Reviews

Jaybird Reign Review

November 26, 2014

More commonly known for its line of Bluetooth ear buds, Jaybird released its maiden fitness tracker in the form of Jaybird Reign. Boasting automatic activity and sleep tracking plus the capability to read heart rate variability (HRV), the Reign launched to much fanfare in January at CES 2014.

unboxing

Jawbird Reign in a stylishly designed box.

The tracker was slated to be released in late October 2014 but was slightly delayed due to some issues with the mobile app. I managed to get myself a set in early November and spent a week with the Jaybird Reign.

So was it reign or nay? Read on.

LOOK AND FEEL

Jaybird reign matrix shot

Different views of the Jaybird Reign tracker unit.

The tracker unit is sealed and waterproof. The only way to get any feedback from the Jaybird Reign is through tapping; 4 hard taps.The row of LED lights on the face of the Reign tracker shows the activity progress for the day and also the time if the user wishes to. The metal portion at the bottom is the part that contacts your skin when you initiate Go-Zone reading.

Jaybird reign posing

Different bands to house the Jaybird Reign.

The tracker unit can be popped into any of the available straps. It does not hold tightly but should suffice for everyday use. For those heavy-duty activities, Jaybird has gone the whole nine yards in terms of provision.

jaybird reign accessories

Clockwise form top left: Clip cleaning tool, bands of different length, 1 x rolled ankle strap and 2 x sports bands, charging cable and cradle.

The options are plenty with 2 different sized straps, 2 sports straps and an ankle strap for cycling. The sports straps will come in really handy for those heavy sessions. I appreciated the varying options but doubt I’ll be swapping from one to another.

jaybird reign charging cable and cradles

Left: Jaybird Reign charging cable and cradles. Right: Reign tracker bring charged emitting red LED light.

The charging cradle is proprietary and charging from flat to full took about 1.5 hours. Upon syncing, it actually shows in the mobile app the duration and time which the Reign tracker was charged. The tracker has to be popped out of the bands to be charged.

jaybird reign worn on wrist

Front, side and back view of the Jaybird Reign on wrist.

The soft silicon strap is possibly one of the most comfortable straps I’ve worn to date. I was able to work on my laptop without any discomfort normally associated with watch strap clasps. Jaybird has gone round the problem by placing the unique clasp at the side instead. Trackers on the market can take a leaf out of Jaybird Reign’s clasp design.

FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION

new user jaybird regin set up

After setting up, the Jaybird Reign app will propose a starting activity goal for you.

The Jaybird Reign tracks steps, calories burned, distance travelled and sleep. After setting up, the Jaybird mobile app will suggest a starting goal for the user. If you find the goal too easy, you also have the option of increasing the goal for the day. As the days went by, the goal would change when Jaybird Reign tracker gets a better idea of your activity pattern, similar to what Garmin trackers offers.

There are only 3 main tabs in the mobile app which currently only supports selected iOS devices. Activity, sleep and Go-zone. Syncing to mobile device is fast but only when the app is open or refreshed; there’s no background syncing here.

Activity

activity jaybird reign

The “Activity” screen. Tapping on the center reveals the amount of activity left to reach goal.

The main screen is neat and easy to understand. I can easily see how much progress I’ve made and also how much more activity I have to clock in order to reach my goals. Activities such as swimming and cycling are auto detected. Jaybird Reign is waterproof so it was refreshing to jump into the pool without worry.

jaybird reign activity

More details can be access by pulling up the “Activity” timeline. Left: Early in the day. Right: My progress by the end of the day.

More details can be examined by pulling up the “Activity” timeline. Tapping any of the human icons will reveal even more information. For example, the number of steps and the type of activity. The mobile app allows the user to scroll through the entire day.  Unfortunately, the user is unable to manually start activity tracking nor amend any auto-tracked activities.

jaybird reign comparison

Jaybird Reign step count issues compared to the Fitbit Zip and Withings Pulse which recorded readings in the similar range.

I was concerned about Jaybird Reign’s step count accuracy given that I’m always wearing the Fitbit Zip, Withings Pulse; my yardsticks. When compared against the duo, the Reign regularly registered about half of what the duo recorded.  This persisted throughout the week of reviewing. Perhaps I’ve received a less than satisfactory Reign tracker but I’ve highlighted the issue to Jaybird. Jaybird’s customer rep has also replied that they are still trying to fix various bugs at their end as the Jaybird Reign is still a fairly new product.

The user would be disappointed to know that past data cannot be accessed. Put simply, whatever happened the day before disappears once the clock strikes midnight. No previous day, week, month, weekly email summaries. The option to access past data in terms of days, weeks and months is slated in an update in January 2015.

Data will only be backed up at the beginning of December 2014 when Reign Cloud is launched. Until then, all tracked data is stored on the phone/ device and will be deleted upon logging out or updating app.

Sleep

sleep detail jaybird reign

Jaybird Reign sleep screen. Tapping on the details bring up more data…or less.

Some activities like sleep, swimming and running are automatically detected. On the week I wore the Jaybird Reign, sleep had to be manually updated 3 out of 6 nights as it wasn’t automatically detected. The automatic sleep tracking function needs some work.

Over time, the Jaybird app will provide an overview of the average sleep thus far and make suggestions on sleep required. Expanding the sleep details shows the user the body activity throughout the sleep duration.

Go-Zone

go zone jaybird reign

The Reign tracker doesn’t measure 24/7 heart rate nor heart rate during exercise. It strictly measure heart rate variability (HRV) in the form of Jaybird’s own Go-Zone score. There’s a ton of research on HRV and it’s essentially a measure of the variability of the interval between heart beats; the higher the better. I personally found this link from Polar about HRV to be worth a read.

I scored 74 the very first day I took the readings which simply implied I was fully recovered and ready to punish the hell out of my body. Unfortunately I did nothing much physical the next few days but I recorded 55 and 50 Go-Zone scores. Perhaps the grind of work is punishing after all! You’ll also notice that with the change in Go-Zone scores the activity goals will also change.

Curious to see my Go-Zone score after  exercise, I went for a moderately hard  run and my Go-Zone score the following morning was 62; 12 point jump compared to when I did nothing. The HRV is proving to be a trickier reading than I can make sense of. Fortunately, Jaybird has set up a team of experts who can guide you through the HRV readings if you desire to.

All I can say is, the user must really know the purpose of the HRV and the factors that may affect reading before attempting to make sense of it.

It was also during my run that I also noticed the Jaybird Reign tracker would light up all the LEDs in a wave intermittently. I’m guessing it’s more for aesthetics than anything else.

Time and Activity Progress

jaybird reign time

How to tell time on the Jaybird Reign.

The LED lights also tell time similar to the Misfit series of fitness trackers. I firmly believe you’re better off whipping out your smart phone. As the LED lights are placed very closely, it is not easy to count to make sense of the 5 minutes increments. It’s nifty yes but hardly functional.

jaybird reign error in picture

My progress on two different occasions. Left: Reign trackers shows nearly full progress, app after syncing shows 59%. Right: Tracker shows full progress, app shows 67%.

The LED lights on the face of the Jaybird are supposed to indicate progress. 50% progress would mean half the row of LEDs would light up with 4 hard taps. I haven’t such luck. It seems a full bar on the Reign, which implies I have reached 100% of my goals, does not agree with the app which states I’ve only reached 67% of my goals. I’ve contacted Jaybird regarding this and will update if there’s a reply.

When the Reign reaches low battery, a red LED light will blink periodically to remind the user to charge the tracker unit. Useful? Perhaps.It might have been better if a message was shown on the smart phone rather than blink consistently at regular intervals throughout the day.

Currently, there are no options to link popular apps on the market, such as MFP, to the Jaybird Reign tracker. The current version of Jaybird Reign mobile app is pretty much standalone for now.

To help users understand how to get the most out of the Jaybird Reign tracker, Jaybird has uploaded multiple help videos online. The Android app is to due to make its appearance in January 2015.

IN A NUTSHELL

Upcoming updates for Jaybird Reign

DECEMBER 2014

  • Backup to Reign Cloud will push data to an online server to optimize app performance, allowing smooth transitions to a secondary phone/device and preparing for the History feature.
  • Password Recovery will enable you to retrieve your password if you lock yourself out of your account.
  • The ability to turn swimming detection off.
  • Go-Zone will be more responsive when you first touch the sensor.

JANUARY 2015

  • Activity History will allow you to view your activities by previous day, week, month or year.
  • Sleep Details will show and report multiple instances of sleep in one day.
  • Social/Sharing will allow the automatic or manual sharing of summaries to Facebook and Twitter.
  • The addition of Notifications & Alerts.
  • Increased Activity Dial and icon responsiveness.
  • The LED settings on the pod will automatically update after settings in the app are updated. The pod currently needs to be synced to update LED settings.
  • Improvements to the Intensity Graph on the Activity Dial screen.
  • Improved management of data across multiple phones/devices.

FEBRUARY 2015

  • The addition of Achievements with badges and personal bests.

Pros:

  • Tracks steps, calories burned, distance travelled
  • Automatic activity and sports tracking
  • Assesses body readiness to exercise based on HRV
  • Activity goals changes based on Go-Zone scores.
  • Suggests duration of sleep based on trend
  • Automatic sleep detection and waking up
  • Progress is indicated through 12 LED lights
  • Waterproof
  • Wireless syncing via Bluetooth only when app is opened.
  • Compatible with select iOS devices for now only
  • Tells time
  • Provision of paraphernalia to wear the Reign depending on activity type
  • About 5 days battery life as tested

Cons:

  • User unable to access data history from app
  • No vibration
  • No idle alert
  • No connecting apps
  • No food logging
  • No way to override tracked data (activities)
  • Unable to tap into smart phone GPS.
  • No background syncing

At $199.95, there are trackers on the market that does more than the Jaybird Reign. There’s Basis Peak, Microsoft Band, Jawbone UP3 and the list goes on. With its current features, users will frown at the limited functions and data. If HRV is really what the user is after, there are apps that do so with a $50 heart rate monitor.

At present, the Jaybird Reign is at best half-baked. There’s seldom a second chance at making a first impression. The Jaybird Reign has to sort out many kinks in order to justify the $199.95 price tag. It’s a pity because most of the shortcomings like linking with other apps, access to tracked data history, background syncing and so on should have been rectified before release.

Jaybird could have reigned supreme but alas.

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