Jawbone UP, Thumbs Down

via Ben Brooks. Cliff Kuang, Co. Design:

You’d think that Jawbone, the company that mastered Bluetooth headsets, would have made the UP communicate wirelessly with your phone. That’s not how it works: The wristband, which has a speaker jack clearly hidden on one end, has to be plugged into your phone every time you want to refresh your data. (Why no Bluetooth? Battery-life issues, apparently.)

Kuang suggests constant communication between your smartphone and the Jawbone UP for it to “become truly present in your life.” I agree, but others will have a different level of ‘constant’. I have a solution.

The friction in user experience (fUX), namely the trouble of physically connecting the Up to a smartphone, is harsh enough Kuang can no longer recommend it. There are other fUX too but I’ll focus on the lack of Bluetooth connectivity.

PhysOrg reported up to 74% power reduction of 3G smartphones by Finland-based Aalto University researchers, who used a network proxy to burst Internet traffic and force the 3G modem to idle in between bursts. This got me thinking.

Burst sync data from the UP to a smartphone and force the Bluetooth modem to idle in between bursts. The user can determine the exact tradeoff—realtime data at the one end and all-day battery power on the other—depending on the need. So that’s power consumption, but how about power generation?

Seiko Kinetic watches. Kinetic technology is based on micro-capacitors that generate electricity using the movement of the arm. The UP is asymmetric with a thicker, heavier top portion and I don’t like the overlapped bottom. Make the design symmetric allowing a bit more room for a few micro-capacitors. This establishes an interesting symbiotic relationship: Now your movements fuel the UP, which in turn encourages you to move.

Combine smart Bluetooth wireless technology with motion-based electricity generation and fUX can be significantly reduced giving the Jawbone UP a chance at being “truly present”. This enhanced UP might even earn a thumbs up from Kuang.

Update: Ben Brooks on Fitbit:

In the end these types of devices are utterly useless because they are tracking the wrong things. We don’t need our steps tracked, or for a device to guess at our ‘activity’ level, or looks at our sleeping habits. We need to be told what we are doing wrong and how we can change it.

That’s going to help.

And that’s not what the Fitbit, UP, et al does. Save your money, because these activity tracking devices are about as good as the Palm Treo was when all we were looking for is an iPhone.

The Jawbone UP or the Fitbit are mere data collectors. The analysis and recommendation part, the useful parts, will need to be done by you.

Update 2: Dana Wollman, Engadget, on the UP:

But all that means little when the device routinely malfunctions. Though the company says a minority of users have reported breakage, it’s telling that both of the units we tested over the past month have bricked — one of them within 24 hours. Worse, Jawbone hasn’t yet diagnosed the root cause of these problems, a collection of maladies that run the gamut from a rapidly draining battery to a silent vibration motor. We still feel that the Up has promise, but until its engineers iron out the kinks, we can’t in good faith recommend it.

Update 3: via Ben Brooks. Garrett Murray:

Here’s the TL/DR version: Don’t buy this piece of shit. It doesn’t work, it will fail, and the software is terrible. Jawbone is still selling them even though they know they’re all future bricks. *Don’t buy one.*

Update 4: Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman:

With your help, we’ve found an issue with two specific capacitors in the power system that affects the ability to hold a charge in some of our bands. We’re also fixing an issue with syncing related to the band hardware.

The UP No Questions Asked Guarantee” starts December 9.