Technologists just “lurve” upgrading both hardware and software. The result for normal people, however, tends to be overcomplication and often a degradation in both user experience and utility. Even if you discount the natural resistance many of us have to change, for every version of something that’s better than the original, there’s another that many people feel is retrogressive. We all have our upgrade bêtes noires. A lot of Windows users would love a return to the simplicity of its 3.1 incarnation. And I for one would give anything for a downgrade of the latest iTunes, which sadly can’t be done.
Not so, however, with Jawbone’s upgrade of last year’s superb – and surprisingly stylish – activity-tracking bracelet, UP. The one thing that wasn’t ideal about the original UP was that you needed to plug it into a computer to download the data it had gathered about your movement, sleep patterns, distance covered on foot and calories burned. This had its pleasures; I would often not download my UP until I’d been wearing it for a while, and seeing your previous week’s activity (or sloth) displayed graphically in one hit was both fascinating and instructive.
UP24, by contrast, chatters constantly to your iPhone or Android by Bluetooth, providing a stream of information that takes the idea of the “quantified self” to a new and superior level. For one thing, the functionality is absolutely flawless. Bluetooth was once flaky and unreliable, but now UP24 allows you to check how you slept, how far you just walked and other factors in real time at a glance. Plus, the sophisticated UP cloud ecosystem will send you text reminders throughout the day of how you’re doing in pursuit of the targets you set. Having UP24 wirelessly in contact with your phone also doesn’t preclude you from simultaneously using your Bluetooth for other accessories, such as headphones.
What I like best about UP24, apart from the impeccable technology and the way it (along with other activity trackers) almost subliminally gets you walking more, is that you can use as much or as little of the data generated as you want. It doesn’t try to take over your life.
The downsides? UP24 could definitely benefit from the addition of an altimeter like those found in the FitBit and Withings Pulse devices, so you could get due credit for climbing stairs and hills. And I don’t love the swirly design of the rubber casing – I preferred the look of the older UP. But overall, this is a spectacular improvement on an already fine product.