Fitbit, Jawbone UP and so on.

Which to buy? a friend asked today.

Instead of loosing my opinion in the never-ending stream of a Facebook post, I might as well revive my own blog a bit. I am not only opinionated but also an avid user of such gadgets after all.


20130903-145518.jpg They have come a long way. I began using my Fitbit when the wait for my unit was 12 months after ordering it, the website relied heavily on Flash and several batches where trouble ridden. But support was always good, they would update the software and replace faulty units. I was on my 3rd one until I could use it reliably. It was a novelty, no other such small device existed then, only clunky, large items.

This first unit walked with me roughly 1 million steps. It has been a good friend, and when I finally dropped it into water and a few days later it dissolved into pieces, I certainly thought I got my moneys worth for it.

This first generation Fitbit is no longer being sold at Fitbit and I do not know much about all of their new models. In many ways, the Flex seems to try and implement some of the Jawbone UP band and the One appears to be a bit bigger than my older model.

The Pros

  • It is small and non-obtrusive.
  • One can clip it easily – even without the additional clip – onto a shirt, jeans or your underwear (myself, I clip it on the latter and can forget all day about it, but you do need to watch out when you go to the bathroom not to pull it off and land it in the toilet bowl by mistake).)
  • It counts steps, yep, it is a pedometer.
  • The counted steps translate into miles, if you prefer seeing this.
  • A small “activity flower” withers or grows, depending on how active you are (if you care about things like this, I don’t).
  • Being able to see the time of day has it’s advantages if you do not carry any cell phone with you nor wear a wrist watch.
  • It shows you how many stair flights you have taken
  • You can time activities and sleep and see how many calories you have burned during that time, next to distance covered.
  • It shows how many calories you have burned during the day.
  • The ability to get some feedback directly on the Fitbit itself is the biggest point going for it, when comparing to the UP band.
  • The Fitbit website lets you explore the history of things measured – at this point an iPhone app will also allow you to see some historic data.
  • Fitbit does integrate with some other apps and sites, though Jawbone has definitely the bigger selection

The Cons

  • Not water proof
  • You need to be near your computer to have data go to Fitbit’s server
  • To properly measure your sleep, you need to wear a cloth armband with the Fitbit tugged into it. Neither sexy nor motivating. Personally, I just leave it clipped into my underwear, and even though the sleep tracking (restless, awake, deep sleep) is less accurate, it is plenty of information for me. Furthermore, the new Flex seems to avoid this issue with the included rubber armband for wearing it on your wrist.

The Jawbone UP

20130903-154028.jpgWhen the UP came out, I jumped onto it, being waterproof and okay to swim with was the draw.

Soon after it was released, the problems with this first generation showed quickly, Jawbone removed the “you can take it for a swim” wording but all the same, the problems persisted. Either after a couple of days or a week, it would turn into a dead brick. I went through 3 units within a month and then gave up. The company did not hide but came forward and gave everyone a full refund if requested, even if your band did not die. Commendable! And then they sat behind the drawing boards and the second generation of the UP band was born.

A few months after I had received my refund and the UP band was officially “done”, I broke down and got another one from eBay, because there was a lot about this band that I preferred over the Fitbit. First generation still. And oh wonders, this band did not give up. Not for several months.

And then I received an email from Jawbone. I was one of the lucky ones who would receive a 2nd generation UP band for free. Amazing, what this company did to work out the kinks and to get this product onto the market and successful.

Only a few days before my new, 2nd generation UP band arrived, my 1st generation band died. Quite perfect that timing of death!

This new band I have been wearing since then. After roughly 8 months it died on me and Jawbone replaced it within a week. No further issues since. I do not know what caused death for this unit, as I do wear it all day – also during showering – it is difficult to just blame it as being inferior to the Fitbit when it comes to reliability. Both items have had their share of problems and I have had more Fitbit’s replaced than UP bands. Bottom line is, you can get a good item or not. Both companies replace faulty items and stand to their warranties.

The Pros

  • It is waterproof. Wear it in the shower or in rain. I do not swim with it though, I do not want to test it to this point.
  • No danger of losing it (wraps around your wrist. For the past few months I begun wearing it around my ankle and as long as your band is large enough it is a nice alternative
  • It records steps (and distance)
  • Like others, it records calories burned
  • You can record activities and sleep
  • Measures deepness of your sleep (same as the Fitbit)
  • You do not have to be near your computer to sync data to the server.
  • You can set a “reminder buzz” for a set time of inactivity – time to getup and move is what the buzz then indicates.
  • You can set a buzz for a power nap. You set a maximum length and the UP will buzz you when you enter a light sleep phase close to that time. Really cool.
  • You can set it to buzz and wake you in the mornings, also within a light sleep phase which allows you to wake up much more refreshed than kicked out of bed with a rigid alarm which might catch you at the deepest moment of slumber. Of course, this requires you to wake up with a buzz (I do).
  • Nice iPhone application for tracking food and seeing your progress during the day and sleep pattern of the night.
  • If you don’t want to worry about entering food data within the iPhone app you have options. Good integration with other apps, such as the Withing scale for easy weight tracking but also iPhone apps like LoseIt!, FitnessPal, RunKeeper and so on.
  • I do like their food tracking interface and it is fast, you can scan barcodes, build up your own library with pretty pictures or use the search features.
  • Networking with friends seems also nice, though I do not use it.

The Cons

  • You need to remove an end cap on the bracelet and plug it into your iPhone to sync. Some people hate that and others have lost several times their caps. I do not belong to either group, but wish it would sync via Bluetooth.
  • No visual feedback like the Fitbit next to a small moon (sleep mode) and a flower light (quick flashing = activity recording, slow flash = day time mode). You need to sync the band to get your latest workout data visible.

Final Thoughts

Both devices have their merits. I have gone through 6 Fitbit units and the same amount of UP bands. I have been wearing both at the same time to compare how they differ in results. When the UP is worn on the wrist it is more “step counting” friendly – meaning that you can end up with high, wrong numbers. Worn around the ankle it records accurately.

The Fitbit has a website for the user, the UP does not, but both have an iPhone app. The iPhone experience with the UP band is much more motivating than the Fitbit app.

With the UP band being waterproof, another point which goes to it. Plus, no need to worry about a sleeping band at night. With the ability to switch between wrist and ankle, buzzing alarms, integration with other apps and a motivating meal tracker, the UP band has become my preferred device. For now.

There are new devices out there, such that also record heart beat (sorely missed on both, the Fitbit and the UP band), truly waterproof and then there is form factor too. Most new devices these days come with a companion website and/or an iPhone app. Tracking and comparing, if you are in to such things, a must and highly important to be user friendly and useful to you. Ensure you are happy with these aspects too!

Here a few new kids on or just about to be on the block :

  • Amiigo looks very intriguing with ability to track heart rate (!!!) and different types of activities and extensive options for statistics next to being truly waterproof (swimming, yay!) and Bluetooth sync. I did not see any options to track also a diet (to compare IN versus OUT) and the band, even though now 30% smaller, still seems very large, next to the fact that often you will need to wear band plus a foot tracker to get best results.
  • Shine is beautiful. Yes, the form factor gets a 100 percent on this one! You can also wear it when you go swimming. Interesting as it will take several factors into account when it computes your burned calories. It will give you some visual feedback and also the time. Sync’s by just putting the device on the iPhone screen. Their website currently though does have a tendency to crash when accessed via the iPhone, seems to be choking on the many slides in Safari, Chrome fares a bit better.
  • Basis is a watch with tracking features. Probably the size of a Pebble. Tracks also heart rate but obviously not accurate enough to use it during workout as a hear rate band replacement. Also, it’s price tag is well above the other two.

What is your favorite tracking tool?

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Another Hello, another Good-bye.

The past 2 1/2 weeks have passed in a flurry of activities, talk and work. As usual, it was great to have my dad visiting. This time around I decided to make a little photo “story” book as I had made on my birthday, capturing some of those fleeting moments (yes, in-between I plain forgot to take pictures, my bad). A few hours ago we dropped him off at the airport where he promptly fell victim to one of those random searches – and they did it thoroughly!!! – what, you don’t believe that 89-year old passengers could be mean bomb carriers? They looked close to request him to take off his shirt! – but anyhow, he made it through that hassle just fine and thus is the time to release the collected photos from his visit – with emphasis on cat pics because he likes them so :

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Thanksgiving – my way.

Once again it’s the last Thursday in the month, the day that millions of Americans come together and “say thank you” and “be thankful” for things, gathered around tables with stuffed turkeys and bellies.

On one hand it sounds great but on the other actually pretty gross.

Originally I thought the day is meant to prepare and share food with others – something I could see as a very worthwhile endeavor back in the days when there was a lot of poverty around while the country was established. Doing something for others which they might be thankful for. Doing something for others – cooking and sharing some great food - to also say “thank you”.

Oh, I finally realized how wrong I was.

I’m all in for traditions. You would not have thought so, correct? But yes, I am for the traditions which brings people together, I like gathering of Christmas (but not the shopping frenzy nor the fact that Xmas songs and decorations are being hammered onto and into you already by the end of October). Thus I also like the family gathering on Thanksgiving. Usually I could do with less food, but that is another story and has rather todo with poor personal control than the fact of the gathering.

Thanksgiving though is an odd one for me. It’s this “let’s all hail together and be happy together because it’s this day”. Huge aversion to something the like. Now be happy and say thanks. BE THANKFUL ON COMMAND. Ugh. It’s the same as LOVE SOMEBODY ON COMMAND because it’s February 14th. A day created and gotten on the gravy train by Hallmark.

Of course I’m thankful for a lot of things. But I do not feel compelled to go around and announce it to everyone what a good person I am that I’m such a grateful person! Too close to be nothing more than a lip service and we have enough of that when it comes to various religions and politics.

Thus, for all it’s worth, I will keep enjoying the gathering aspect of it and the food itself, while glossing over the points which remain alien and fake to me after all these years.

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