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Jawbone UP2 review: A better option than the Fitbit Flex

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
35
inc VAT

It's been around for a while, but Jawbone's second generation fitness tracker still cuts a good value dash

Pros 
Very cheap at the moment
Good looking and comfortable
Excellent accompanying app
Cons 
No heart-rate monitor
Doesn't count floors
Not waterproof
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Jawbone is into its third generation of fitness trackers, but you can still buy the second in the series - the Jawbone UP2 - and at around £35, which makes it a pretty tempting deal. The question is, is this basic wrist-based tracker still worth buying in 2016?

I’d say that the answer to that question looks to be a yes, right now. Its rival is the original Fitbit Flex, both in terms of its age and features, and that costs nearly double the price today. Of the two, I prefer the look and feel of the Jawbone.

Available in several different designs, the UP2 is stylish and practical at the same time. Jawbone sent me the "oat"-coloured version, with the "rope"-style wristband, but it’s also available in other colours with a more traditional wristband-and-clasp design.

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Whichever you choose, it looks rather natty: the main body of the tracker is topped with textured aluminium, and the wristband is made from a tough-feeling semi-stretchy rubber. It’s comfortable to wear and attractive, and once I’d attached it to my wrist I forgot it was there.

Features

So what does the Jawbone UP2 do? Well, it doesn’t have a heart-rate monitor, an altimeter for tracking floors climbed, or fancy features like body composition analysis. It isn’t waterproof, either, but it covers off most of the features you’d expect in a basic, modern fitness tracker.

It uses its internal sensors to count your steps and estimate your calorie burn, based on data you supply about your height, weight, age and sex. It will estimate how far you’ve walked, tell you how much time you’ve spent active and inactive during the day, and it now has more advanced sleep tracking than when it launched, automatically keeping tabs on your sleeping habits (including deep and light sleep) instead of forcing you to manually activate sleep monitoring mode.

Three subtle status lights adorn the face of the Jawbone UP2, but these are invisible most of the time and not very useful. The metal face also doubles as a control surface: you can tap it to switch modes. There’s also a vibrating motor in the Jawbone UP2 that buzzes when it senses you haven’t moved in a while, and can be used as a silent, smart alarm clock.

The battery will last you up to a week at a time, at which point you’ll need to recharge it using its rather odd-looking charger cable. Measuring a couple of inches in length, the Jawbone UP2 clips to the top of it magnetically, but it’s far too short and makes it awkward to attach to your laptop’s USB port.

Software

With most fitness trackers, it’s all about the software with the Jawbone UP2, and on this front, you’re getting as good an experience as with the very latest trackers. The app displays all your metrics in a clean and clearly understandable manner, and I like that there’s no need to manually trigger synchronisation - it just does it automatically. The Moov Now, which is my favourite fitness tracker because it tracks swimming well and because the battery lasts months at a time, needs to be synchronised by physically pressing it, and that's a pain.

The UP2's app also has a stopwatch mode, for when you know you’re about to start a workout, but since you need to activate it on your phone, I found I rarely used it. It’s a good thing, then, that the Jawbone is good at identifying short bursts of activity. On an average working day, I’m only really active during my walks to and from the Tube station at the start and end of the day. The UP app spotted these periods of activity, highlighting them in the timeline.

Elsewhere, the app provides the facility to log your food intake, with the ability to scan in or search for popular foodstuffs in the Jawbone database, including sandwiches and ready meals from popular eateries and supermarkets, and there’s a broad range of third party services you can tap into, including the excellent MyFitnessPal, IFTTT, Strava and all the usual suspects.

My favourite part of the app, though, is the Smart Coach. This takes the form of cards that pop up throughout the day, offering advice on everything from how to maximise the benefits of a good night’s sleep, to encouragement in hitting your daily fitness goals. If you're religious about logging all your meals and snacks, it will also offer advice on how to change your eating habits.

Verdict

Despite its age, the Jawbone UP2 still represents a very good buy right now for those interested in getting a simple yet effective analysis of their fitness and eating habits.

It’s attractive and well-designed, and the app is superb, tracking all the information you need aside from heart rate and floors climbed. It’s slightly disappointing that it isn’t waterproof, but for £35 you can’t really ask for much more than this.