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Jawbone UP/UP24: Movement Tracking Wearable Tech

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Movement trackers are devices made to monitor your activity throughout the day or in cases night too. Let me tell you how I came across this fad (at least I used to think of it as fad). A month ago I got my iPhone 5S, as an iPhone enthusiast it was kind of a compulsion for me to get new iPhone in my pocket. At first I thought the new M7 processor chip in iPhone 5S will be a waste of hardware that I will be carrying around. M7 tracks movements made by your phone without compromising battery life. By tracking movements, M7 provides data to games and fitness apps.

I am a little health conscious but I stayed away from wearable tech to track my movement, as I found it unnecessary. However, since Nike released their steps tracking app which uses M7 data from iPhone 5S, I found this motion tracking business very interesting. While using my iPhone app to track movements I realized that, the results were inaccurate as I don’t carry my phone every time I move. That’s when I started reading about Jawbone UP, Fitbit and Nike Fuel fitness bands.

During my research I found that, Nike Fuel band is the fanciest one but, doesn’t support sleep tracking and solely be used for step counting. Fitbit and UP bands do something extra which is called sleep tracking in addition to step counting. Though all of these bands are designed to track your steps only, Jawbone UP app on smartphone allows users to modify timed activies in terms of type, difficulty and duration. Unlike Fitbit, this functionality allows UP users to use a band feature to log time of the activity automatically in app and then set parameters correctly to get a close estimate of calorie burn.

Custom activity logging on UP app

Sleep tracking: It is one feature which I always wanted to use to understand my sleeping habits. I tried using several sleep tracking apps before but I was not happy with results and definitely was not interested in keeping my cell phone so close to my brain over night (Isn’t whole day enough for that?). UP and bit gave me another shot to track my sleep. I like UP the most because of the way UP app shows me it’s collected sleep data. While Fitbit only shows when I slept and how many times I woke up during my sleep, the UP app also gives me information about sleep phases like, Deep Sleep and Light Sleep.

This additional data of deep and light sleep gives UP one more functionality which is called of Smart Sleep Alarms, which I found very useful over the course of last 7 days. The UP band vibrates to wake you up when you are in your light sleep, this happens at time which is closest to your set alarm time. Alarm time window can be set to 10, 20 or 30 mins.

Power Nap: Not sure about Fitbit but, UP band has a power nap feature which wakes users up after an ideal power nap time which is somewhere close to 26mins. The total sleep time can be set to 30, 45 mins to 1 hour. If its is set to 45 mins then UP band will wake you up after 45 mins even if ideal sleep time is not over. I found Power Nap feature very useful when I was over loaded with work and needed some rest at the same time.

Sync and wearability: Fitbit wins this one as it syncs with it’s smartphone companion app wirelessly where as, UP band uses 2.5mm jack on your smartphone to sync with UP app. I would prefer bluetooth sync a 1000 times over physical connection but other features of UP band and app overwhelm the odds. I sync my UP band three or four times a day and I don’t have problem with it because it’s very easy to pull out and put back on wrist. Fitbit is like a wrist watch which fits perfectly on wrist but might push users towards getting irritated but it and wearing it off.

Charging: Both UP and Fixbit bands require users to take them off for charging. Both come with their special chargers so users cannot use concentional USB charging cables. Charge time for UP is upto 10 days of course because it doesn’t have bluetooth wireless connectivity where as Fitbit can stay charged up to 7 days. To keep the charging cap from losing, UP band users have to take extra caution while charging the band.

Interaction with other services: This is a huge on UP band’s side that it’s app can be linked to IFTTT service to automate other services provided via IFTTT. This gets better with Jawbone’s latest version of fitness band UP24 which has bluetooth funcationality as additional hardware in comparison with the existing UP band. One better example is UP24 can detect when you are up and can start your coffee maker or turn on lights automatically.

Overall impression: I am using UP24 band for almost 2 months now and am not at all disappointed by it’s performance. However, Jawbone UP app needs a major overhoul which according to Jawbone is due soon. Keeping my hopes up for it.

Price: Both UP and UP24 bands are available at major retailers in the US. UP comes at $129.99 and UP24 comes at $149.99 price tag.

Pebble App Update: Reliable but delayed notifications

pebble113updatePebble app for iOS received an update yesterday which now allows support for third-party app notifications on your Pebble smartwatch. Pebble smartwatch also received a simultaneous update to support new notification features introduced on the iOS app.

What changed?

An additional functionality to support notifications from other 3rd party apps including Facebook, Twitter, Fantastical, Whatsapp, etc. was added. A simple feature that all Pebble iOS users were eagerly waiting for since the release of iOS7 is finally live.

How can I get it?

After updating Pebble iOS app, app requests users to update watch firmware to v1.13 which supports this new notifications functionality on Pebble watch. Pebble watch can be purchased for $150 at retailers like Best Buy and also online at www.getpebble.com

Conclusion

Pebble announced something which was already available for other smart watches (e.g. Metawatch) since the release of iOS 7. Pebble development is too slow and the company doesn’t seem to care about it. I bought Pebble right after I upgraded to iOS7 last month. SInce then, there were multiple times that I thought of switching to Metawatch or even Galaxy Gear (for Galaxy Gear I also considered switching back to my Galaxy S4) just because these delays in app development. Nevertheless, I still find Pebble better in terms of battery and it’s simplicity than other watches and prefer iPhone over S4 and Note 3.

After updating to firmware v1.13 I am getting reliable connection to phone for my notifications except that, now all these notifications are delayed for about 5-6 seconds. Probably I am now used to instant notifications directly from iOS notification center. Still I’m glad that fingerdance has come to an end for all iOS Pebblers.

Pebble Smart Watch: Information on your wrist

Pebble is an accessory to your smart phone. Think of it like a ‘notification center on the go’.

Do I need a smart watch?

If you use your phone for messaging and checking your work emails you do probably need a smart watch to make your life easy. Not all your notifications are urgent or important, a smart watch can help you avoid taking your phone out of your pocket for non urgent or unimportant notifications. With twist of your wrist you can just check what the message is and then decide if you want to respond to it or just dismiss it right off your smart watch. This saves a lot of time and efforts.

Custom watch face installed on pebble shows next meeting, date, time, phone battery and current weather condition with temperature

That’s not ONLY what it does!

Usually smart watches let you control your phone up to some extent without violating rules and regulations of the OS on your phone. In Pebble’s case, it lets you control certain things on your iPhone. However, you can take total control of your Android device or a jailbroken iOS device because they are way much lenient on restrictions. You can control music on your phone with native Pebble app on the watch. With custom apps you can control several things on your phone such as, view calendar and appointments, get weather information, set alarms, get GPS location (with some apps maps too), get notifications from all the apps (iOS7, little buggy until next app update), http requests, change watch faces and look, Twitter and Facebook feeds, volume control, use pebble as camera remote, phone battery status, access to your iPod library including playlists etc. Also, there are many other things you can do which are only available on Android or jailbroken iPhones like, sending predefined text messages to predefined contacts, initiating calls to predefined contacts, invoke settings on phone like turning on/off WiFi with your Pebble.

Following are some apps available on AppStore which will help you improve your performance with Pebble.

  1. Pebble: Official Pebble app, lets you configure email push for Gmail and other IMAP email providers. Also enables caller ID function on your watch. Equired for firmware updates and installing watch faces.
  2. StartWatch+: Allows use of custom watchapps and faces that shows you weather and appointment information at a glance along with custom music player controls. Has app pages for stock, exchange rates, GPS location, camera remote, calendars, reminders, detailed weather, FindMyPhone and HTTP requests.
  3. SmartWatchPro: Similar to SmartWatch+ but gives you additional functionality of viewing Twitter feeds; has no custom watchfaces or apps other than this app provides.
  4. Pebble Faces: This app allows Pebble users to download watch faces, apps and games directly on your phone and onto your Pebble via official Pebble app.
  5. httpebble: App that handles all the HTTP requests in a WiFi network. SmartWatch+ and SmartWatchPro also support this feature but httpebble is required for specially made weather watch faces.
  6. pebbleremote: aka Peapod, gives you total control over iPod library including all the custom and smart playlists, artists, albums and volume/play control.
  7. PebbGPS: Shows GPS location spotted by your phone onto your Pebble. This app allows users to change zoom level on the watch and also shows approximate address of current location.

There are a few other apps which you can find in AppStore just by searching ‘pebble watch’.

Why to buy Pebble over other watches?

My simple answer would be longer battery and simple operation. There are many smart watches in the market including the very recent Samsung Galaxy Gear. All other watches are great with what they do except for they are packed with so many unnecessary features which make them a separate device than accessory to your cell phone. For me I needed only to see my notifications without taking my phone out so that, I can decide which one to respond.

Advantages of buying other smart watches over Pebble:

  • Large color displays
  • Touch screens
  • More actions to respond with

Advantages of buying Pebble over other smart watches:

  • E-Paper display which allows you to see the screen in bright sunlight
  • Always ON display allows you to check time or notifications without touching the watch when it’s lying on your desk
  • SDK which enables 3rd party apps to integrate with Pebble
  • Longer battery life
  • Compatibility with iPhones and Androids gives you flexibility of changing your device if you wish to.

Revolutionary idea as it is, Pebble meets it’s expectations with a few more reasons of using it alongside Android or jailbroken iOS than iOS. But this will change as more and more developers will build their apps to take full advantage of new pebble SDK, iOS7 or Android KitKat.