Good software makes fitness trackers great. That's why we've always loved Jawbone's bands: the Up app remains the best all-around fitness software available, and the Up2 tracker is the most full-fledged-yet-affordable way to access it. The only thing the Up2 lacked was heart rate tracking, automatic sleep tracking, and a comfortable fit. But two of those issues have been resolved: there's a new version of the Jawbone Up2 available now, featuring a redesign that makes the band more stylish and, more importantly, less likely to fall of your wrist. It's leaps and bounds better than the original Up2. And a new firmware update finally adds overdue automatic sleep tracking to this model and previous versions.
The redesigned Up2 is available now for $100 in the US (which converts to £65) and AU$149 in Australia. Jawbone will continue selling the original Up2, but I wouldn't recommend buying it. The clasp is finicky and the band can easily fall off. If you are buying a Jawbone, the new Up2 with the lightweight and thin straps is the one you should get. It still has some limitations, but it's better than ever before.
Editors' note, September 24, 2015: This review incorporates testing and impressions of the original version of the Up2 first published on April 28, 2015, intermixed with updates based on the redesigned September 2015 version. Note that user reviews posted prior to mid-September refer to the earlier version of the device.
What can it do?
The Up2 is a bare-bones fitness tracker. It doesn't include an optical heart-rate sensor, and there's no GPS or any sort of notifications from your smartphone. It only does the basics, but it does them pretty well. It can track the amount of steps you take each day, distance traveled and calories burned. There's sleep tracking onboard, too. A recent software update even made it so you didn't have to tap the band to put the band in sleep mode. All activities are now recorded automatically, which finally brings Jawbone up to speed with Fitbit, Garmin and Misfit.
The automatic sleep tracking works for the most part, but it's not perfect. The Up2 can have trouble determining whether you are lying awake or actually sleeping. There's no heart-rate sensor on the band, that means all the measurements are based on the movements of your wrist. I compared the sleep data recorded on the Up2 with a dedicated sleep tracker from Beddit and found that it generally overestimated my sleep on an average of 30 minutes each night.
Waking up each morning is calm and relaxing. The band can be get to gently vibrate, acting as a silent alarm. This is one of my favorite things about wearing a fitness tracker. It's a lot more peaceful to wake up to a gentle vibration than the jarring sounds of my smartphone. There's even a "Smart Sleep Window" feature that will attempt to wake you when you're in a state of light sleep. It's an interesting feature, but I chose not to use it on weekdays, only because I was scared it might make me miss work.
The new design of the Up2 is better in every way possible. It's slim, lightweight and incredibly low-key. I can spot a bulky Fitbit Charge from across the room, that's not the case with the Up2. I've been wearing the redesigned model for the past two weeks and haven't had any issues. I've yanked on the band and banged it against walls. It doesn't get caught and has yet to fall off.
The two models of the Up2 look identical from the top. It's when you flip the bands over that you see the change. The new model features two thin straps on either side with a small hook clasp on one of the straps that is hooked onto to an adjustable bar. What I really like is that you can wear the band flipped around so that the bulky part is hidden and the straps are on top. This make the Up2 look more like a trendy bracelet than a fitness tracker.
The original Up2 used a slide-in clasp that was hit or miss. It never felt secure on the wrist and fell off quite a few times. This isn't a problem with the new model. My only complaint would be that it's actually too secure. It can be difficult to remove the band from your wrist, but once it's on, there is little reason to remove it. The Up2 is water-resistant and can be worn while doing dishes and in the shower. It cannot be worn while swimming, however.
Jawbone's fitness trackers don't include displays. This could be a deal breaker for some, but not for me. I love the size of the Up2. It's incredibly slim, which may not have been possible with the addition of a screen. This does come with some sacrifices, though. You are required to pull out your phone to check the time and your activity progress.
The best part about using a Jawbone device is the software. The Jawbone Up mobile app (available for Android and iOS) is colorful, powerful and one of my favorites. The app provides you with a lot of the tools you need to live a healthier lifestyle. Aside from activity tracking, there's food, drink and mood tracking, and you can create teams to compete with others. The software can also connect with a huge selection of third-party apps, such as MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, Strava, IFTTT, Nest and others. (Just make sure you're using the purple app for syncing the Up2 since, weirdly, Jawbone has two different apps and they pair with different sets of devices.)
The first thing I did after I created a Jawbone account was join a team with my CNET colleague Scott Stein. As he tested the Up3 and myself the Up2, I was able to keep tabs on his daily activity progress. A leaderboard that displays our total step count over the past seven days kept me motivated. Similar to the Fitbit, a new Duels feature lets you challenge your friends to 24-hour, 3-day and 1-week long head-to-head step battles.
After the first few days of use, I started to receive smart coaching tips and feedback on my activities. I was challenged to walk more than 9,478 steps one day and when I completed that, I was challenged to do even more steps the next day. These challenges don't just cover steps, but also sleep, hydration and food intake. Challenges aren't automatic and you can choose to accept or pass on specific ones.
Along with the challenges, I began to receive reminders and activity insight. A small notification explained the benefits of sleeping more than 7 hours a night, while another reminded me that swapping out chips for crackers would aid in my weight loss. It's this sort of feedback and smart coaching that makes the Up shine.
I walk at a brisk pace in the mornings as I head toward the subway. When I arrived at work, I opened the app and was asked if I had performed an activity 20 minutes prior. The Up is capable of automatically detecting a rapid change in pace and active exercises. I confirmed in the app that I was walking at a moderate pace. You can also manually log activities for lifting weights, running, cross training, hiking, cardio, biking, yoga, basketball and Zumba, among other activities.
When it was time for lunch, I opened the food and drink journal in the app and logged my meal. You can either type in the food you are eating or scan a bar code, which will then search for the food in Jawbone's database. I'm no stranger to food tracking, having used MyFitnessPal for many years to maintain my weight, but I wasn't a fan of Jawbone's database. Barcode scans weren't always accurate and sometimes couldn't read the information at all. As I mentioned however, the Up can sync with third-party apps, including my favorite, MyFitnessPal.
Aside from viewing your data, the app also lets you customize your sleep, step and weight goals. There's even an option to set idle alerts, which will vibrate to remind you to get up and move. You can also set reminders that will vibrate the band and alert you through the mobile app of upcoming events.
After a long day, it was finally time for bed. I didn't have to tap the band or open the app thanks to the new automatic sleep tracking update. The next morning I was able to view the amount of light and deep sleep I achieved. The band also tracks how many times I woke up during the night, how long I was awake, the amount of time I was actually in bed, and how long it took for me to fall asleep. All of this data is displayed in a colorful chart, along with a percentage for how close I was to achieving my sleep goal.
I tested the Up2 on an Android device running version Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. It appears the band didn't always sync in the background and would only begin the syncing process after I opened the app. The same occurred when I paired the band with an iPhone 6 Plus .
Jawbone claims the Up2 will last up to 10 days on a full charge, but I consistently saw around 7 days. A week of battery life isn't bad, and that's similar to what the Fitbit Charge can achieve. For some perspective, though, the Up24 lasted up to 14 days, and the Garmin Vivofit and Misfit Shine each have a coin battery that can last up to one year.
The redesigned Up2 shares the same charger as the original Up2 (and same as the Up3). It's a magnetic four-pin connector that plugs into your computer or wall charger and takes approximately an hour and a half for the battery to go from zero to full.
The redesigned Up2 is stylish and more secure than older models. While it may be missing more advanced features seen in recent competitors, an attractive price and superior software make it one of the best fitness trackers available today.
Not only does Jawbone's software provide in-depth information on your sleep and daily activities, but it also offers smart coaching and daily insights to help you live a healthier life. This software is what propels the Up2 ahead of the competition. You don't even need an Up2 band to take advantage of Jawbone's software (you can use your phone, or a smartwatch app available for Pebble , Android Wear and eventually the Apple Watch ), but it's a good match.
The Up2 is the fitness tracker I would buy, and I have no problem recommending it to others. Just be sure to purchase the redesigned Up2 with the lightweight thin straps, rather than the model with the classic flat strap.