I have been using a Fitbit since 2011, so I’m starting to get a wealth of data out of it. One of the ways it has been most useful is through its integration with Beeminder, which charges me money if I don’t keep up an average of 6500 steps a day. (Which I sometimes struggle to do)
Last year, I told my friend Abe (who is gainfully employed by Jawbone) that I like the concept of the Jawbone Up, but I wouldn’t get one until it had wireless syncing and integration with Beeminder. Late last year it got both, but didn’t have Android compatibility, so I waited. This spring, it finally did get the Android app we have all been waiting for, and I decided to try it out, to see what I liked and didn’t like about it.
I’ve had a Jawbone Up for about a month now, and I have thoughts about the differences and benefits of each. Which I am now sharing with you. Because I can, and because why not?
Well, the Jawbone and the Fitbit are tracking different motions to estimate steps, so there are bound to be differences in the step counts, right? The Jawbone tracks on the wrist, while for me, the Fitbit is on my hip.
How do they compare? The Fitbit is almost always higher. On average, if I exclude Saturdays from my count, the Fitbit is on average 1086 steps per day higher.
[Why do I exclude Saturdays? Two reasons: #1 I usually grocery shop on Saturdays, and if I am pushing a cart, the Jawbone does not pick up steps reliably (given that my wrist is fairly stable). #2 I have been going to the gym on Saturdays and riding a stationary bike. Because I keep my Fitbit in my pocket, I pick up a ton of “steps” that the Jawbone doesn’t see. Last year when I was rowing on the erg a lot, the Fitbit didn’t pick anything up. I kind of wonder what the Jawbone would do with an erg. (I did discover that kneading bread is a great way to rack up Jawbone steps.)]
Winner: Neither has an obvious advantage here. I think that if you are consistent, you can estimate your activity level with either. They aren’t directly comparable though.
The Jawbone has a distinct advantage for Sleep tracking. I absolutely hate the way Fitbit does sleep tracking. I have to get out my special velcro wristband, and fumble around after I’ve taken my contacts out to get the Fitbit in its special pocket, and then try to push the button, and then hope that the Fitbit doesn’t fall out in the night. Then when I get up, I have to log on to a website to see the details of how I slept. You can imagine I haven’t tracked my sleep with the Fitbit in a long time.
With the Jawbone, because I am already wearing it on my wrist, all I have to do is push a button to start the sleep mode, and push a button to stop it when I wake up. The data is (almost) instantly sent to my phone and I get a notification in the app showing me how I did. It is easy as pie to use.
I like the silent alarm feature on the Jawbone, which allows me to set a regular alarm and/or set a smart alarm which will wake me when I am not in deep sleep, up to 20 minutes before I need to be up. I have used the silent alarms on the Fitbit, but not for waking up, so I don’t have a direct comparison.
Winner: Jawbone, by a long shot.
(I also have the capability to integrate my Jawbone with my SmartThings house using IFTTT, so when I indicate that I have woken up on my Jawbone, the light in my room also turns on, so I don’t have any excuse not to wake up.)
The Fitbit One is a small fob that I generally keep in my coin pocket. No one has to know its there.
The Jawbone Up is a bracelet that sometimes doesn’t play nice with my sleeve cuffs. Anyone who is paying attention knows it is there, although they might not know what it is. Is there an etiquette yet for asking people about their self-tracking devices?
Winner: Fitbit for inconspicuousness
In my opinion, the Jawbone’s app really shines. It just has a friendlier interface, and I think it does a good job bringing the data you need straight to the user’s attention. I particularly like the cards that pop up every day giving me information about how my habits stack up and how I can improve them. On the downside, the Jawbone App tends to be a bit crashy for me. Don’t know if that is just me and my phone, or if it is a common problem for others.
I don’t have anything bad to say about the Fitbit app, but I don’t have anything great to say about it either. It is functional, it does what it is supposed to do.
Little things I like about the Jawbone Up:
- Inactivity alarms – they wake me up at work and remind me to get up and move around
- Powernaps – when I need a quick nap, it will rouse me in about 25 minutes. Perfect!
- Integration with IFTTT – Makes getting data into Google Docs really simple, plus SmartThings integration!
Little things I dislike about the Jawbone Up:
- For the life of me, I cannot get the Stopwatch mode to fire consistently.
- It doesn’t have a website where I can check data. I don’t like being constrained to my phone. Also, no tablet app?
- I can’t get instant feedback from the device about step count without going to the app
- This is tiny, but I hate that for Android it has to display a permanent notification that it is syncing via BlueTooth. I understand why it has to be, but I don’t have to like it. My notification space is precious to me.
Little things I like about the Fitbit One:
- The Fitbit website has your data visible and you can do crude analysis there. I like the previous version of the site better than the current iteration.
- Chatter – When I pick up my Fitbit, it greets me by name, tells me , and sometimes tells me that it loves me. 😀 Who doesn’t love a pocket computer that cheers you up?
- Instant feedback – If I want to know how I’m doing, I just pull it out of my pocket and push a button.
Little things I don’t like about the Fitbit One:
- It is hard to get the data out of Fitbit’s greedy little hands. It is doable, but it is not easy.
- Until recently, it required a computer connection to sync. That was annoying if I was travelling and wanted to make sure I didn’t hit a Beeminder eep! day. Now it will sync with my phone.
- It is super easy to lose. I have never washed it, but it has fallen under my bed and gotten temporarily lost on numerous occasions.
Winner: Tie, probably.
At the end of the day, both of these devices seem to be good activity trackers. They both have their quirks, and they both approach the question of self-quantification from different angles. The only place where there is a clear outstanding winner is with Sleep Tracking. If you are interested in that, Jawbone Up is the way to go. Otherwise, it really comes down to personal preferences. Each does some things better than the other, but I don’t think there is a clear standout.