There’s little doubt that activity trackers will be a hot gift this holiday season, but which one should you give?
Recently I’ve spent some time with both the Fitbit Force (see disclosure) and the Jawbone UP24, two of the most popular new bands on the market. You can read my full review of each tracker for a complete overview, but I decided to compare the two side by side to help make your buying decision a little easier.
The Fitbit Force costs $129.95 while the Jawbone UP24 costs $149.99. So if you’re looking to save a little money, the Force is clearly the more economical purchase. That said, with only $20 separating the two devices, it’s likely price won’t make or break your decision.
The Fitbit Force syncs its data via Bluetooth 4.0 with most iOS devices, including the iPhone 4s and later devices, as well as the fifth-generation iPad touch, both iPad mini models, the iPad Air and the third and fourth-generation iPads. It can also sync with a number of popular Android devices including the Samsung Galaxy S 3 and Galaxy S 4, as well as the HTC One and the LG G2, among others. You can find a full list here. But as long as you own a Mac or a PC, you can also sync the band with your computer via an included dongle, which makes the Force quite versatile.
The Jawbone UP24, on the other hand, is iOS-compatible only. There’s no desktop site, so it only syncs via iOS app on the same Bluetooth 4.0-compatible devices as the Force.
So if you don’t own an iOS device, you should pass on the UP24 completely. But even if you do own an iOS device, the Force gives you many more options for viewing your data.
The Fibit Force comes in two sizes and features an adjustable strap, like a watch. There’s a tiny screen on the front of the band that displays the time, as well as the stats it tracks, with the press of its lone physical button. I wish the display would stay lit for more than a few seconds at a time so that it was more like a real watch, but either way it’s a minimalist, highly wearable band. It’s extremely comfortable to wear, and water resistant, so you can keep it on in the shower.
The Jawbone UP24, on the other hand, features a decidedly less neutral design. The band coils around your wrist, which makes it stand out much more than the Force. Available in three different sizes, the UP24 is also water-resistant and very comfortable. There’s no display, so the only way to see the information it tracks is through a companion app on your phone. And again there’s just one physical button, which is used to log sleep and activity.
I much prefer the watch-like design of the Fitbit Force to the coil design of the Jawbone UP24. I wouldn’t wear either band to a formal event, but on a daily basis, I find the neutral design of the Force to be much more agreeable for a wide range of outfits and situations. But taste is subjective, and based on many of the impressions I’ve read on both devices, I seem to stand in the minority in my opinion on this one.
That said, I think there are significant user advantages to the Force’s design as well. The fact that you can see all of the information it tracks on the band itself is a great benefit, and one that I took advantage of often while wearing it.
The Fitbit Force is rated for 7-10 days of battery life, while the Jawbone UP24 gets up to 7 days. In testing both bands, I found each of these battery life ratings to be accurate. Both trackers use proprietary chargers, which is a bummer, but the Force gets a slight edge here for its better battery life.
The Force tracks steps taken, distance traveled, floors climbed, active minutes, calories burned and how long you sleep. The UP24 tracks steps taken, mood, workouts and sleep.
I like that the Force has an altimeter, so it can track the flights of steps you climb (I live on the sixth floor of a walk-up building, so I climb steps a lot). I also prefer the way that it tracks the amount of calories you burn automatically based on the amount of steps you take.
On the other hand, while both bands track the amount and quality of sleep you get, I think Jawbone does a better job of presenting the information to you, breaking it down into periods of light and deep sleep, and allowing you to set an alarm based on optimal moments in your sleep cycle.
Arguably the biggest differentiator between the Force and the UP24 (aside from design) is the software that both bands use to present the data they track. Both use a mobile app to present your results.
I prefer the brighter design of Jawbone’s app, but I think that Fitbit lays out your data more clearly. Jawbone gives you better sleep results, but Fitbit makes it easier to log food. Both apps provide the same relative functionality, however, and each are extremely useful.
Where the UP24 has an advantage is in its ability to connect with a number of other devices in the internet of things. You can link the band up with IFTTT for example, to turn your Philips Hue light bulbs on automatically when you wake up, or to change color to let you know you haven’t moved in a while.
That said, many homes lack the additional hardware for a setup like this. But pretty much everyone has access to a desktop PC or Mac, which is where the Fitbit Force shines. The Fitbit site gives you an attractive dashboard through which you can track all of the information being monitored by the Force. The design is clean and easy to understand, and having all of this information so accessible – on your phone, computer or on the Fitbit Force itself – means you pay attention to it a lot more.
I like both bands, I really do. But after two separate weeks of testing, it’s the Fitbit Force that I’m still wearing. I don’t need the UP24’s IFTTT connectivity, and I much prefer the design of the Force, as well as the fact that I can check my stats almost anywhere. That, coupled with the better battery life and easier-to-read stats, makes it my activity tracker of choice.
But really, you should check out the categories here that are most important to you to decide which band better suits your needs. Either way, both of these activity trackers will do exactly what you want in the new year – encourage you to get off of the couch and move around more.
Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom. Om Malik, founder of Gigaom, is also a venture partner at True.