Slack to the Future

A Couch Potato’s Take on High-Tech Fitness Wearables


Recently I got the opportunity to use Jawbone’s Up 24. I was interested in it because not only is it a sophisticated high-tech wearable, but it doesn’t look out of place. For instance, I was recently catching up with a friend and he didn’t even realize I was wearing it on my wrist, because it looks like one of those ubiquitous rubber wristbands such as the ones issued by the Livestrong Foundation. I applaud Jawbone for making technology that’s both fashionable and functional.

As I wore it over the next week, I found it interesting to track sleep and steps. It was fascinating to see the data on my smartphone. It offers greater depth with what you could do with it for people who are into fitness (unlike me). You can input your mood and what you’re eating. I was also impressed that it had over a dozen companion apps to help you find your fitness niche. The battery life’s impressive: when fully charged it said it had seven days of charge. But a week later it still said it had two days’ worth of charge. This is laudable, as battery life is one of the biggest problems in most portable consumer electronics.

I liked the Bluetooth functionality, and while I think it’s an essential feature, having to have Bluetooth always on with frequent updates wreaked havoc on the battery life of my Nexus 5 phone.

From my experience with the Up 24, I learned that I have relatively large wrists. Jawbone should consider letting buyers purchase custom-sized bands on its Web site, as wrists definitely come in more than three standardized sizes.

Although the band’s a very ergonomic piece of wearable technology, I personally think it’s difficult to expect people to wear it all the time. So even though Jawbone’s done an impressive job miniaturizing a variety of sensors, I’d like to see future products being lighter and possibly smaller. Perhaps Jawbone could take a page out of the playbooks of other major high-tech firms and hire anthropologists, sociologists or psychologists to figure out how to make these devices even more comfortable and desirable.

For me, the Jawbone Up 24 is a more practical wearable than most of the devices I’ve researched, and I was surprised at how well it worked. Nevertheless, my dislike of wearing something on my wrist, the strain on my phone’s battery and the limited utility from my perspective all mean it’s doubtful I’ll continue using it for much longer. At this point I can’t recommend it to most people, especially given its high price and limited functionality. However, I still think it’s a good product for those strongly interested in and motivated about fitness.