Fitbit Flex Versus Jawbone Up

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The Ftbit Flex and the Jawbone UP are two personal devices designed to give users a way to monitor their everyday health but which one? Thanks to VIVA from Best Buy I was able to put both of the devices to the test.

So there’s no confusion, I don’t get all scientific-like with my comparison. The purpose of this review is to see how the two devices, offering similar features, measure up against my usage habits.

Comfort and Design

In case you’re not familiar with these devices, both the Fitbtit Flex and Jawbone UP are worn around your wrist. The Fitbit Flex comes with two different sized bands in the box, depending on your wrist size. The larger band fitted snug around my wrist when done up to the last snap (reminiscent of an Swatch watchband).

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The Jawbone UP is sold in three sizes (small, medium, and large). The packaging actually has a cutout so you can see which size fits you best before buying. The Jawbone UP is more like a flexible wire that wraps around the wrist. It doesn’t allow for much fine-tuning in fit so I found it sat looser on my wrist, moving around a little.

In my opinion the Fitbit Flex looks and feels more like a watch over the Jawbone UP, which is more like urban jewelry.

Fitness App Partners

Both the Fitbit Flex and Jawbone UP are designed to work with your smartphone through their individual app but I was pleased to see that my wireless Withings scale could also connect to both devices. By simply paring the scale with my device and activating the feature in my settings I can now get accurate weight/fat/BMI readings from my scale to my Fitbit Flex and Jawbone UP.

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Community

Sometimes working out with a friend can be motivational, a moment when “keeping up with the Jones” might actually get you doing more. Both the Fitbit Flex and Jawbone UP enable you to add friends to your community but your friend obviously has to be on the same device. If community is key to keeping motivated you may want to see which devices your friends are using.

Both Fitbit Flex and the Jawbone UP enable you to customize what you share with your friends. That means personal info, such as that chocolate cake you ate for breakfast or your fluctuating weight doesn’t have to go beyond your own personal knowledge.

Sleep

The ability to see me sleep patterns intrigued me and both the Fitbit Flex and Jawbone UP offer this feature. I must admit it took me a day to realize that I had to put both of the devices in sleep mode in order to track this data.

The Fitbit Flex requires a repetitive tapping on the device to switch it from sleep to wake mode and back. You can tell from the lights (one simple tap will bring them on) what mode your device is in. I also discovered that some movements, like chopping herbs for dinner or clapping, would sometimes switch my device into sleep mode. The device vibrates when this happens so most times I knew right away and switched it back.

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The Jawbone UP requires you to physically push a button and a lighted image will appear briefly (sun for awake and moon for sleep).

Both devices did a pretty good job tracking when I went to bed versus when I fell asleep, light sleep versus deep sleep, and the number of times I was awake. It is pretty cool to see your sleep patterns on one day and compare them to another. Though as Mashbale pointed out, having this date didn’t really cause me to change my patterns. If I wanted to make a difference I should go to bed sooner and see if my sleep improves.

Support

Even if you’re like me and not into sharing your progress (or perhaps lack of) with your friends that doesn’t mean you don’t love encouragement. Both the Fitbit Flex and Jawbone UP sent me weekly email summaries of my progress. This was a great way to see my slow days versus power days and to remind me to keep on track of my goals. I don’t mind getting these emails but for those who like a clean inbox you can unsubscribe.

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Beyond the weekly email, my Fitbit Flex provided additional updates in the form of badges for each big progress I made (first 10,000 steps, getting closer to my weight goal). My Fitbit Flex also updates me on my progress right from the wrist band. Tapping the band twice will bring up the lights to tell me how close I am to my goal and the band vibrates when I’ve surpassed my step goal. This later update still freaks me out just a little when I feel the vibration on my wrist.

Food

I know what you eat plays a part in your overall health and both the Fitbit Flex and Jawbone UP give you the option to input the type and amount of food you eat. When I began testing the two devices I did try entering my daily food.

Fitbit Flex requires you to search their database for food items but once you found an item you could add it to your Favourites list. These items appear under a different tab making it easier to call up versus searching each time. You can also customize the portion size as well as indicate the time of day for each food item, perfect if you are logging your food after the fact which is usually when I added this information.

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The Jawbone UP tries to make it easier by grouping things in categories using images. If you want to get really specific you can add details to a food item manually and even scan labels for pre-made food items. You could even modify the amount of food, such as half a bagel versus a whole bagel (my usual breakfast). The main issue I had was that most of the Jawbone UP food directory was US based and contained a lot of processed food items.

Your homepage or dashboard for both the Fitbit Flex and Jawbone UP displays your food intake as you add it so you can see how you are doing against your calorie intake goal. To be honest, I found this task very time consuming on both devices and stopped recording this information early on.

Water

Although tracking food isn’t something I really got into on either device, I did use the option of tracking my water intake.

The Fitbit Flex treats water as a stand-alone item, enabling you to enter the amount of water each time. The little body image turning blue as you added more water during the day was a nice visual reminder as to how much more water I needed to drink.

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The Jawbone UP incorporated water under the food portion of the app but it was located at the top of the page for quick access. It showed up separately on the dashboard each time I entered my water intake but it never gave me a sense of achieving my water goal. It seemed almost pointless to add this information.

Synching

As the Fitbit Flex and Jawbone UP are designed to work with their corresponding apps on your smartphone, you obviously need to synch the wristband with the app. The Fitbit Flex comes with a small device that plugs into one of your computer’s USB port enabling you to update your data wirelessly. The Jawbone UP needs to be plugged into your mobile device directly (though I have heard there is a new wireless version now available).

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The wireless updating on my Fitbit Flex gave me up to the minute data on my phone though a number of times I would forget to manually update my Jawbone, meaning I would end up viewing data from a few days at once. Not really a big deal.

Charging

I’ll be honest I didn’t keep track of how long the battery lasted between chargers but it never felt like I was always charging. Both the Fitbit Flex and Jawbone UP have to be plugged into your computer’s USB port to charge with the provided charger.

The Jawbone UP is fairly simple, with the light on the device throbbing ever so slightly to indicate it was charging. The sold green colour indicated it was done. The only way to tell when the Jawbone UP needs charging is to either wait for it to stop working (just turns off) or get an update on battery life when you synch the device. I like that it gives me a visual of the battery, a percentage, as well as a rough amount of days until my device needs to be charged again.

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The Fitbit Flex was easy enough. Instead of plugging the whole band in though you removed the little ‘brain’ stick and plugged that in. No matter how many times I did this I would always forget which way to plug it into the charger and how to reinsert it back into the wristband. The Fitbit Flex also uses a light system to indicate the device is charging, though I thought its version was much clearer to understand than the Jawbone UP. As the Fitbit Flex is wireless you can find out the battery life by just tapping on the Connected option in the app though it just shows a very vague battery image so you are kind of guessing. Unlike the Jawbone UP, Fitbit Flex vibrates and sends me an email to let me know my battery is low.

Tracking Fitness

Of course the big part of both devices is tracking my fitness. Now I’m not a fitness junkie though I do make an effort to walk as much as I can, especially when it comes to school drop-off and pick-up. Walking plus the recumbent bike can actually put on a number of steps. I found both were pretty good at tracking my activity.

From the Fitbit Flex dashboard I can get a quick glance at the number of steps and distance, as well as calories burned and number of active minutes. Tap any of these line items and I can get more details displayed in a visual format. I love that I can also monitor my progress over the week, month, 3 months and even year. Along with monitoring my steps I can also add in specific workouts, such as riding the recumbent bike and these recurring activities can be saved so I can just select it each time instead of re-entering it.

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The Jawbone UP needs to manually be updated in order to see the latest input.  The Jawbone UP dashboard presents the visual of your steps which you can click on for more details, including how far you are toward your goal, calories burned, distance, idle time. You can also view your progress by days, weeks, and months but you have to go under the Trends menu to pull this up which is a little inconvenient. There’s also the Lifeline option that displays everything on one chart but I never really found this useful.

I’ve grown accustomed to wearing the two devices only remembering I have them on when the Fitbit Flex vibrates. Although I believe there is some truth in Mashable’s post about the lack of data to make them useful devices, I think they are beneficial for my purposes. Often I think I’m more active or less active than I am. Having the ability to monitor that activity level helps me to maintain it more consistently. There’s no denying that some weeks, such as March Break or when a child is home sick, my whole progress seems to be shot out the window but I then get back on track.

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I love the wireless synching and the ease of getting my data from the Fitbit Flex dashboard but the Jawbone up has an easier design to wear and the sleep data provided a little more detail. Both the Jawbone UP and Fitbit Flex offer users many advantages depending on what it is you want from your device. Both the Fitbit Flex and the Jawbone UP are available from VIVA shop by BestBuy Canada. Do you use a personal health tracker? Do you find it useful or that it keeps you motivated?

Thanks to the folks at BestBuy Canada for the providing the bands for review.

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