The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Imagination Technologies's MIPS group, in the past of other companies such as Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

See http://docs.google.com/View?id=dcxddbtr_23cg5thdfj for photo credits.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Now trying: Jawbone UP - who needs the stinking cloud anyway?

Elsewhere I have discussed how I was disappointed by the FitBit Charge as a replacement for my Basis B1 watch activity tracker.  So I returned the FitBit Charge, and am now trying the Jawbone UP.

I plan to use the Jawbone UP not as a replacement for my Basis B1 watch, possibly not even as an activity tracker at all - but as a vibrating alarm gadget on my wrist.

Why?  I think that vibrating on the wrist, rather than ringing annoying on the handset, might be the killer app for watches.

 I was reasonably happy with my Basis Watch as an activity tracker.  Certainly, it has upped my fitness level.  But I was frustrated by the following Basis shortcomings: (1) no sharing of data with other users, no friendly social scene; (2) no counting of vertical.

I bought a FitBit One to try to remedy these Basus shortcomings.  I have certainly liked the vertical distance metric: Portland ain't flat! I hoped to like the social aspects, LoseIt.com or MyFitnessPal.com - but that has not worked iout so well, yet.

I greatly disliked the FitBit One reporting only total steps, not tracking time of day. I disliked the FitBit One's wristband.

But mainly, I found that I *LIKED* the FitBit One's vibrating alarms: both wakeup, and occasionally during the day (time to head out, midmorning, lunch, midafternoon, time to head home, time for bed).  Should I admit that I often get so swallowed up by work that I don't notice what time it is?

I had hoped that the FitBit c=Charge would fill the bill.  Unfortunately, my Charge did not charge its batteries, or else discharged them far too quickly: it only worked for 15 minutes after charging for 24 hours.  Normally I would do an exchange - but the Charge felt like such a piece of shit - its interface being a single button that I could not tell if it had been pressed or not (as opposed to the nice tactile feedback of the button on the FitBit One or Garmin Vivofit) - that I did not feel like bothering.

So instead, I am trying a Jawbone.  Not the more expensive Jawbone UP3 or UP24, but the origional Jawbone, not wireless, which can be found fairly cheaply (especially if you are wiling to take an unpopular color).

MY plan, my theory:  I can use the Jawbone just for the "cvirbatuon" features:

(1) vibrating wake from sleep (aka a smart alarm)

(2) vibrating idle alert

(3) vibrating reminders.

Unfortunately, as usual there are annoying limits:

-- only 4 each of alarms and reminders

   ++ Stupid short sightedness.  HOw about a vibe alarm every hour of two?

-- the reminders seem to always generate a notification on my phone. Damn phone centric mindset: I do not want to have reminders on both phone and watch. I want to avoid the slowness of my phone as much as possible.

I may not want to use the tracking features of the Jawbone at all, except implicitly for the idle

After fitness, I think that notifications may be the killer app. But not a wrist notification for every email - selectivity!!!


Andy Glew said...

So far, so good: I like wearing the Jawbone UP, to give me wrist vibe alarms, in combination with the Basis watch activity tracker. I would prefer to have a single device that does it all, but since I cannot find any such device, this works for now.

I like the vibrating alarm to wake me up at 5am without waking up my wife. I am unsure about the "Smart Wake" feature - I seem to be more tired than with the Fitbit One's vibrating alarm - but this may just be coincidence. Experimentation will be necessary.

I very much like the Idle Alert feature. It seems to help a lot.

I have kluged up a way to get the Jawbone UP to provide wrist vibes for the various times that drive my day:

1. Wake
(Stretches and weights)
2. Ping to drive before traffic gets bad
3. Ping to stop workout
4. Ping to stop reading email at breakfast
5. Ping to remember to eat lunch
[I have a bad habit of not eating until I am quite hungry circa 3pm]
6. Ping to go home and be with my family
7. Bedtime
[Again, if I don't ping myself for bed, I may work until the wee hours, and be too tired the next day]

Kluges are necessary because the Jawbone UP has only 4 alarms, and 4 reminders. I cannot simply set 7 or 8 alarms for the same day. (IIRC the FitBit One had 7 alarms.) There are only 7 alarms or pings above, but I often want a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon ping, to ask myself "Am I working on the best thing?" For that matter, I'd like a mid-evening ping.

My guess is that the 4 different alarms, all potentially sleep smart alarms, are intended to be used for different wake times on different days. But they can be used on the same day. I had some small hope that the smart sleep feature might actually be useful for alarms when I am awake - wouldn't it be nice if the alarm waiting until you were not typing for a few minutes? - but that seems to be a vain hope.

The 4 reminders are more annoying. They aren't fungible: you don;t have 8 events, any combination of which can be alarms on the wrist, or reminders: you have 4 of each. Worse still, since the Jawbone UP has no display to show you a message associated with the reminder, the reminders both give you a wrist vibe *AND* a notification on your phone. This /almost/ loses the benefit of a wrist vibe --- you have to cancel the notification on your phone eventually. More work, rather than less.

Nevertheless, one can hijack the reminders to give you a total of 8 vibrating alerts on your wrist: 4 alarms (wrist-only), and 4 reminders (wrist + phone). And you can ignore the alerts on your phone, and just clear them en masse.

The biggest problem is that the Jawbone UP Android app sucks. It has a bad habit of erasing the reminders, and/or replacing the reminder times with the alarm times, except marked as "BedTime" reminders.

Did I mention to Idle Alert? That may be the most important feature.

Sure, it would be nice to have bought the Bluetooth UP24 or UP3, so I could get wrist vibe alerts if my boss or my wife calls me (or texts me, or emails me). Even better if I could get calendar meeting alerts.

But AFAIK all of the "email, text, and phone call notifications on your wrist" are not very selective. They buzz you for all email, not just important stuff. I have disabled most such notifications on my phone: I doubt very much I want to have them on my wrist.

So far, so good.

name99 said...

An Apple Watch will give you much of what you appear to want. In particular lotsa alarms, and exercise tracking of various sorts, along with substantial control over notifications.
(And fairly easy setting of alarms on the watch via Siri.)

Unfortunately that gets you deeper into the Apple world, and all the bugs you've described with your Mac really are real issues with OSX. We can hope that Apple takes them seriously with OSX 10.11, but who knows?

(Maybe time for you to join Apple, ostensibly to work on the ARM CPUs, but actually to bring about change from within for OSX!)

Andy Glew said...

I am in "wait for version 2" for the Apple Watch.

I am not impressed by the lack of control over notifications - as far as I can tell, the "substantial control" name99 mentions is just the VIP list, and per app.

Or, at least, I am not impressed by the control over notifications on my iPhone 6+ -- and as far as I can tell, the iWatch is not much better.

(Here's a clue: if my VIP list controlled not just email notifications, but also text and phone cal notifications, that would be a great leap forward.)

I have been pretty much all Apple since January - I have an iPhone 6+, and a MacBook Retina Pro 15" mid-2014.

But I have to run Parallels to use at least one Windows app (FrameMaker), and it is a slippery slope - Microsoft Outlook on Windows is so much better than the Outlook app on OS-X, and if you use that, you really want to use a webserver in the guest...

Andy Glew said...

By the way: my biggest complaint about the Jawbone UP is that its functionality is limited when unable to connect to Jawbone's servers.

E.g. it allows me to sync, uploading my steps - but it does not display analyses until linked to the server.

E.g. it does not allow me to enter a food for a meal unless connected. Sure, perhaps it won't be able to look up calories - but I ofte don't use that anyway, I just want to log.

I live in Oregon - mountains, valleys, and intermittent cellphone coverage.

Plus I travel to Canada - and I really don't want to use expensive data roaming just to record a meal.


Apart from this, I am a Jawbone UP fan.

I find that I use it more than I use my Basis watch.

I check my Basis watch during the day to see how many more steps I need to reach my goals. But I only ever look at y history on the Jawbone app on my phone.

The Basis phone app sucks. The Basis website is okay - much better than Jawbone, since AFACT there is no Jawbone web.access to my data; AFAICT the only way to see my Jawbone steps is in the Jawbone app.

But it is much more convenient to use the Jawbone app on my phone than the Basis website on a PC. And the Basis website is useless on my phone.

And, much to my surprise, the little motivational messages that Jawbone provides actually seem to help. I actually *like* them.

If Jawbone sold a watch, I would buy that.

My other Jawbone complaint is wrist size: I don't have really large wrists, but Jawbone's largest size is tight on me, and occasionally causes my hands to go numb, e.g. if I have been working out or flying (which seem to make my wrists swell). I occasionally have to take my Jawbone UP off, if my wrist is sore or numb.

Andy Glew said...

Another Jawbone UP complaint:

Supposedly it can sync with Apple Health - but on my iPhone 6+, Apple Health only uses step counts that the phone itself has measured. Which sucks, because often I do not take my iPhone on my walks - and when I use an elliptical or a treadmill, the iPhone sits on the machine's console, and does not count at all.

In fact, the iPhone 6+ steps seem to overwrite the Jawbone UP steps - unless I disable "Allow UP to read data" in Apple Health.

Andy Glew said...

Another Jawbone UP complaint:

Supposedly it can sync with Apple Health - but on my iPhone 6+, Apple Health only uses step counts that the phone itself has measured. Which sucks, because often I do not take my iPhone on my walks - and when I use an elliptical or a treadmill, the iPhone sits on the machine's console, and does not count at all.

In fact, the iPhone 6+ steps seem to overwrite the Jawbone UP steps - unless I disable "Allow UP to read data" in Apple Health.

name99 said...

(d) I'm guessing things work OK (at least as well as the alternatives) without connectivity, but again that's not part of my daily routine.

(e) I agree that there's something strange with Apple Health. I don't know if the usage model is so complex no-one understands it, or if the APIs are being misused, but its interaction with other apps is pretty awful. Hell, the app itself is pretty awful in terms of trying to access historical data. I expect (ie damn well hope) that there's a BIG change in store for this app now that Apple Watch is stressing it. It's utterly idiotic that the most obvious UI gestures (like swiping panels sideways) don't scroll backwards in time the way they do on every other equivalent app.
The one piece of good news is that Apple Watch and iPhone do seem to intelligently aggregate step information between them with neither lost steps nor double counting. (On the other hand, Apple seems unwilling to store Healthkit info in the cloud, even if I'm personally OK with that, so the whole system works pretty poorly with multiple iPhones [which is pretty much essential if you're an American who travels given the insane unlocking policies of ATT et al].)

(f) The bands are, like everyone says, crazy comfortable, far more so than any other watch/wearable I've used. And not just comfortable; the sizing mechanism for the Sports Band is wonderfully quick and easy. I don't think you'd have your Up wrist size complaints.

(g) The one weird technical thing is I'm surprised it takes so long to charge. My Pebble charged in about 30 min, and that's short enough to do while showering/shaving. aWatch takes 90 to 120 min and I'm not sure what forces it to take that long, but it's long enough that charging is a hassle, something you have to schedule for rather than just doing while you're doing something else, and it means they can't have sleep tracking as part of the package, something I found valuable on my Pebble.