I need motivation to keep physically active. If unchecked I would sit, eat and code all day. Even a little motivation does wonders for my psyche. I use a bunch of apps to keep me motivated with yoga, weight tracking, pushups and running. This post is about my experiment with the latest step counters.
Back in August I tried the Fitbit Flex and Jawbone UP – I preferred the UP, but I wasn’t completely happy with either of them. I didn’t like the Flex because Fitbit sleep data wasn’t as rich as the UP and I didn’t like the UP because I had to plug it in to sync it. I concluded that experiment wanting the UP with Bluetooth, but it didn’t exist back then.
I ended up just using the Argus app. Argus is an iPhone app that runs in the background and counts your steps. It also captures everything that the Fitbit and UP apps capture like activities, weight, food and calories. But my iPhone battery was constantly draining – I could watch the battery percentage decrease by 1% every minute. I thought it was Argus’s fault, so I uninstalled it.
Then Jawbone released the Jawbone UP24 – which includes Bluetooth sync. I figured I would try it out – because my analysis in August led me to wanting an UP with Bluetooth. I thought it would be perfect. I bought a Large. The first thing I noticed is that it’s really big for my wrist. It slips up and down my arm and I’m constantly moving it around. I get a small piece of velcro and stick it to the insides of the UP24, but the velcro glue doesn’t hold up. The UP24 was getting caught on my coat and shirt and I feared losing it. I go back to the store and get an UP24 Medium – but it’s too tight – it feels like it’s cutting off blood flow to my hand. It took me a while to realize it, but the UP24 actually feels like a rubber-coated handcuff. Whichever I choose it has to be comfortable. It’s going to be on my wrist 24x7 and it can’t annoy me.
So, now I’m back to square one. The UP24 Large is too big. The UP24 Medium is too small. I go back to the store and pick up a Fitbit Flex again. The sleep data still isn’t as rich, but if comfort is my first priority then the Flex wins. I wear the Jawbone UP24 and the Flex 24x7 for two weeks straight. I did a couple of simple accuracy tests to see which one is better and the UP24 is definitely more accurate. The Fitbit was always about 12% low. But that wasn’t a strong enough case to go with the UP24.
During that two week period I had had enough with my iPhone battery and stopped by the Genius Bar. It turns out my battery was defective. They swapped it out in 15 mins. It then dawned on my that my previous battery issues weren’t Argus’s fault. I installed Argus again and started tracking my activity with all three: UP24, Flex and Argus.
After a week I ruled out the UP24. The velcro I put on to hold it in place kept coming off, I was anxious about losing it, I felt it there constantly and I couldn’t get the rubber handcuff association out of my head.
Then a few days ago the Flex started bothering me. My hands started to feel swollen – even when the band was very loose – and I started taking it off at night because it bothered me so much.
I’ve only used Argus for the past week, so it might be too soon to tell, but I’m loving it. I’m really getting into what I call unobtrusive quantification – which basically means capturing data without being intentional about it.
The end result of my analysis is that I’m not going to use any of the fitness bands. I want to see how far I can go with measuring without having an extra device on me. I always have my phone on me – so it should work out well. I’ll update this post later on if anything changes.
Hope this helps you figure out which one to go with. Try out Argus first and see if that meets your needs.
p.s. I didn’t throw the Fitbit Force into the mix because I consider the Flex to be UP24’s main competitor. The Force is in a different category in my opinion.
I do not recommend Argus for iPhone 5. It prevents your phone from going into standby mode, which reduces the battery life by a significant amount. Mine would die after about 4 hours of normal usage. I have since upgraded to iPhone 5S. Argus works fine and I have normal battery life. You don’t have to actively run Argus because of the iPhone 5S motion tracker feature.
|**Size**||Comes with small and large bands that are adjustable. You can adjust the Flex to fit your wrist. I like how I can change the size based on use. Loose when I'm in bed, tighter during the day.||Comes in small, medium and large sizes that aren't adjustable. You get what you get with the UP. I found the medium to be too small and the large to be too big.||N/A. It's an app.|
|**Bluetooth Sync**||Real time syncing. You can see your step count go up as you walk.||Syncs every 1 minute when the app is open or every 20 minutes if the app is closed. I found the sync to be flaky. I have little confidence that the displayed step count is the actual step count. I find myself looking at the app for about a minute just to make sure it is in sync. Jawbone told me they are working on improving sync.||N/A. Real time measurement.|
|**Website**||[Fitbit.com](http://fitbit.com/) - online dashboard where you can view all of your data.||Unoffical website here: [upinterface.com](http://www.upinterface.com/)||None|
|**Mobile App**||Basic grid app. Nothing special. iPhone, Android and unofficial [Windows Phone](http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store/app/fitbit-tracker/af1e2d65-5004-449b-a967-ac7c67c47493).||Beautiful. This app could win design awards. The timeline view shows all your activity - astonishing compared to FitBit. No Android app.||Very nice app. Honeycomb design. Automatically includes weather and detects when you start running.|
|**Comfort**||Lays flat on your wrist. Soft elastomer material. Feels like a sports watch. The clasp has traces of nickel - warning for those with nickel allergies. They do not have a nickel-free band, but they told me they are considering making one.||Feels like handcuffs with a rubber coating. It gets caught on long sleeve shirts and jackets. You know when you have it on like you know you'd have handcuffs on. The UP24 plug is also coated in nickel.||N/A|
|**Band Security**||Has a metal clasp that locks the band around your wrist. It takes a while to figure out how to position your finger tips to get it to lock.||Wraps around your wrist, but doesn't lock. It could easily slide off, especially if it doesn't perfectly fit your wrist. Easier to put on than the Flex, but just as easy to slip off.||N/A|
I did a series of tests where I would sync both, walk and count my steps then see what each band registered as steps. All tests were done on a flat surface.
|Low step count. About 12% lower than actual steps.||Very accurate. About 5% higher than actual steps.||Very accurate. About 7% higher than actual steps – on par with UP.|
|**Band Display**||Shows your progress in the form of 5 lights. Each light lights up after you complete 20% of your goal.||Doesn't show progress.||N/A|
|**Band Interface**||You tap the band twice to get progress. You tap the band repeatedly for 2 seconds to put it into sleep mode.||You hold down a button to put in sleep mode. You press twice for stopwatch mode and you press three times for powernap mode.||N/A|
|**Calibration**||You can select which wrist you put the Flex on. Dominant or non-dominant.||You use the stop watch feature to measure distance and then calibrate the band using that data.||No way to calibrate from what I could find.|
|**Stopwatch Mode** I only used this mode to calibrate.||None||Has the ability to track activity for a specific amount of time.||None – but you can log activity in real time.|
|**Powernap Mode** I don't take naps so I don't need this feature.||None||Uses your sleep data to calculate your optimal nap time.||None|
|**Battery Life**||5 days. 3 hours to charge. You have to charge for at least 10 minutes via USB before you can start using it.||7 days. 80 minutes to charge. Comes charged out of the box.||It does impact iPhone battery life, but not enough to disqualify it.|
|**Waterproof**||Water resistant. Can be submerged up to 10 meters.||Splash resistant. Do not submerge||N/A|
|**Alarms**||Single or recurring alarms. Vibrates 3 times.||You can add multiple alarms using the Sleep Alarm feature.||None|
|**Idle Alerts**||None||You can configure the UP to vibrate when you are inactive.||None|
|**Sleep Alarm**||None||You set a range of time you want to wake up and UP will vibrate when it knows you are in light sleep during that timeframe.||Integrates with the [Sleep Time](https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id555564825?mt=8) app.|
|**Sleep Data**||Very basic sleep data. Show you restless and asleep time. You get more data with Fitbit Premium ($49/year).||Detailed sleep data. Shows you light sleep versus deep sleep and a bunch of other data points.||Very rich data from Sleep Time app.|
|**3rd Party App Integration**||None||Integrates with lots of apps - RunKeeper, IFTTT, MapMyFitness and others.||Integrates with RunKeeper, Withings and a few others.|