Jawbone UP vs Basis

Jawbone UP 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.
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.

Basis B1 BandThe 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.

21 thoughts on “Jawbone UP vs Basis

  1. I agree. We definitely need an open source solution. I have an ActiveLink from Weight Watchers and I like it, but have also played with the Fitbit stuff. But the problem I keep running into is that there’s all this data that’s being tracked, and I can’t access it because none of these devices have interfaces that are accessible with a screen reader. I would love to see something like WordPress that would allow me to take data from something like a wristband and see whatever stats I’m generating, export them, compare them between days, ETC.

  2. My problem with both of these devices is very simple – i just can’t get them – they are always out of stock and not being sold in my country (and when i come to a country which does sell them – they are out of stock).
    I’m also curious about getting such a great sleep – any secrets about it? :)

    1. I do a few things that I think are worth trying:

      1. I don’t drink any caffeine from soft drinks or coffee, I might have a green tea or two earlier in a day.
      2. I go to sleep when I’m tired, but don’t do movies or TV near bedtime because I find those keep me awake artificially. (Screens are fine, just not motion pictures.)
      3. I leave my curtains open and wake up with the light usually, no alarms
      4. If I get tired in the afternoon I try to lie down or take a nap, though seldom successful it’s nice to relax for a bit.

      This is what works well now, but always experimenting and iterating. The exception to my caffeine rule is speaking overseas, where I’ll have some Red Bull to avoid dozing off on stage. :)

  3. Good rundown, I was not aware of the Basis.

    I bought but never really got into the habit of using the FitBit. I guess that’s mainly because it doesn’t capture my main form of exercise, cycling, but I was underwhelmed by their online service anyway.

    A Wi-Fi weighing scale, on the other hand, is something I would recommend to anyone. Stepping onto a scale for a few seconds fits seamlessly into your morning routine, so, for the effort of establishing a simple habit, you get to track your most important metric. I have the FitBit Aria but I presume the Withings is pretty much the same, every weighing scale should have Wi-Fi.

    Sure, your could keep a pen and paper near a normal scale and keep a manual record but the truth is that, if you add that many steps, 99% of people won’t bother – I sure as Hell never did. So, yeah, devices and services that make quantifying your activity and your results easier are going to be massive and do a massive amount of good. I reckon the resulting awareness will then lead to a secondary explosion in innovative fitness products such as walking desks.

  4. So great to hear your insights after simultaneous usage of 2 devices. I recently did a similar experiment for http://lifestreamblog.com/ testing 4 devices simultaneously which included the Jawbone Up, Nike Fuelband, Fitbit One and Bodymedia armband. I would have loved to also test the Basis which has additional sensors like the Bodymedia armband. Those sensors are pretty important for getting more accurate data. I’m finalizing my roundup comparison blog post of the 4 devices I tested that will include a comparison matrix. I can tell you that in the end though there is no perfect device and choosing one is a personal decision based on which factors are most important to you and ultimately will help you modify your behavior in a positive fashion.

  5. I’m a bit annoyed with the Up Band. In December they offered a $150 credit for folks who bought the older model (so we could upgrade to the new better one). After 4 months of repeatedly being told my credit rebate is coming, it never arrives. If Jawbone is THIS disorganized now, what will they be like if they can manufacture stock for demand and their device takes off?! I’m disgusted with them now and am looking for another Brand to replace my UP altogether.

  6. RE the UP… even if I wake up before the alarm and turn it to the normal day mode, the alarm still goes off at or near the time I set it for, so maybe it’s not actually tied into sleep mode? That would be great because as you say, it’s an action you have to perform and could easily be forgotten. If that is the case, you can use the app on the phone to roughly put in when you went to and woke up from sleep. I’ve never had to do that, but I assume it knows how to calculate what it may have interpreted as steps into sleep!

  7. This is really cool. I kinda like the jawbone up bracelet. The product reviews you used to do are really cool. keep’em coming. Since we are on health stuff, I recommend doing 20 min of exercise per day. Really easy and doesn’t have to be strenuous. Walking, swimming, etc. Just 20 min at the end of a work day daily. After a period of time, you will see the benefits…

  8. I have had the Jawbone Up for a few months now, and love it. I have actually been working on something simliar to your last paragraph with the unofficial UP API and some public APIs and manual inputed data to learn more about myself. I love data, and seeing data about yourself is really interesting, especially when you start comparing it to everyday life and actions, and finding some correlation to the things you do.

  9. Does the Basis have alarm features like Up & Fit bit? Considering this as a bday or father’s day gift for my weight lifting, cycling hubby…

  10. This reminds me of my Nike Sports Watch which I use for tracking my running and cycling activities. I love it when I’m wearing it. It’s terrific, lighter than most of it’s competitors, better looking than most of it’s competitors and is generally all around better. But I can’t pull the danged information off of it to do anything cool with it. The most I can do is reboot my MacBook into OSX and pull the basic data out into some graphs. There’s no option to grab the raw data and I have to use a piece of proprietary software which only works in OSX or Windows, neither OS of which I actually use. I randomly happen to have OSX on my machine as it came preinstalled and I can’t get rid of it.

    An open source setup would solve all my problems with the Nike Sports Watch. In fact I could probably use it to do a heck of a lot more than track my running and cycling if I had access to raw data as I could probably use it for generally tracking my daily activities if I were running it all day long. But the meagre data analysis available in the proprietary software assumed that you are using the device for a very specific task and so it isn’t terribly good at doing out of the box things.

    Hopefully something better will come along some day.

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