Athletes already know they're active.
It's why devices that simply track the number of steps taken or stairs climbed in a day might not be all that appealing to them. For sedentary office workers? Sure. But an athlete's not going to toast his or her competition just by hitting a step goal—they'll do it by being faster, more agile and more explosive than their opponent.
Enter JAWKU Speed. JAWKU Speed doesn't care about step counts—it cares about speed. "This is not your parents' fitness tracker. This is about performance—measure speed, agility and reaction time. JAWKU Speed gives you purpose, motivation and results," the company writes on their website.
That sounds great, but can a wearable really help you build elite athleticism? We tested it to find out.
JAWKU Speed is essentially a stopwatch for the iPhone generation. The device itself consists of a "speed sensor" placed inside a rubber wristband. The device works in concert with an accompanying app to function as a sort of laser-timed finish line. JAWKU Speed detects when you start a drill and tracks the amount of time (down to a hundredth of a second) it takes you to complete it.
In terms of the actual band, it's lightweight and comfortable. You can tighten or loosen the device to your liking as you would with a regular wristwatch. It's also nice that JAWKU Speed doesn't have to be on a precise spot to record accurate results (which isn't the case with a device such as heart rate tracker), so you don't need to fuss with it much during your workout. There's only one button on the device—which is mainly used for powering it on and off—which helps keep things intuitive. Connecting the device to your iPhone is simple, and the app will automatically remember which JAWKU Speeds it's been paired with in the past.
So, say you've powered up the device, connected it to your iPhone and you're ready to get after it. The next step would be selecting which drill you'd like to perform. JAWKU Speed "measures any distance from point A to point B", so you can cover as much or as little ground as you'd like. The only limit is your imagination. The app also comes with a number of preset drills, including a 10-Yard Dash, a 40-Yard Dash, an 800-meter sprint, a 5-10-5 Shuttle, L-Drill, etc.
Say you want to work on your 40 time.
JAWKU Speed relies on your phone's front-facing camera to record when you reach the finish line, so the camera needs to be able to see you cross that line (the company recommends finishing roughly 2-4 feet in front of the phone for the most accurate results). While it's not hard to jury-rig a way to prop up your phone, the product comes with a plastic "mobile stand" designed to serve this function. One minor inconvenience with the device is that it's on you to know what distance you're covering. If you select a 10-Yard Dash but you're only running 8 yards, JAWKU Speed won't know the difference—it will just think you ran a really fast 10-Yard Dash. That means you're either going to have to bring a tape measure with you or head to a marked surface (such as a football field or track) which indicates precise distances.
Once you're at the starting line for a drill, you can either have JAWKU Speed's timer set to "first movement" mode or "audible" mode. First movement is exactly what it sounds like—the device will begin recording your time as soon as you start running. But it's the audible mode that really differentiates JAWKU Speed from a training partner with a stopwatch. In this mode, you start the drill once you hear the device emit a loud "beep" noise. That beep noise is like the starter's pistol—it won't always go off at the same time, and you must train yourself to react to it as quickly as possible. The app tracks how long it takes between the beep and your first movement, thus giving you your reaction time. Integrating a reactionary element into your workouts is a great way to train yourself to be quicker and more explosive. "Faster reaction times can be achieved by providing repeated auditory stimuli and with adequate periods of rest between the stimuli," write the authors of a 2010 study on the topic. "Auditory stimuli on the whole improves the performance of the athlete."
I found JAWKU Speed to work as advertised.
While I wasn't used to the process of checking in with my iPhone between every drill or sprint I performed, I quickly got addicted to seeing (and subsequently attempting to beat) my times. I can only imagine that feeling would be even stronger for current competitive athletes. I spent almost all of my time with JAWKU Speed in audible mode, as I enjoyed the extra challenge of trying to shave down my reaction time. In terms of accuracy, I found the device to perform well. My time in the 10-Yard Dash was similar to what I've been recorded via stopwatch, as was my 5-10-5. I never found myself looking at the number on the screen perplexed with had been recorded or questioning if the device had malfunctioned. The app also tracks all of your previous workouts, so you can see how and where you're improving over time.
Battery life wasn't an issue—I used JAWKU Speed for two 30-minute workouts on consecutive days without charging it in between. By the end of the second workout, I still had a good amount of battery life to spare. Even so, it only takes about 30-60 minutes to fully charge the device.
If you're an athlete looking to improve your speed and agility, JAWKU Speed can certainly help—especially if you don't have a regular training partner who knows how to handle a stopwatch. The additional reactionary elements built into JAWKU Speed only further boost its performance-enhancing capabilities. Increasing your athleticism takes hard work and perseverance, and a wearable can't substitute for that. However, if you have a burning desire to become a better athlete, JAWKU Speed can aid you in your journey. AWKU Speed is available in two colors at JAWKU.com for $129.99.
Photo Credit: BartekSzewcyzk/Thinkstock