Review: Jawbone UP Move fitness tracker

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Gizmag reviews the Jawbone UP Move fitness tracker(Credit: Simon Crisp/Gizmag)

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The Jawbone UP Move is an entry-level fitness tracker which can monitor daily activity and sleep, and is priced to allow everyone in on the fitness tracking action. However, as part of the Jawbone UP family, can it offer more than its specification sheet suggests? Gizmag recently spent a bit of time with the diminutive tracker to find out.

The UP Move is not an all-singing, all-dancing, all-monitoring fitness tracker for hard-core fitness fanatics, or people who want to know what their heart rate and perspiration levels were at 4:30 AM on Tuesday morning. Instead the device is positioned firmly at the budget entry-level end of the market and at its core measures steps, active time, idle time and sleep micro movements, it also calculates distance and calories burned.

This means the device is geared towards those who want to keep an eye on their daily activity levels, or fitness tracker virgins who just want to see what all fuss is all about. With a US$50 price, potential buyers are likely also looking at devices such as the Fitbit Zip, the FitBug Orb, or simply just using an app on their smartphone to cater for their tracking needs.

In the box users will get the UP Move tracking unit, a little chunky coin-sized device which features LED icons and a pattern on one side, and access to a coin battery, which gives up to six months use, on the rear. Also included is a tool for removing the rear of the device and a rubber holder which can be clipped onto your clothing. We also tested the UP Move with a wrist strap, which is a $15 optional accessory, but advised for sleep tracking.

Compared to some of the more technically advanced fitness trackers, the design of the Jawbone UP Move is a refreshing change. It is small, lightweight, and so simple that it's not at all intimidating. The small plastic puck can be wrestled into its clip or wrist strap (this process can be frustrating, but at least you know it's not going to fall out) and once it's being worn it's fairly unobtrusive.

Given its small size and that it comes in a selection of five colors – with the chance to mix it up even more with different colored clips and straps – the UP Move is arguably more female-friendly than some other trackers. This was at least the case in my house with this being the first of the trackers I've reviewed that my wife didn't liken to a criminal's GPS tracker, and she even wanted to try it out herself.

We put the device through its paces, wearing it for a month and had it paired primarily with a Moto G (2nd Gen) but also tried it with an iPad to get the iOS experience too. It's worth noting that while you don't need to worry about the splash-proof tracker getting damp in the rain, Jawbone says you shouldn't use it while swimming or in the shower.

Getting set up was a breeze with the UP Move. Users simply install the Jawbone UP app on their smartphone, create an account and pair their phone and tracker. Of the various fitness trackers we've tried, this process has been the smoothest and most hassle-free. In terms of what spec phone you'll need to get up and running, we're looking at something running iOS 7 or Android 4.3 or higher, and boasting Bluetooth 4 connectivity.

Interacting with the UP Move itself is done through a button-pressing flashing-light interface and the device can be used to review steps and sleep compared to your daily goal. A long press of the clickable front face cycles between step and sleep tracking with icons showing what state the tracker's in. Practically this is probably going to be your main interaction with the device, other than remembering to put it on. I found that because the UP Move is "just" a tracker, I forgot to wear it more often than devices which I also use as a watch or to receive smart notifications on.

The flashing lights can also be used to tell the time. With a double click, the lights flash in a clockwise pattern to reveal the current hour and then minutes. However, in our experience it was always quicker to get a phone out whenever we needed to know what time it was.

A quick press and hold start or stop activity/workout logging – more detail about a workout can then be added in the app including what you were doing and at what level of intensity.

It's this app which means it would be a wrong to write the UP Move off as being too basic to be any good. The UP app allows access to most of what is great about Jawbone's other higher-end trackers. Here you can set goals, see activity trends, manually track other events and get practical feedback. The app is up there with the Fitbit offering in terms of making tracking information accessible. It looks great and just works.

Within the UP app users are presented with their progress towards (or exceeding) daily goals, and a simple brightly colored feed of their activity. It's also easy to set new daily goals from within the app, view graphic activity and sleep trends, or log items including workouts or food and drink you've consumed. Activities can be selected from an extensive list which includes things like yoga, hiking, swimming and Zumba, while food and drink can be selected from a database, with the option to search by name, scan a barcode, or manually enter nutritional value.

In our experience the reliability of activity information was on a par with other trackers both in terms of step count and calculated distance. But another thing the UP app does to set it and the Move apart from a number of other trackers is that it makes the information usable. While some trackers can feel like they leave you confronting a wall of information, Jawbone makes it all a lot more accessible with a Smart Coach feature. This gives you feedback and encouragement in conversational sentences, with "Today I will..." challenges getting you to be more active.

The Jawbone UP Move also offers built-in sleep tracking, breaking down your time in bed into periods of light sleep, sound sleep, and awake. Some things to note on this are that it works best when used in the wristband rather than the clip, and it's manual, meaning you have to remember to start and stop it. If you have a fully-functioning memory that won't be a problem, but I forgot to start it several times per week.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised with the UP Move's sleep tracking when I did remember to use it. Looking back on the sleep breakdown, it felt more accurate than that of the Fitbit Charge HR and the lack of flashing green heart rate monitoring lights peaking out from my wrist, wasn't something my wife or I was going to miss in the middle of the night.

Because the UP Move is part of the Jawbone family, the data it collects doesn't need to be limited to the UP Move and UP app. Information can be exported to a number of other apps including the likes of Strava and MyFitnessPal, and it can be used with services and devices like Nest, to create a better sleep environment, or Withings scales to monitor weight. Information can also be shared on social media and users can compete with other UP-using friends.

The UP Move is a great device for someone looking to start tracking their activity and sleep information, but who doesn't want to spend a fortune on features like heart rate tracking and smart notifications they might not need. If you're wanting to track fitness and workouts rather than activity, you'll probably be better served by devices like the Fitbit Charge HR or Garmin Vivosmart.

That said, to dismiss the Jawbone UP Move as merely a budget fitness tracker would be to do it a disservice. While the hardware may not boast the high-end specs of the Jawbone UP3, the software running behind the scenes means it can still pack a punch. However features stripped out of the Jawbone UP24 like vibrations for alarms and an Idle Alert are missed.

If the US$50 (£40) Jawbone UP Move offers all of the features you need, you really can't go wrong. The tracker is simple yet capable, and makes the information it tracks easy to understand and act on.

Product page: Jawbone UP Move

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