BREAKING: The Jawbone UP Is Incredibly Chic

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Jawbone UP

For those of you who know me, the only hardware that typically interests me is that which can be found on shoes. Never one to fall for the latest gadget, I bought an iPhone 4 to upgrade from my Blackberry Curve (pouring one out for RIM). Only when that iPhone began to experience significant battery loss and random calling of contacts without my initiation (which coincided with the launch of the iPhone 5) did I trade up. Hardware is not my thing.

During the TechCrunch Hackathon I bought a Jawbone UP on a whim; an exhaustion-fueled whim and then promptly forgot about the purchase until it arrived several days later.  Needless to say I didn’t track the shipment compulsively like I do a shoe purchase. Hardware is not my thing.

Part of my concern with wearing a plastic computing device on my wrist was that it simply isn’t chic. But I bought it anyway and lo and behold, who was writing about this newest hardware craze in its September issue? VOGUE of all publications! My favorite shopping website even Instagrammed a wrist sporting a Rolex, a Jawbone UP and a Cartier bangle. Truth be told, I layer my UP similarly, but not as extravagantly. (Although I wouldn’t mind a Rolex… but back to the review.)

The Hardware

At first the Jawbone UP felt a little constricting and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to maintain wearing it twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Sleeping with it was a bit of a chore but after a few nights, it was old hat. My skin around the UP started to get irritated but the UP has since loosened, so it is no longer a problem. I’ve been wearing it as suggested for over two weeks now and only take it off to dry it after it gets wet.

Easy to charge, the UP battery lasts about 10 days. To juice it back up, simply uncap the end of the UP and plug it into a USB drive which charges through your computer.

The UP comes in a variety of colors and I chose mint green. Somehow the white or black seemed garish — and seeing as how I love colors, it suits me well. Because I’m a fashion girl at heart living in a technology world, I layer mine with a variety of bracelets and I have to say it doesn’t look bad. My girlfriends noticed it immediately as an addition to my wrist but thought it was simply a new accessory. They were shocked when I shared what this little trinket does.

Part of the “Quantified Self” movement, the UP tracks various aspects of my daily routine after learning a bit about me (height, weight, etc.) It automatically logs my steps from the moment I wake up and my sleep as soon as I drift off. The UP is signaled to start monitoring these activities by a button I press in various patterns to tell it what I’m up to.

The Software

What really blows me away about this technology is the Jawbone UP app. Available for free, it is where I upload all of the data my UP is collecting about my day. It tallies it and visualizes it in such a beautiful way that I want to constantly look at it.

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The features I use the most are logging sleep, smart alarm, steps, other activities and idle alert.

  • Sleep: I’ve been curious about my sleep for a while, knowing how sometimes I don’t feel well-rested even though I achieved 8-10 hours of shuteye. The UP helps me to better understand how deeply I’m sleeping, versus lighter sleep. I have also learned with the UP that even when I think I’m awake, I’m actually in light sleep. As someone who gets grumpy when I perceive I haven’t slept long enough, this helps chill me out. My boyfriend appreciates this, Jawbone, so thank you.
  • Smart Alarm: Since I got the UP, I haven’t used a traditional alarm clock, instead using this feature on the UP. I set it for 6:30am Monday-Friday and based on my sleep cycle, it buzzes to wake me when I’m in light sleep within 10 minutes of 6:30, rather than an alarm which jolts me awake rudely. The only thing I wish it could do was snooze, but perhaps that will come later.
  • Steps: I’m a high energy woman, but with my job I can get tethered to my desk pretty easily. During the day, I try to take breaks and walk around the block but I’m not always successful. The UP determined based on my height, weight and age that I should take 10,000 steps a day. That seems fishy to me because I thought that was just a given, but whatever. Because I compulsively upload the data after I’ve walked, I have learned that skipping the bus in favor of a 6 block walk in the morning and walking twice around the block mid-afternoon, coupled with all of my other city jaunts, gets me to 10,000. (I didn’t take that walk this AM as you can see in my screenshot.)
  • Idle Alert: This feature is wonderful! Set to buzz me everyday from 8:30am-5:30pm, if I’m sitting for 30 minutes without moving I get a jolt. The main thing I’ve learned is that 30 minutes goes by really quickly! Also, that the UP doesn’t think that yoga counts as moving, which it TOTALLY DOES in vinyasa flow.

I do have some feedback for the UP team, specifically around various bugs I’ve uncovered. The most annoying one is that when I try to manually log a yoga class, it only lets me input one hour, rather than 1 hour 30 minutes which is how long most of the classes I take are. That is small, but if I’m trying to quantify myself, then it does make a difference.

I also wonder where on earth they determine calories burned. The numbers seem incredibly elevated for me, a recovering calorie-counter.

Aside from that nit, I love using the UP. So all you fashion girls, check it out! It is a stylish addition to an already-chic “arm party.” Hardware just might be my new thing.

My Comment On The Matter: #hackdisrupt

thoughts

Today marked the culmination of a lot of hard work put into the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. By all appearances it was the most successful one we’d ever produced: 800+ attendees, 40+ sponsors, 264 hacks submitted, 1,000+ attendees for the presentations. A rather large accomplishment by an incredibly dedicated team of event staff and TechCrunch writers and editors.

But all of that has been unfortunately overshadowed by a particularly tasteless, sexist, and horribly offensive app that wheedled their way on stage under a false hack name. The app they demoed was incredibly offensive to women and rightly angered a lot of people, of all genders. I was shocked at what happened on stage, worked to help address it in real time and have been thinking about the aftermath all day.

Here’s what I find most upsetting about my reaction: even though I was appalled, I wasn’t surprised. And that is society’s challenge. Somehow, even though I know what occurred on our stage was unconscionable, it felt almost commonplace to me because of how women are viewed overall. It is horrifying to admit that, especially in a public forum.

Lean In. Change the ratio. No more Miss Representation. Women deserve better. WE deserve better. It can be better. From the outburst I saw online today in the wake of the tasteless demo, women are not in the minority when it comes to outrage in the face of harassment and sexism. Which I appreciate, but it can grow.

Luckily, the brightest part in my day occurred shortly after the tasteless demo took place: a brilliant, charismatic, energetic and incredibly brave nine-year-old girl pitched her hack project to our judges and an audience of 1,100. That is what makes me feel more confident in the future of women in the United States, so I want to say “thank you” to her and her father who encouraged her to participate. She is our unbelievably bright future and I’m grateful to have met her.

We can change, we must change. Encourage it everywhere you go.

Actually Print the Pictures Housed on Your Device With Printic

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printic

Remember when you got your first camera as a present? I do.*

I’ve always loved capturing tiny moments in time so a camera was one of my staples in life. My first camera was a Canon point-and-shoot which used actual film (!) and I loved that thing. My second camera was another Canon but this one was digital. The zoom was incredible, it was lightweight enough for my handbag and I went everywhere with it.

In the days of yore, I hurried rolls of film to the developer before the store closed and received prints back one week later. The excitement I felt from the advent of one-hour printing was palpable and I gave those stores a lot of business. In fact I still have boxes of 4×6 moments long passed that have moved with me from North Carolina and then to three subsequent San Francisco apartments, so loath am I to part with them. Did I mention that I’ve been in California for over seven years?

Then I met the iPhone and things were never the same.

All of a sudden, a camera almost as good as the one I constantly hauled around was ever-present in my mobile device. Then when I (d)evolved to barely release the phone (camera?) from my grubby little fingers, I could take instant shots of everything and anything that caught my attention. My other cameras had inadvertently found themselves with a one-way ticket to being obsolete.

I mean, the Camera is permanently affixed as one of my most important apps.

I mean, the Camera is permanently affixed as one of my most important apps.

But what of the pictures I was constantly taking? Part of the fun of having a body of work in photographs is being able to thumb through the images, frame them, give them as gifts. Where does that leave me, iPhone? I ask you!

There are several solutions like uploading to Walgreens or the like, using Picasa to achieve the same or buying a printer just for my iPhone, but none of these worked especially well for me. Picasa updated to be almost unusable as its original inception. Walgreens continually cropped my photos due to their size and without fail used odd image placement. And buying a photo printer just didn’t ring true to my needs.

I’ve used Postagram for sending pictures to others, but what if I just want one for myself? What then? Printic aims to solve that problem in a beautiful, simple way.

Learning of Printic from another photographer I admire, I decided to check it out. The interface is smooth and straightforward, inviting me to get started printing my pictures immediately. Each Printic order requires three images to be printed and they can be uploaded to the service via Facebook, Instagram or pictures stored on the iPhone itself. One click on each photo I want to print and they are collected by the app, allowing me to have final approval to determine if they require cropping, centering or editing in some other way.

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Voila! After settling the bill (converted from € to $, how charming!) I settled in to wait for my Printics to arrive. I appreciated that the team sends emails to let me know when the order has been received and when it is shipping. However, I wish that was managed through the app. I already get a lot of email.

There were a few things I noticed in the app that were less than polished. It is a French product and some of the English translations are misspelled. No big deal, just noticed. Also, for some reason Facebook doesn’t pull in photos I’ve published directly to my timeline into a folder, so I had to track some images down on Flickr and save them directly to my phone to print. I can see these pictures on my timeline on desktop but not on mobile. This is not Printic’s fault, obviously, but made the experience slightly frustrating.

I adored how the prints were packaged and their polaroid style appeals to my inner hipster. See how adorable?

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All in all, I think that the roughly $3 I spent on these images was worth it. Team Printic, expect me to be a repeat user!

*Thank you for bearing with me as I meandered down photography memory lane under the guise of a mobile app review.

Just Landed: A No-Brainer Flight Tracker App

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just landed app

Many portals exist with the premise of helping one meet a loved one at the airport on time. Airline sites; which are cumbersome on mobile and IMHO are not accurate, seemingly tied to a reluctance to openly acknowledge delays. Tripit or similar; which redirect to the airline websites. A myriad of flight tracking apps. Airline flight status text updates which are all too frequent and invasive. And a loved one can only call or text so many times about ETA before it becomes bothersome.

It makes a theoretically simple solution much more problematic. Unless you’re the Just Landed team!

Now to call Just Landed a “no-brainer flight tracker app” may seem to diminish the brilliance behind it. Let me be clear: that is not my intention. While using the app for the first time today to schedule an airport rendezvous I just couldn’t believe it took so long for someone to make this app! It is simply too logical. Thank heavens the team behind Just Landed finally brought it about.

Just Landed monitors incoming flight information and your location simultaneously. Based on arrival times and traffic data, recommends when you should leave for the airport to meet the flight you’re tracking. It is magical!

Today I was meeting a flight arriving from Frankfurt. International arrivals are tricky as they’re so long it is tough to monitor well, in my experience. Inputting the flight into Just Landed was an easy process: flight number, then choose the correct day, then it pops out a real-time ETA designated by adorable graphic if the plane is mid-air or if it has landed already.

Particularly handy are the alerts. I’ve disabled most lock screen alerts on my iPhone favoring the notification center instead. Just Landed will retain lock screen rights due to how indispensable the alerts are.

alert!

Also, the Just Landed team gets points for the sounds the app makes: when the flight has arrived it sounds like a plane landing; when regular alerts chime, they do so with the seatbelt indicator sound. Adorable! I do love me some aesthetics.

Another feature I appreciated was texting from within the app to let my party know I was already there and waiting. Just Landed prompted me to send it once the flight arrived and the location determined that I was at the airport. This was where I noticed some bugs in that Just Landed kept letting me know the flight had landed and offering to send a text. I wasn’t sure if the app did that to account for time in customs or if it was buggy, will determine that the next time I use it which will most likely be Wednesday.

That being said, as you can see it was a big hit that I was on time despite the flight being 40 minutes early.

i'm rule :)

I do rule. And so do you, Just Landed, for making me look good.

Speaking of Disrupting Native Apps… Mailbox for iOS

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mailbox app

Managing email across multiple mobile devices can be either an uninspiring task at best (using the iOS mail app) or unwieldy at worst (the infuriatingly buggy Gmail for iOS app). The unenviable task of sorting through ones email and circumventing the existing apps in the marketplace and preinstalled on ones phone is a task not easily achieved, but desperately needed. Enter Mailbox.

Launching to a veritable landslide of positive press, Mailbox has been in my hands for a month or so. And what a month it has been. Beta testing for select members of the press since December, launching in February, sold to Dropbox for $100M in March. Quite the ride for its creators over at Orchestra!

After playing with Mailbox since it came out of beta (order number 15,422 thankyouverymuch), I can attest that while not perfect, the app has changed my inbox experience for the better. Before diving into that though, let’s talk a bit about Mailbox’s email mandate. Essentially, Mailbox wants email to be simpler, encouraging a clean, well-organized inbox, which few people can claim in this day and age of send-an-email-get-an-email, ad infinitium.

In an incredibly stripped down, minimalist approach, Mailbox lets you delete, archive, revisit and add emails to lists with a swipe of your finger. That’s what makes it a tremendously easy user experience; I mean, who doesn’t love to swipe!

Swipe Right

When you swipe right in the app, you are asking Mailbox to either archive the email or delete it, depending on how quickly you swipe. Swipe slowly halfway across, the message turns green and archives. Swipe more quickly to the right and it turns red and deletes. Sometimes my finger has a mind of its own and I accidentally delete when I mean to archive, but the most recent update of the app offers a “shake to undo” feature that while not sexy and exciting, has turned out to be handy when I’m particularly clumsy.

Swipe Left

My more favorite feature is swiping left to save for later: sort of a hybrid archive and reminder setting. If you know me, you know I need reminders on a regular basis. For everything. Especially with email; I get so much of it! When I swipe left, I can choose to be reminded of this email again either tonight, tomorrow, this weekend, next week, next month, etc. etc. This is particularly handy for those of us (me) who have organizational problems on occasion (all the time).

When the time comes for Mailbox to remind you of the email again, it reappears in your inbox but starred and with a Gmail filter on it so it is easily distinguished. I appreciate that.

Note: These three features can also be accessed from within an individual email, but I’ve found I rarely use them there, preferring to get organized from the main screen.

Room for Improvement

The two problems I’ve uncovered with my consistent Mailbox use feel rather significant. First, and most important: I have not yet successfully been able to forward attachments. In my line of business that is a rather key feature. Secondly, when I forward an email, it removes it from the original chain and separates it, which makes finding that particular email rather challenging later. If the Mailbox team can fix these, the app would be practically perfect.

Although Mailbox has been live for quite some time, the demand remains high. While at a party this weekend in North Carolina, I extolled the virtues of the app to some friends, who immediately downloaded it… and was #419,000 in line. With 40 people behind her, which was comforting. Don’t worry, I promised her. It moves rather quickly and is absolutely worth the wait.

Other posts in the “Speaking of Disrupting Native Apps…” series can be found here.

Let’s (Gamify) Date(ing) And Make It Addictive In The Process

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Originally posted on TechCrunch:

Editor’s Note: Event Partnerships Manager Leslie Hitchcock is a non-editorial TechCrunch employee. In addition to working at TechCrunch and being super fashionable, she reviews startups and tech products occasionally on her personal blog, Leslie Just Joined.

A few months ago I broke down and did something I swore I’d never do. Yes, that’s right. I opened a dreaded OkCupid account. [Y’all, I’m so embarrassed right now, you just don’t even know.]

For many years I’ve dated successfully in real life. But curiosity got the best of me and it was enhanced by, uh, let’s call it a dry spell despite working in a target-rich environment. As my friend Morgan says, in our industry “the odds are good but the goods are odd.” Go tech scene!

So I opened an account just to see what would happen. In the three months I’d been a member of OkCupid, I went…

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Moda Operandi Lets You Buy Fashion Week Looks, Now

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Originally posted on TechCrunch:

Editor’s Note:Event Partnerships Manager Leslie Hitchcock is a non-editorial TechCrunch employee. In addition to working at TechCrunch and being super fashionable, she reviews startups and tech products occasionally on her personal blog, Leslie Just Joined.

Have you ever been at a New York Fashion Week runway show and been irritated that you can’t purchase a look from the collection right then and there? Oh. You haven’t? Well, then you probably haven’t heard of Moda Operandi, and that’s your misfortune.

There are First World Problems and then there are 1 percent problems. Moda Operandi, a fashion retail site co-founded by Lauren Santo Domingo of Vogue Magazine fame, solves both of them for the well-heeled (and incredibly impatient) fashionable set. And the company exhibited in Startup Alley at New York Disrupt 2011, so clearly they’re in the know. Now you can be, too.

As a loyal reader of Vogue…

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