Just when I was about to report that the Jawbone UP was nothing more than an expensive pedometer, so the company announces a string of enhancements which clearly show that the wearable technology market is moving towards convergence.
Exactly like the B2B ICT market, it’s no longer enough to offer the raw hardware itself. To win, you need to add on a layer of value-added services. The fact that this has already happened in the nascent wearable tech market shows that it’s moving fast – and to me, this is an encouraging signal that the market will go mainstream.
After six weeks with UP, the novelty had definitely worn off – although I’d had a few surprises, too. The first learning was that manually logging all the food and drink I consume is pretty darned boring – especially via the Android app, I’ve heard that the app for iOS is better. Barcode scanning’s OK, but I’m not living exclusively on processed, packaged food.
The real kicker, the thing that kept UP glued to my wrist, was the core technology within, which is a movement sensor. As a desk jockey, I’ve enabled the “get up and move” alert, which buzzes with alarming monotony (causing some colleagues to already roll their eyes when anything buzzes in my general direction, be it Jawbone, mobile phone or even an early summer wasp). I’ve also been fascinated by the sleep tracker, which reveals (gasp, shock horror) that I am most definitely not an early morning person.
In his 2012 book Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired, Professor Till Roenneberg raises the possibility of people being jet-lagged in their own timezone. As someone who appears to get the longest period of deep sleep between 7am and 8am every day, that’s me – and a good reason why I don’t “do” early morning calls, although I’m OK with 9pm or later.
In fact, UP’s sleep tracking is phenomenal, when it works: activation involves pressing and holding the device’s single button, but I’ve woken a few times to find that it hasn’t kicked in. In case you’re wondering, I’ve set the 15-minute “idle vibration” to cease at 10pm, otherwise that would have surely been a reminder to switch to sleep mode.
Like mobile phone-based sleep trackers, UP can detect when I’ve moved out of deep sleep and trigger a smart alarm within a customizable window of my target get-up time. I’ve found that it is usually a few minutes behind me, but still a minute or two AHEAD of my alarm. Also unusually, I’ve been waking before my alarm – perhaps thanks to better understanding my sleep patterns.
UP boasts a 10-day battery life, and although I’ve only been able to achieve 7 days between charges, perhaps this is due to the excessive amount of idle alerts? A factory reset also helped after UP barely managed 4 days between charges.
So where from here? Well, Jawbone’s May 1 announcements show the way towards more ubiquitous wearable tech. No doubt the next-gen device will be smaller, lighter and smarter – I’d love to see it wifi- or Bluetooth enabled, and agree with the Jawbone UP purists who claim that the buggy first version was the best, because it included GPS. But for now, as a starter device, I’m hooked.