Jawbone Up 4 Review – Good Specs, Bad Price

Jawbone Up 4 Review – Good Specs, Bad Price

7.5
Jawbone Up 4

Jawbone Up 4 is the latest generation of Jawbone’s new Up series which is splitting the fitness wearable market in two camps. Read on to see why.

But first: a little backstory. When the company released the Up 24 back in November 2013, the market could simply not take the strain, and we bowed to the new king. Then came its next versions, the Jawbone Up 3 and 2, which unfortunately could not live to the hype and match its predecessor’s success. We were quite disappointed, as votaries of the series. But just when we were about to give up on Jawbone and seek value elsewhere, the Jawbone Up 4 came as a surprise, and we had every reason to turn around and take a look.

Talking of the Up 4, you’re talking of one of the most sophisticated and functional fitness trackers in the game right now. Or, how many bracelets have you heard can let you pay your bills with American Express NFC right from your wrist? Only one, probably. And that’s the Apple Watch; a smartwatch. Jawbone is the first company to bring you this service in a fitness tracker, and at a lower price, of course. Want to go get yourself one already? Here’s a full review of the fitness tracker.

Jawbone Up 4 price when reviewed: $49.99

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The Jawbone Up 4 Design

jawbone up 4 designWhen Jawbone first announced their intent to unveil the Up 4 some time back in June 2015, I thought to myself, “Maybe they’re finally putting a screen on this one”. Well, they didn’t.

It’s been a dream to many loyal customers to see Jawbone actually turn out a fitness tracker with a display; a dream that has been shattered not once… not twice, but four times with the Jawbone Up24, Up 2, 3 and now 4!

Whatever the case, the company has never disappointed us with the sculpting of their products, and it’s not going to start with the Up 4. The trademark sleek, stylish look of the previous models has been perfectly conformed into the band, though the new design has seen further smoothening of the edges and corners.

The same old satisfactory level of comfort has been upheld, and the inner side of the band has been designed to fit soothingly around your wrist.

Jawbone Up 4 Closure System – Hook and Eye

Another architecture upgrade – which was also sported in the Up 3 and 2 – is the replacement of the claspless closure mechanism with a hook and eye system. Many users actually had a problem with the old system, which, according to them, increased the risk of loss, and didn’t offer enough comfort either.

This replacement means the Up 4 will not come in different sizes like the Up and Up 24, as with this mechanism, you can spontaneously adjust the placement of the hook to fit your wrist.

Is the Jawbone Up Waterproof?

Waterproofness – this is a feature that matters most to people who would wish to go swimming with the little fitness band on (to know how many calories they leave in the pool, for example). Well, we’re not there yet, but the Up 4 retains the water resistance property common in all Jawbone fitness trackers. You can take a shower with the band on, and even safely get rained on, but swimming with it is an out-and-out no-no.

The Up 4 – Silver and Black Colours

On a different note, the new band comes in only two different colours: silver and black, the opposite of its immediate forerunner, the Up 3, which is available in more than 5 different colours.

I thought to myself, “Maybe they’re finally putting a screen on this one”. Well, they didn’t.

Jawbone UP 4 Hardware

Heart Rate Sensor Included…

Jawbone UP 4 black and silver colours, heart rate sensorIn addition to the temperature sensors and accelerometer, present in the Up 3 and 2, the Jawbone Up 4 is equipped with a bio impedance sensor, which measures heart rate but doesn’t match the accuracy of an optical heart rate sensor.

The sensor, which according to Jawbone measures the user’s resting heart rate to give an estimate of their general level of fitness, makes the Up 4’s utility way higher than that of accelerometer-only trackers.

… But No Continuous Measuring

And, more like a battery saving strategy, the sensor doesn’t measure heart rate on a constant basis, rather intermittently (4 to 5 times a day), which may count as a setback for users – athletes, for instance – who wish to have minute by minute heart rate data in their records.

The sensors are gold plated and are situated inside the band but protrude slightly on the inner surface to get in touch with the skin. They are smooth to the touch, in case you are worried about irritation, and you’ll hardly feel them.

Jawbone Up App

Jawbone Up 4 AppOne thing you can be sure of is that the Up 4 does more than just count steps. Through the Jawbone Up app, compatible with both Android, iOS and the Windows Phone, the band lets you know how much walk you have had for the day, how long you’ve been active and the amount of calories you’ve lost.

Initially, the Up app lacked the capacity to give real time heart rate data, but a recent software update, to the respite of many, has enabled the feature. The app now gives a much better and reliable daily average BPM, especially to people who engage in multiple activities of varying intensities.

The Jawbone Up 4 has one of its biggest strengths in the Up app. It has one of the best interfaces around and relays the data in the most straightforward manner possible. You’ll read all the important information on this app, and notifications from your band will be displayed directly to your screen whenever the band is synced. By default, the home screen will display your overall step and sleep goal progress percentages, together with blog-like motivational quotes. There is no Jawbone App for PC though, to analyse your data on a big screen.

With time, the UP studies your moves and suggests positive changes to your lifestyle, helping you take a few more steps, go to bed earlier or drink more water. When you check on your goal percentages, you’ll find more information in detail about your sleep charts, steps, distance covered, calories burnt and other metrics. There are more than 33 third party apps that the activity tracker can work with, and it automatically syncs the data with those apps in your phone when in Bluetooth range.

It’s also easy to sync this device with social media accounts, so you can share charts showing your improving progress and compete with colleagues and friends.

Activity Tracking

jawbone up 4 Activity TrackingIt’s all about losing calories these days, apparently, and the Jawbone Up 4 has shown a lot of accuracy and precision on that front. Also, the company says it has reworked the hardware and equipped it with more refined sensors, in a bid to increase the accuracy, but that should count as a trivial enhancement as accuracy has not been an obstacle even in the older models. The step count can be off a bit sometimes, but by as little as ten steps at most, and this is a common weakness in fitness trackers that lack GPS connectivity, as distance covered and steps made are calculated mathematically. (Yes, you’ve guessed correctly – there’s no GPS on the Jawbone Up 4 either)

The fitness tracker can also identify the type of sport the user is doing, based on step movements, and log it correctly. Yes, it can tell the difference between tennis and football, or any other step-based sport, through a technology Jawbone calls “Motion X”. Sometimes the device may not be “sure” with the exact game you’re playing, and when this happens, you can always log the sport manually (similar to the Leaf by Bellabeat) before embarking on playing.

The tracker will always send real time notifications whenever its synced with your phone through vibrating alarms. When not synced, or is undergoing sporadic syncing, it will bring you the latest updates on your activity progress.

Just like the rest of the Ups, the Up 24 has the Idle alert feature which rouses you whenever you go for a set period of time, say, 30 minutes or 1 hour, without making movements.

Jawbone Up 4 Sleep Tracking

jawbone up 4 sleep trackingWhile it’s hard to measure the sleep-tracking abilities of a fitness tracker, the Up 4 has been offering me some quite reliable data so far. Just like the Up 3, you don’t have to “tell” the tracker that you are going to sleep. It detects automatically and the idle alert will excuse you from its regular vibrations. The band then measures the different sleep phases (light and deep) and displays them discretely on the Up app.

The Silent Alarm

The silent alarm to me is one of the most outstanding features about the Jawbone trackers. It’s a vibration that wakes you up, and not a tone. So technically, you don’t hear the alarm; you feel it. One advantage with this, apart from covering for the undesirable high-pitch tones in the morning, of course, is that only the wearer gets woken by the alarm.

If there is someone else in the room, say a sleeping baby in the cot, or just someone in the adjacent room, you can wake up and take your morning jog without disturbing them. Also with this system, unlike your phone’s, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of switching your tracker to silent mode in formal places such as meeting rooms.

Jawbone Up 4 Battery

The fitness tracker is equipped with a battery that can last for as long as 6-7 days before getting drained. The main reason for the incredibly long time between charges is because the tracker has no display. Instead, it has 3 LED indicator lights that notify you on the mode you are in (phone notification, sleep or exercise).

And just for the record, Bluetooth is notorious for draining batteries dry fast. So if you constantly have your tracker connected to your phone, you may never see it go four consecutive days without asking for charge. A simple way to save your battery from this viewpoint is to sync data with your device only when needed, instead of relying on real time alerts.

NFC AmEx Payments with Jawbone Up

jawbone up 4 nfc payment amexThe Jawbone Up 4 offers AmEx payments services through an NFC sensor embedded in the band, and all you have to do is tap the tracker on a compatible reader and let the rest happen. With an Up 4 around your arm, you don’t need to pull out your wallet or phone to make payments.

American Express treats the bracelet like an ordinary credit card and assumes none but you has access to the bracelet. Transactions, thus, don’t require identification through passwords or PINs, and anyone can easily make unauthorised payments using your card. To avoid this, you can use the Up app to disconnect your credit card in case the band gets stolen, or you happen to misplace it. If you lose both, then you may just have to contact AmEx support as soon as possible.

Currently, you can use the bracelet to make payments in selected hotels, shopping malls, petrol stations and airlines across the US, the UK and some other European countries which have adapted the NFC mode. Even if not so many outlets and hotels accept this mode of making payments, the bracelet was designed with the future in mind. So, relax. The feature will come in handy soon.

Jawbone Up 4 vs Fitbit Flex and Garmin Vivofit 2

The screenless tracker unfortunately goes at an astonishing $200, something that should and will heavily count against it in a market full of cheaper but proven fitness trackers. Its biggest rivals, the Garmin Vivofit 2 and the Fitbit Flex go for $100, when in fact Vivofit 2 has a display screen. Yes, the Up 4 does offer heart rate monitoring as an added bonus, and the AmEx money transfer service, but if that’s anything to go by, I would add $50 to the $200 and get myself a Fitbit Surge, which does everything the Up 4 does and still includes built-in GPS, a web interface, continuous heart rate monitoring and a touchscreen display.

While trying to find a justification for the insane price tag, I realised that although not that comprehensive compared to the Fitbit Surge, which to me is too good for its price, the Jawbone Up 4 sports a design and features that offer unmatched convenience.

The moment you strap it your wrist, you’re done with it till maybe when you want to juice it up or want to go for a swimming session. It’s thin, and won’t be in your way while you’re using your computer, doing the dishes or eating. It monitors sleep automatically, heart rate passively, and acts as a means of payment when you can’t immediately reach your card or phone, or want to pass by the store and pick something after your morning jog.

The already capable fitness tracker received a software update recently and became even more efficient and useful.

Jawbone Up 4 price when reviewed: $49.99

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Piece of advice…

Get this band completely out of the picture if you’re on a tight budget or comprehensiveness is your first priority. But if you’re looking for a sleek bracelet that tells you how bad you’ve been sleeping and how many more steps a day you need to be living healthy, then the Jawbone Up 4 has you covered.

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