Startup Smackdown: Fitbit vs Jawbone UP

How well do you sleep? How much do you exercise? What foods give you energy or make you groggy? The answers to these questions are steps to a healthier, more productive life, and a new wave of health tech products are trying to help you find those answers.

In today’s Startup Smackdown, we feature two of the hottest health tech products, Fitbit Ultra and Jawbone UP. Fitbit is a pedometer on crack and tracks everything from the steps you take and the stairs you climb to how well you sleep. UP does much of the same, but does its job while wrapped around your wrist instead of attached to your front pocket. Both devices cost $99, and Fitbit offers a premium feature on its website for $49/year.

Let the games begin!

Round 1 — Diet

Fitbit and UP take two very different approaches to tracking food. Neither allows you to track what you eat on their device, so you have to use the supporting mobile app (or Fitbit’s website) to do it.

Fitbit’s approach involves searching a database of 10,000 foods for what you have eaten. It then provides you with caloric and other nutritional information. I have tried (and failed) to track my food using a similar approach on the DailyBurn, but it is too tedious to enter your foods — especially if you make something with a lot of ingredients.

UP, on the other hand, takes a novel approach to food tracking. Instead of entering what you have eaten, it asks you to take a picture of your meal with the mobile app. A few hours later it will alert you and ask how you feel — the goal being to help you understand which foods keep you alert or make you groggy. It is a qualitative approach to food intake rather than a quantitative one, which could appeal to less number-hungry consumers.

Winner: For this round my vote goes to UP’s novel take on controlling your diet. I am not sure that it works, but I am sure that Fitbit’s approach is lacking.

Round 2 — Exercise

In this category, Fitbit offers a variety of tools to help track how much you have moved around during the day. Like a traditional pedometer, it tracks how many steps you have taken. It also lets you know how many stairs you have climbed. (I hate stairs, so I know climbing them must be good for me.) Fitbit also has a flower LED screen that shows you how active you have been during the day. The longer the flower, the more you have moved around.

Jawbone’s lack of display costs the product major points in this category. While it also tracks steps, it has no way of updating you on your progress unless you take it off and sync it with your phone. One redeeming feature is a timer that will cause the device to vibrate if you are inactive for a long period of time. You can turn it on and off, so it won’t be vibrating while you are sleeping or at the movies.

Winner: The clear winner here is Fitbit with its display features and stair tracking. If seeing your steps would motivate you, Fitbit is the product you should buy.

Round 3 — Sleeping

This is the category I’m most interested in, because I always seem to wake up at the worst time. Both devices track your sleep, but I am more interested in the data they provide and how I can use it to wake up feeling refreshed.

Fitbit usually clips to your pocket, but in order for it to track your sleep you need to put it on a wristband that comes with the product. It lets you know how long you have been in bed, how long you have actually slept, and how many times you have woken up.

Jawbone UP provides data about light sleep, deep sleep, and total time asleep. It also provides a percentage indicating how well you slept (compared to what?). That is all well and good, but the killer feature here is the vibrating alarm. If you set your alarm with UP, the device will rouse you up to 30 minutes earlier than your alarm time if you are in a state of light sleep. This means that you can wake up more refreshed and ready to go.

Winner: Once again, the clear winner here is UP. Anything that can help me wake up more refreshed is poised to get my vote and my money.

Final Count: Fitbit 1. Jawbone UP 2.

I did not discuss the challenge or community aspects of these products. I believe that your health is a very personal thing and I am not sure that it is something I want to share with my friends. But if you find motivation and accountability through including others in your fitness regimen, more power to you.

Congratulations Jawbone on your glorious victory!

Andrew Torba

Andrew is the CEO of, a Social Media as a Service (SMaS) platform. Andrew is also a senior at the University of Scranton where he double majors in Philosophy and Political Science with a minor in Entrepreneurship. Over the past year he has researched and documented over 500 tech startup companies from across the globe. Andrew has a passion for entrepreneurship, technology, social media, and weight lifting.

What others say about : Startup Smackdown: Fitbit vs Jawbone UP..

David Beronja

Excellent article but I think you missed round 4. Size and Convenience of the devices. When I heard about the UP I considered it but the large size and wearing it on your wrist doesn’t work for people in the corporate world. The FitBit wins with such a small size that you can wear and forget about it.

Technically I think it’s a draw. Each has their own features that they excel at. I think the UP has a much nicer app, vibration alarm and it looks like the sleep tracking is more accurate. The FitBit has the advantage of size, altimeter, wireless syncing. Personally I’ll take smaller size over everything else.

Maximillian Sablosky

I have to say after wearing the UP device for a week it’s easily the winner it feels exactly like my watch. It has great consistency and the sleep tracking feature is something new to me and truly unheard of in a compact device. The integration with the iPhone is lacking I believe it could use a bluetooth 2.0 connection and a battery charger with magnetic strips instead of the usb to audio input to charge the device. Battery is pretty solid. I also think the device should have a screen and in complete agreement that the LCD is lacking i wish it had the time then it would double as a watch! The food feature is really interesting for me instead of asking how much I ate it ask’s if your feeling good I would have never though about that. All in All great device love wearing it, great conversation starter for friends who are into the gadgets. It really shows when i’m not getting anything accomplished and it makes boring monotonous tasks like waking up kind of fun again. I can’t wait to see what the second model of this device will look like really enjoy wearing it. 

Marcus Trisler

I agreed with David and the only reason i would get the up is the sleep timer. Lets not also forget compatibility while the iphone is very popular not everyone has one/or an apple device. I myself love the android phones and this will cause me to get the fitbit. I love the idea with the up though and even slightly considered getting an iphone just for that sleeping feature but due to compatibility and the fitbit being compatible with other websites like myfitnesspal where it syncs automatically for me.. that is going to be my choice you just have to do a little more research and youtube can help quite a bit and make the best choice for you 🙂

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