Jawbone UP vs Nike Fuelband

I’ve been wearing a Nike Fuelband (v1), when I’ve had a working one, for about the last 18 months. The Jawbone UP (also v1), again when I’ve had a working one, for about 6 (both links Amazon). Sometimes it’s been just the one, and sometimes I’ve had one on each wrist – makes wearing jewellery a little harder, but I don’t find either of them unattractive. This is my findings of the overall pros and cons.

Overall, I’ve found the Fuelband better for motivation, and the UP better for measurement (sleep tracking is the killer feature for me) however the durability problems of the UP have been approaching insurmountable for me, although I will cover some of the ways I’ve mitigated them.

Note – both of these bands now have newer models out. The Nike Fuelband SE and the Jawbone UP 24.

Durability

Hands down, the Fuelband. I think the longest one of my UP’s has lived is around the 3 week mark, the shortest was the one that never even turned on after I got it home from the Apple store – vindicating my strategy of buying 2 at a time (my friend had one that lived longer, about 5 months I think, and my second one was also my ex’s, which survived a few weeks with him but then only 3 weeks with me). The typical problem I’ve had is power-supply issues, so the battery discharges, and won’t recharge, can’t be detected by the app etc.

By contrast, my first Fuelband lasted 6 months, with 4/5 of them lasting at least 3 months. The hypothesis has been raised by multiple people that mine last so little time because I move so much. I’ve convinced another hyperactive friend to get one, so that we can test that!

Cool video of a Nike Fuelband being taken apart.

Handily, my overall stats for the Fuelband the 2012/2013 show how much time I’ve had to spend without one. There is no equivalent view for the UP.

Nike Fuelband 2012 Summary
Nike Fuelband 2012 Summary
Nike Fuelband 2013 Summary
Nike Fuelband 2013 Summary

Battery Life

No reason to choose one over the other here. Technically, the UP is supposed to last about 10 days, I’ve normally found it lasts about a week – it depends on how much you move. The battery life on the Fuelband depends more on how much you press the button to light the display, once I got over my initial excitement I was getting about 5-6 days battery life from it. The Fuelband can be charged anywhere you have a USB port, which is handy, so it’s not something to plan around and I’m happy to charge it when I’m sleeping, or when I’m sitting still and coding. The UP is tricker, as it requires the USB-Audio Charger convert, and the sleep tracking (see below) means I need to charge it during the day. I have a spare charger though, so I just keep one at the office and one at home and that worked pretty well.

The UP also alerts you (on your phone) as to when your band is likely to need to be charged.

Motivation

Activity Tracking on the Nike Fuelband iOS App
Activity Tracking on the Nike Fuelband iOS App

Activity Tracking on the Jawbone UP iOS App
Activity Tracking on the Jawbone UP iOS App
Me vs Females My Age on Nike Fuel
Me vs Females My Age on Nike Fuel

Definitely the Fuelband – you set your goal, and just tap the button ever so often to see how far you have got towards it! It definitely helped me up my activity level initially, although it has downsides too – I stopped swimming for a while as it wasn’t measured and didn’t count. I set myself a challenging target on my Fuelband, to encourage me to move through the day, and take a longer route home if I’m short of my goal. My goal is 4500 points – about double average for females my age, and I made a 50 day streak on it… and then my band broke. Gutting.

The UP has inactivity alerts, but I’ve never used them – I’m rarely still for more than an hour anyway, even in the office I find sitting on an exercise ball works well for not slumping at your desk. (My friend’s reaction to seeing my activity after we connected in the UP app “how do you write any code?”) I kept the UP on it’s default (10,000 steps – normally I hit around double that), I only sync once or twice a day (first thing in the morning, last thing at night) and so it doesn’t matter – it’s not going to change my activity level.

Day summary on the Nike Fuelband web app
Day summary on the Nike Fuelband web app
Day breakdown on the Nike Fuelband web app
Day breakdown on the Nike Fuelband web app

Sleep Tracking

Sleep Tracking on the Jawbone UP iOS App
Sleep Tracking on the Jawbone UP iOS App

This is the only reason I persist with the UP after… I’ve lost count of how many I’ve had – pretty sure I’m in double figures. The sleep tracking and smart wakeup are AMAZING. I know there are other options, but I’m not going to use a mobile app as I do not take my phone to bed with me, and those have limited accuracy – especially if you sleep with another person. I feel so much better after a smart wakeup than being woken by an alarm, and I find the data really useful – sometimes I’ve slept all night but didn’t get much deep sleep, and so feel terrible. Other times I’ve not slept that much, but I’ve got enough deep sleep to cope. It’s often been a good explanation of “why do I inexplicably feel terrible today”, or “why do I feel so amazing even though I was out so late?”

Swimming / Cycling

Adding Cardio Workout on the Jawbone UP iOS App
Adding Cardio Workout (swimming) on the Jawbone UP iOS App

The UP is supposedly fine for swimming, although a number of mine seem to have died right after a dip in the pool. The Fuelband claims no such thing, and so I don’t swim with it on – annoying, but I’ve got over it not counting and go anyway. It does irk me when I just miss my goal and I know all my laps didn’t count though! Same for Spin class – 45 minutes of hard work and the walk to and from the gym scored more points! The nice thing about the UP is that you can log your workouts in the app, so however they affect your points, it still feels like they count! And it calculates calorie burn estimates too.

The App

Adding Weights Workout on the Jawbone UP iOS App
Adding Weights Workout on the Jawbone UP iOS App

UP has a superior app, and actually has a close-to-fully-functional offline experience, and far, far better handling of timezones. By contrast, the Nike app barely works at all when there is no connection, something I find really annoying. The Fuelband only has an iOS app, but can sync to the web using the USB port on your computer.

UP has both Android and iOS, I think the iOS app is slightly better, but the Android one is pretty great too. It syncs by plugging into the headphone port, which is something I’ve absentmindedly done when on the phone (pro-tip: you can’t combine these two tasks), and it’s sometimes annoying that I have to stop listening to music to sync. You have to remove a little cap on the end, which made me a bit nervous as I’d heard they can get loose and fall off, however none of mine had (or, lived long enough to have) that problem.

The Fuelband syncs by Bluetooth,  I found leaving Bluetooth on all day was a battery drain on my phone, so I just turn it on to sync and then turn it on again. This is now more convenient with the iOS 7 redesign – Bluetooth can be turned on and off from the view dragged up from the bottom of the screen, without having to go to Settings.

Error Messages

The Fuelband will give some selection of messages when plugged into the computer (those starting with 800 are a bad sign) and then declare itself necessary to be replaced. I only had one instance where that didn’t maintain – it gave the message once, but wouldn’t repro, just showed “connect me” whenever the button was pressed. This was super annoying when I went to return it, as it was out of charge completely after being out of use for months, and I had to go away, charge it up in a cafe, and return. After that, they exchanged it (I would have been less annoyed by this, if the guy in the shop had been less patronising about it).

I have never seen an error message from the UP. The app gives me some help options when it has trouble connecting but that’s it – there’s no means for the UP to display error messages itself, nor has connecting it to the phone ever shown me one. The main error of the UP though has been complete lack of response… There are two different ways to reset it – a hard, and a soft reset. Neither of these has ever resolved a failing UP band for me.

Return Policy

Both have great return policies, I swap any broken Fuelband’s I have each time I go to the US (I have two). The UP doesn’t live long enough for that to be a viable strategy for me, so I gave up after my first two died (one was lost on it’s way to them, the other they exchanged but wouldn’t mail to Australia so I gave to a friend) until they were available in Australia at the Apple Store – this has been great, they’ve swapped without question (well, other than “why are you still using this?), and even refunded me – I’ll buy new ones once I’m based in the UK and can return them there. Although maybe I will try a Misfit Wearable instead.

Appearance

The way the Fuelband can be used as a watch is surprisingly handy – it was one of the things I missed most about it when I was waiting for my last round of replacements.

My friend lost an UP he was supposed to be replacing for me, claiming that the cleaner must have “thought it was a useless piece of plastic, which it is” and thrown it out – I can see that it might look that way, when not on your wrist. The Fuelband feels sturdier, and looks more purposeful… even when broken.

I like the black of both, Nike black translucent and UP Onyx are my preferred colours. As a sizing reference – I wear a small Fuelband, and can wear a small or medium UP, but prefer medium, as there is no need for it to fit as tightly to your wrist.

Overall

If you’re hoping to increase your activity level, get the Fuelband. If you’re more interested in sleep tracking, and have a convenient way to exchange UP bands when they break, try that. (Both links Amazon).

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