fashion statement.

The UP is annoying to wear in some situations. It gets in the way when I’m resting my wrists to type on a keyboard. My wife hates it with a passion due to the number of times I’ve accidentally scratched her with it. Also, importantly, my new job necessitates wearing more dress shirts, and the band does not play well with those.

Conclusion

I still believe that the UP is the precursor to some really interesting wearable tech and body-metric devices. It’s just too early to the party.

Here’s the bottom line: Wearing the Jawbone UP has gradually increased in friction, whilst the benefits it imparts have gradually decreased. If there was no obstacles in the way of my continuing to wear it, it’d stay on my wrist for a long time out of habit and familiarity. As it is, I’m just not willing to make the effort.


  1. I’m not saying I’m as perfectly healthy as I could be, but at least I know which direction I’m heading.