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Leaving Jawbone UP3 for Fitbit Charge HR [Review]

Posted by on Jun 23, 2015 | 1 comment

After a couple of years, I am finally getting out of an abusive consumer relationship with Jawbone and hoping that Fitbit will treat me better. But honestly, it’s not without regret.

I feel like a girl who fell for the good-looking, fast-talking bad boy full of promises, ultimately all broken, and who finally realized that it’s probably just better to settle for the ho-hum guy who isn’t particularly exciting, but is at least reliable. But I still wish it didn’t have to be this way.

Why I Loved Jawbone UP — and Took So Long To Give It Up

I am not some on-trend fashion plate (going gray/white in 2014 is the only possible exception). But I do need to dress up regularly for public speaking gigs, church, and the occasional fancy night out with the husband.

And if I am going to wear anything on my body 24/7, then I want it to look like jewelry.

That’s where Jawbone’s UP line has always crushed the competition.

Here they are side by side:

Fitibit Charge HR and Jawbone UP3

The Fitbit Charge HR is massive and clunky compared to the Jawbone UP3.


And the clasp is just PLAIN BIG AND UGLY.

My original Jawbone UP band (the thin black rubber bangle with the silver tipped cover) was repeatedly mistaken for actual jewelry. I did not, and still don’t, want to wear something that looks like a sports band.

But I went through two of the UPs, both of them ultimately dying in less than a year, the last one in March 2014 (when I was getting in tons of steps at DisneyWorld no less — grrrr).  The battery stopped charging on both of them.

So I stopped wearing a tracker for the rest of 2014, knowing that a new line was coming out. I jumped on the UP3 pre-order as soon as it was announced back in early November 2014. I thought I’d be wearing it for the inevitable re-commitment to fitness on January 1, 2015.

I really, really wanted the more sophisticated sleep tracking and the heart rate monitoring the UP3 promised.

I am super sensitive to sleep quality and quantity. I feel terrible physically, mentally, and emotionally when I don’t get enough sleep, and I wanted to learn more about my sleep habits. The UP3 reports on the amount of time spent in light, deep, and REM sleep.

I also have low blood pressure, which has a significant effect on my ability to push hard when exercising. If my heart rate goes too high (especially when it’s hot, or I’m dehydrated), my blood pressure tanks and I can pass out. Even if I don’t actually pass out, getting close creates dizziness, nausea, and lactic acid buildup that means I’m achy for a couple of days. Bottom line: I need to monitor myself to push my fitness, but in a safe way, and a heart rate monitor helps. I have a chest strap heart rate monitor, but it’s uncomfortable, so I don’t use it. I love gadgets, but I’m not committed enough to my fitness to wear something that’s uncomfortable.

I knew going into the pre-order that UP3 would only measure resting heart rate at first (again, mine is on low end) but wanted desperately to believe the promise that they’d add exercise monitoring “soon.”

I really thought that the UP3 was going to be perfect for me — the health tracking I really wanted in something that looked good enough to wear all the time. And for the record, I don’t want a phone on my wrist, and don’t really even care about the time-keeping.

Then the excuses slowly came out, followed by more promises.

When Jawbone offered a free UP Move as consolation for shipping delays in late December, I took it, along with the promises that the UP3 would come out in “very early 2015.”


I wore a purple UP Move in a black strap, which I have since given to my daughter. It looks much more appropriate on a 12-year-old's wrist. (And is still working by the way.)

I wore a purple UP Move in a black strap, which I have since given to my daughter. It looks much more appropriate on a 12-year-old’s wrist. (And is still working by the way.)


I started wearing the Move on a bracelet, even though it looked really goofy (NOT the clean stylish look I was hoping for). And waited, and waited, googling for updates every few weeks.

I work in marketing. Jawbone’s customer communications about the delay are some of the worst I have ever seen. Completely pathetic. And yet, I was hooked on the promise.

Fast forward another FOUR MONTHS LATER, and oh glorious day, the UP3 arrived on April 30, after very well-publicized production delays because of waterproofing problems — which I did not care about in the least. I’m not a huge swimmer or bath taker, so who cares. I wish they would have just sent me the “splash proof” version they ended up releasing way back when.

And less than 6 weeks later, my UP3 was totally dead.

In early June, after using the UP3 for about a month, I noticed the battery life was getting worse and worse. From day 1, after a full charge, it would last maybe 5 days, even though it was advertised for longer. But even that started creeping down to 4 days, then 2 days, then less than a day. I would charge it first thing in the morning, and wake up the very next morning to find the thing had stop tracking and died in the middle of the night.

Then it wouldn’t even charge at all. And yes I tried everything Jawbone suggests and some other suggestions I found online. I plugged it into two different computers and three different chargers. It was dead.

I submitted a support ticket on the morning of Tuesday, June 9, asking for a replacement.

But later that day, I decided to look at this objectively, and concluded that Jawbone is full of shit, plain and simple, and their products are crap. I desperately wanted to believe they could deliver on their sweet promises, but they haven’t, at least for not more than a few short months at a time in my case. They suck.

I ordered the Fitbit Charge HR, and it arrived Thursday, June 11.

What I Like about FitBit and What I Still Miss about Jawbone

I’ve been wearing the Fitbit Charge HR for almost two weeks now. Here’s how I feel about it.

I do like the Fitbit on-wrist data. That was one thing I actually liked about the UP Move. You had to learn what all the flashing lights meant, but once you got the hang of it, it was easy. With the UP3, you have to look at your phone, or try to decipher a series of vibrations on your wrist, which I never really figured out. A few little button clicks and I get steps, current heart rate, and more on the Fitbit. I didn’t think this would matter to me since I have my phone with me anyway, but it’s nice.

The Fitbit app is just fine. Everyone raves about the UP app and it is nice. But after wearing an UP product for a couple of years, the advice was getting stale. I don’t really miss it. And guess what, the Fitbit app is just fine. It’s not nearly as horrible or ugly as people make it out to be (I think it may have undergone a recent makeover).

I stopped using MyFitnessPal to track food and am using the native Fitbit database. Tracking diet in Jawbone was never that great, and I had moved over to MyFitnessPal and integrated it with Jawbone. I decided to just use the Fitbit app alone, and I like the way that the total calorie budget gets adjusted up or down during the day based on activity.

The Fitbit sleep tracking is just OK. I really liked the Jawbone sleep tracking, but honestly, I’m not sure how trustworthy it was. Fitbit’s technology isn’t as robust, but I am using the “number of times restless” that Fitbit tracks as an indicator of how soundly I am sleeping.

I do miss the mood and commenting in the Jawbone app. The thing I miss most about the Jawbone app is that you can easily track your mood and add comments throughout the day. I am wearing this tracker in large part to see how things like sleep and exercise affect my quality of life (like my mood), but I can’t track that in the Fitbit app. I can do it on the website, but that’s really inconvenient. Why not in the app itself?

The Fitbit heart rate monitoring is working great. I’ve worked out a few times and also checked my heart rate when I was stressed out and am starting to learn what different heart rates feel like. I also really like how the Fitbit app charts out when you are in Fat Burning, Cardio, and Peak Zones. If only I could add comments to those peaks and valleys!

I do miss the inactivity alert. UP will vibrate after you have been inactive for an amount of time you set. Since I work at my desk and can often get focused on something and sit for hours, I really liked that little reminder.

I was fine with no one else I knew using UP. I know that’s probably weird to many of you, but I’m not a bandwagon person, and the last thing in my life that I need right now is more group accountability. The whole social challenge / peer pressure part of the Fitbit community is a MAJOR downside for me. I know that’s a huge motivator for many Fitbit users, but I really couldn’t care less. It’s just not my thing. I’m doing this for myself. I will not be friending a lot of people. Maybe no one.

The Fitbit green flashing LED lights are annoying. When I am in bed, because I often sleep with my hands up near my face, and the band is not flat against my skin, the green LED lights that measure heart rate will often flash in my eyes. Not a deal breaker, but they are very bright in a dark room. I usually just push it up higher on my arm, so it has full skin contact and gets blocked out.

I still hate the way the Fitbit Charge HR looks and pine for the lower profile UP3. It’s a big clunky ugly black strap on my wrist.

UP products blend in with jewelry.

It’s fairly easy to disguise Jawbone products with other jewelry.

But that doesn't really work with something this wide.

But that doesn’t really work with something this wide.

With a little online searching, I did find an Etsy store that offers fitness tracker charms and other ways to hide the band.

I’m currently wearing this charm when I want to dress it up a bit, and I’ve ordered others:

The charm makes it tolerable, but this thing is still ugly at its core.

The charm makes it tolerable, but this thing is still ugly at its core.

Should I Bring the UP3 Back to Life?

I submitted my help ticket about the UP3 dying on June 9. Five days later, on June 14, Jawbone responded offering a firmware update.

I replied that I didn’t really understand how I could do a firmware update on a totally dead product.

Then I threw the band across the room in frustration.

And then I picked it back up and attempted to charge it one more time. And the little light came on. Huh.

So, it’s now back to life — only after many failed attempts to charge previously and after violence on my part.

I don’t know what to do next. I haven’t installed the firmware update and not sure I will at this point. I feel like I am getting sucked back in by the bad boyfriend AGAIN.

The UP app is still on my phone, reminding me everyday that I haven’t synced recently. But I’m keeping it there to track the kid’s sleep and steps with the Move.

I guess I could sell the UP3, but I don’t want to pass this lousy relationship on to someone else.

Maybe when I hear that Jawbone has finally turned on 24/7 heart rate monitoring and followed through on all the other whiz-bang promises it’s made, and hear from real users about it, I’ll let myself get sucked back in.

But for now, I think I’ll just walk away, cram the UP3 in a drawer, and stick with the ugly but reliable Fitbit. It’s growing on me.



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Apps I Use at Conferences

Posted by on Apr 9, 2013 | 1 comment

It’s Spring Conference Season, which means I am on the road a lot again, mostly as a speaker, but also as a conference attendee.

I try to make the most out of the conferences I attend by strategically using the apps on my smartphone.  I have a Samsung Galaxy S3 at the moment — which I LOVE — and all links in this post are to the  Google Play Store.

Top Three Apps I Use at Conferences All the Time


Each conference should have a hashtag, and individual sessions probably have their own too. Set up and save searches so you can open the conference streams quickly. Hootsuite makes it very easy to do this. For example, say there are two sessions you really want to go to at the same time. Pick one and watch the other via the hashtag. If the other one seems more interesting,  vote with your feet and change sessions. I also tell people that if they want to connect with me onsite, use Twitter during the conference rather than calling or emailing me. I’m much more likely to see a message quickly that way.


I am too slow at taking notes live on my phone or tablet, and often don’t want to schlep the laptop to sessions. My solution is taking notes the old fashioned way with a pen and notebook, which is also a good excuse for buying blank books, which I love, love, love. So I take notes by hand, but at the close of each session or at the end of the day, I snap pictures of the pages and save them into Evernote. As long as I am not too sloppy, Evernote can read my handwriting, so my notes are searchable.

Sidenote: I do have a Livescribe pen, and have tried to record sessions while notetaking, which is nice, but the Livescribe pen is too fat and really does hurt my hand, so I have stopped using it.  Loss of the audio isn’t that big a deal because I can record on the phone if I really need it.

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The Right Mix of Income Is Your Safety Net

Posted by on Jan 25, 2013 | 0 comments

Financial safety nets are even more important for self-employed professionals than for others. Having a few months worth of income in a savings account or other liquid asset, as well as disability insurance, is a good goal.

But I think diversifying your income streams is even more critical. At a few different times in my self-employed career, I realized that more than 2/3rds of my income was coming from a single source — typically a major client.  While it can be nice to have  big retainer contract especially when you really enjoy the client, that kind of dependence can leave you vulnerable.

Back in 2006, when I was still primary working as a freelance writer and marketing consultant, I diversified my income streams like this:

  • Steady Clients — I had two clients that I worked for nearly every month.
  • Intermittent Clients — I had several clients who gave me a few projects per year.
  • Magazine Articles — I wrote articles for trade magazines.
  • Online Courses — I taught several online courses through my websites (business writing and writing nonprofit annual reports, at the time).
  • Tip Sheets — I sold tip sheets on various writing topics through my websites.
  • In-person Workshops — I taught workshops through the Duke University Certificate Program in Nonprofit Management.
  • Advertising Revenue — I ran Google AdSense ads on most of my websites.
  • Affiliate/Reseller Revenue — I ran ads for affiliate program products on most of my websites.

Today, in 2013, as my business has evolved, so has the income mix. Here’s what’s included now:

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Customer Service Lessons from a Bad Freelance Designer

Posted by on Dec 30, 2012 | 0 comments

I recently hired a freelance graphic designer for a small job, in hopes that he would really impress me and I could give him lots of assignments. It didn’t happen. Granted, this person is working full-time and freelancing on the side and appears to be a newbie.

But I’m always looking for good, fresh talent to help with client projects, so I’m willing to give the freshmen a try. Sometimes they work out; sometimes they don’t. My latest experience definitely fell in the Don’t category and I’m turning it into a lesson in customer service for creative professionals new to freelancing.

1) If you don’t know a client’s gender, don’t guess. After emailing a few times, Designer Guy called me, and asked for Mr. Miller. This was a call to my business line, so while I am married to a Mr. Miller, I said “There is no Mr. Miller here.” To which Designer Guy replied, “Oh! OK. I thought you were a man.”

Yes, I have an odd name. But why not just ask for Kivi and go from there? I was annoyed with the sexist assumption and should have ended it there, but I decided to give him a second chance.

2) When a client gives you specific instructions, follow them. I gave Designer Guy two specific instructions: no bleeds and make it go with the design of a new website I’m putting up. I gave him two photos to use. I also asked for two different mockups from which to pick.

What did he deliver? One version with a full bleed of one of the photos with my text thrown on top of it. It bore no resemblance whatsoever to the URL I asked him to match. Strike two.

3) Don’t take jobs if you can’t meet the deadlines. When I asked Designer Guy where the second comp was, he said he didn’t have time to do it. I admit this was a rush job (he had four days in between getting my copy and photos and producing a draft for me), but I was perfectly clear about the schedule when I described the job.

If you don’t have time, don’t take the assignment. If you run out of time, be upfront with the client – don’t hope they won’t notice. Strike two and a half.

4) Don’t change your terms at the last minute. When I told Designer Guy that the draft didn’t work, because it didn’t meet my two main criteria (no bleed and matching the URL), he demanded full payment before he would deliver the final product. Mind you, I hadn’t even seen a product that met my needs yet, nor had he previously requested any payment upfront, even though we did discuss his total estimate for the project.

Because my deadline was nearly upon me, the only way I could have paid him anything was if he took credit cards or PayPal. But he wouldn’t take either, insisting on cash or a check. I had no way to get him payment and get the final product within the time I had left (less than 24 hours), even if I were willing to do so. If he had taken credit cards or PayPal, I probably would have given him 50% and hoped that his second draft worked. But the idea that I would pay in full when the only thing delivered completely failed to meet my needs was laughable. Strike three. He’s out.

I stayed up late and did it myself.

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It’s Not Who You Know, But Who Knows You

Posted by on Sep 15, 2010 | 0 comments

When I look back at where I’ve made the most money in my freelance writing career, without a doubt it is from clients who came to me via word-of-mouth referrals from my friends or family, colleagues from past jobs, other communications professionals, or other clients. I’ve had multi-year contracts with clients who found me through my husband, through volunteer work, and through other writers I befriended through the blogosphere. I’m pressed to come up with even one really well-paid gig that I might have landed from a job board.

So how do you make word-of-mouth referrals work for you?

Do great work. Give people more than they expect. They’ll be so thrilled they will naturally tell others about you.

Be clear about what you do. Don’t describe yourself as a freelance writer. Instead, say you write websites or newsletters or fundraising materials, or whatever it is you want to be hired to produce.

Let people know you are available. Without appearing desperate, casually mention to friends and other clients that you have a little time in your schedule for new projects if they know anyone who needs some help with (fill in the blank with what you produce).

Network with other writers and creative types. If you give good referrals, you’ll get good referrals. It’s one of those ying-yang things. I have friends in the freelance communications and marketing worlds who don’t know anything about nonprofits and when they are offered those jobs, they send them my way.  I often refer work to other writers and graphic designers when the potential job just isn’t right for me.

Tell some good stories. When you are in social situations, have some good work-related stories to tell about challenges that a client faced and that you helped solve. It’s a great way to educate people about what you do without sounding like a walking brochure.

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