At the half-year mark at my new job,  I began to wonder how work was impacting my physical fitness. Although I run (wickedly satisfying) mental marathons on the weekdays, my desk job is no different from looking at sitting hours logged. So I bit the bullet to try out several fitness monitoring devices on the market.

Jawbone Up, Nike Fuelband, Fitbit One

At the heart of wearable devices like the FitBit One, Nike+ Fuelband, and Jawbone Up are accelerometers and algorithms that track how much you flail around daily (e.g. steps taken, calories burned). You set goals and monitor progress on the device / app.

I tried the Fuelband and the Up for a week each, since they were wristbands with solid reviews. The Jawbone Up scores higher on design, battery life, and functionality; the Nike Fuelband shines in its simplicity and one-button ease of use. Overall, I like the Up better, since the the bonus sleep monitoring feature gives way to answering interesting questions, e.g. how much sleep can I get on a redeye flight?

A few personal findings:

  • I sleep like a baby.
  • I have surprising average activity levels.
  • I compensate for weekday sitting by dancing through the weekends. See screencaps comparing steps taken at work vs. a concert.

Continue reading for device details on design & fit, app features, and battery life.

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Look & Feel

The Nike+ Fuelband tracks steps, calories, and Fuel points (an arbitrary point system). The matte rubber band is sticky, but makes for a loose bracelet. The default display is off, until you press the button. Then you see the time and LED progress bar.
fuelband

The Jawbone Up (2nd gen) tracks steps, calories, diet, and sleep. Designed by Yves Behar, it works as an accessory and pairs well with other wristwear. The grippy matte rubber hugs your wrist. There is no display besides the LEDs indicating the mode.

band1

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App Features
The Fuelband has a simple app/website that tracks your points along an arc, and archives your weekly and monthly progress. It’s also very complimentary. The below screen is a summary of the website (left) and the app (right) interface.
fuelband2

The Up app, on the other hand, is loaded with features. You can set idle alerts and sleep alarms; log your mood and meals; and see trends between two metrics over the day/week/month. The main page shows progress towards sleep and activity goals (below, center screencap).

jawboneupapp

If you click the sleep or activity bar, you get more information. I sleep ~8 hours and walk 6K steps consistently (below, left & right screencap).

jawboneupapp2

When I wake up, I feel awesome (below, left screencap).

jawboneupapp3

When at a concert with good music, I dance heavily. Thirty-four thousand steps, to be exact, with respect to Masquerade Motel (above, right screencap).

Here is a look at how many more steps I took while at the concert than at work, earlier that day (below, left screencap).

jawboneupapp4

The result was that exhausted smiley (above, left screencap). It was a good week.

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Battery Life & Syncing

  • Nike Fuelband has 4-7 days (advertised as 7 days). Syncs over Bluetooth. $150
  • Jawbone Up has 7 days (advertised as 10 days). Syncs by plugging a 3.5mm audio jack into your phone. $130

Effectiveness

Both work. I was taking extra walks and throwing in mini-workouts at the end of the day–anything to make or exceed my daily step goals.

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