Filed under: Review
I’ve always been into personal analytics. From Wakemate to the Nike Fuelband I’ve tried pretty much every device that’s come on the market to help you become more self-aware of your activities, and hopefully improve them as well.
Lately I’ve settled on two that I think are really high quality: the Jawbone UP and the Basis watch. I would recommend either above the Nike Fuelband or Fitbit, but let me share some brief thoughts about my experiences with each:
The UP is beautiful — it’s easy to wear with pretty much any outfit, even with formal wear I find I can move it up my arm a little bit inside my sleeve above my shirt cuff thanks to the flexible nature of the band. The social app they have for it is cool, though it can be a little weird to see your teammate’s minute-by-minute sleeping habits (“Hey! I noticed you were up between 3:32 and 3:50 AM last night. How ’bout them Giants?”).
I’m very proud of my sleep.
The battery life is over a week so you never have to think about it, but you do have to carry around a proprietary connector for it which I keep losing leaving me (like right now) with an uncharged and useless device. To sync you plug the band into your phone’s headphone port and the sync takes a few seconds, it’s a fun process I do usually first thing in the morning to see how I slept the night before and it’s also fun to demo to friends. The first one I had was in their “mint green” color and I ended up wearing it out — it started to look dirty and I broke it where the headphone jack comes out making it difficult to charge and sync. That said, I was pretty rough on it. My new one is blue and I like it much better. My only big complaint about how the whole thing works is it doesn’t detect when you go to sleep, you have to press and hold the button on the end to put it from wake to sleep mode, which I would frequently forget to do. I really like the idea of the smart alarm and power nap features even though I never used them.
The Basis is a bit clunky and retro looking, but functionality-wise it provides some really cool data: it tracks your heart rate, skin temperature, perspiration level, steps, and sleep. It detects automatically when you’re asleep, no buttons to push. The data is presented in a really cool web app that lets you compare some of the data points and that I learned cool things from, like my heart rate jumps about 20 beats per minute when I wake up, and I’m most warm about two thirds into my sleep cycle. There don’t appear any social features that I’ve seen in the software, though its habit formation tracking seems pretty slick. The way the “buttons” work on the device is pretty cool, the silver dots in the corners are touch-sensitive. There’s a button on the side that I haven’t figured out what it does yet. Syncing and charging is much worse than the UP — it’s got an even clunkier proprietary USB thing that both syncs to your computer and charges, but because the display can show you how you’re doing as you go throughout the day I don’t feel the need to synchronize it as often. The heart rate tracking is by far my favorite feature. It’s comfortable to wear, but doesn’t disappear like the UP. Finally, as an added bonus, it tells the time. (Surprising useful.) If it somehow merged with the Pebble I’d be in geek heaven.
If I had to pick between the two I’d just use the Basis. The awkwardness of the device is outweighed by the richness of the data it provides. For right now I’m not choosing: I wear one on each wrist and compare the data. (It’s always within a few % of each other for things they both do.) If I were hiking in the woods for a week I’d probably just take the UP as its battery would last the entire time. It’s really illustrated for me what a silo each of these systems are, they don’t talk to each other at all and it appears unlikely they ever will.
Long-term I think we really need an open source package you can run on your own servers that can ingest the data from all of these services, say from back when I used to use a Wakemate sleep tracking to today’s Fitbit Aria scale, the meals I track in the UP app with my Basis heart rate data and Runkeeper and Hundred Pushup logs, and provide you with a single data store for all the personal analytics you generate across various services. I think there’s going to be a lot of competition in this space in the next few years.