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 youto 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.