JAWBONE UP3 REVIEW
Updated December 6, 2015
The Jawbone UP3 fitness tracker benefits from improved styling as compared with earlier generation UPs. But the slimmer, downsized band doesn't mean they downsized the features, which include resting heart rate, passive heart rate, activity tracking, sleep tracking, idle alert, smart alarm, and auto sleep detection. Plus, the accompanying UP app is a pleasure to use.
About This Review
I like to open with a note about how I obtained the fitness device I'm reviewing. In this case, I purchased the Jawbone UP3 myself; a few key features and functions had changed since I'd used their earlier products and I was curious to see what the company's latest products were all about. I used it for about a month before writing this review, and I continue to return to it from time to time to explore the app and the band as the company continues to roll out updates.
The UP2, UP3 and UP4 all use the same app and have the same form factor, same band clasp, and same build structure. Instead of buying one of each, I decided to choose the middle-of-the-road Jawbone UP3 model. The UP3 made the most sense: it encompasses all of the features of the UP2, giving me a solid sense of that band, and only lacks one feature of the UP4.
So how is the UP3 different from the UP2? It has bioimpedance sensors to record resting and passive heart rate, and it estimates time spent in REM sleep. The UP4 differs in one added feature over the UP3: its integrated payment system allows you to charge purchases to your American Express card from your wrist.
Jawbone UP3 Band Design
The UP3 comes if a variety of colors and styles. The one-size-fits-all wristband is made of medical grade TPU rubber. The band is somewhat slimmer and lighter than their predecessor, the UP24, and no longer have bulky connectors and buttons located under the wrist. Combined, these form changes result in a more comfortable and attractive wristband.
New Clasp Design
A new band clasp does away with the pull-on/pull-off open band style of the previous UPs, and likely protects the band technology from the bending that previous styles were subject to as you tried to slip them on and off a wrist. However, the band clasp depends on tension to stay in place, so if you wear it too loosely, you risk having it slip off.
An aluminum casing lends trendy metallic sheen to the band, houses the electronics, and incorporates three LEDs that signal information about sleep mode, activity tracking mode, and notifications. The aluminum casing used to serve as a capacitive touch button. Early users had issues with accidentally triggering it, thereby causing the band to switch into workout mode accidentally. Jawbone has since addressed this issue by disabling the ability to switch modes via the band; Now, you must open the app to time a workout and switch modes.
Inner Surface of Band
The inner band surface includes a charging point and five bioimpedance sensors. The charging point is located on the underside of the aluminum casing. One of the bioimpedance sensors is position
Minimal LED-based Display
Many people might embrace the simple, minimalistic styling, of the new Jawbone line. I personally think it's the most attractive band on the market. However, I find that fitness trackers without a display don't mesh well with my motivation style, and the Jawbone UP3's LED and vibrating notifications don't provide enough information about my daily progress to make up for the lack of a screen on the device. Without immediate information, I lose track of my progress towards my daily goal throughout the day. On the flip side, when I do have data at a glance, I tend to move a little more and run a little further during workouts. The relevance of this aspect really depends on personal preference; for me, there's too much friction in having to constantly access and review an app for my latest information.
The UP3 is showerproof. This may surprise you, because on the website, Jawbone advertises the bands as "splashproof" and says to not take them in the shower. However, once you own one and go through the app set-up, they specify that it is safe to shower with. I sent Jawbone a message to get clarification, and they confirmed for me that it's safe to shower with.
So far, I've been doing just that with my new Jawbone UP3, and so far, I have not had any problems. Just don't use it in the pool, for bathing, swimming, surfing, or any other situation where it will actually be fully submerged in water for a long time, and don't let it come into contact with spray-on products (they specifically mention insect repellants that contain DEET), which may damage it.
Battery Charging and Battery Life
The battery life is on the long end compared to competitors that also use a rechargeable lithium ion battery. I brought the band to a full charge and timed how long the battery lasted until it completely ran out: about 5 days and 5 hours. During that time, I was using smart notifications and several types of alarms and alerts (wake up alarm, sedentary alert, bedtime alert). I imagine that using fewer alarms and smart notifications would likely extend the battery life into the advertised range.
However, even a 7-day battery life doesn't hold a candle to the convenience of fitness trackers powered by a watch battery (typically at least 6 months).
The included short, stubby USB charging cable connects magnetically to the band's charging point. It's about as elegant as a charging cable can be, and it works well, but it just isn't my idea of perfection. I find it a bit finicky to ensure that I have the band connected in the right direction and all the pins aligned. I also have to slide my laptop to the edge of my desk so that the charging cable sticks off into space, thus allowing the band straps enough room. If I don't do this, there isn't enough clearance between the desk and the charging cable to accommodate the bulk of the fitness tracker.
Jawbone Activity Tracking & Sedentary Alert
The UP3 offers all the same tracking that the UP24 provided: steps, activity intensity, estimated calories burned (based on activity level and steps combined with biometrics like gender, height, age, and weight), and estimated distance traveled (based on your stride length and the number of steps you take).
A workout mode feature lets you time the start and end of activities, allowing you to later add more detail. This can be helpful if you completed a workout like cycling or basketball, where perceived "steps" won't correlate well to calories burned. Note that Jawbone calls this feature "Stopwatch" in the app and in their documentation, but it is not a stopwatch. Despite the ability to add workout information to improve estimated calories burned, nothing will estimate calories burned quite as accurately as an app that incorporates continuous heart rate data into the calorie calculation.
The app also detect times during the day that you were active and might have forgotten to track with workout mode. It will prompt you to tag those periods as a workout, and will even give you its top 4 guesses as to what you were doing.
Similar to almost all fitness trackers, you can set activity goals and monitor your progress. You can also log your mood and share your activity information on social networks if you want to.
I tend to enjoy the competitive features of fitness trackers, and Jawbone is no slouch in this arena. You can add friends to your "UP team" and challenge them to step duels and other competitions. Your friends don't even need to own a Jawbone fitness tracker to compete: they can compete by tracking steps via the Jawbone app.
However, if you want buddies to compare steps with and compete with on a daily basis, it's often most motivating to find friends who are using one of the company's fitness trackers. Unfortunately, none of the people I know showed up in Jawbone's "Find Teammates" feature, so I was not able to try out the step duels and competitions. By comparison, many people I know show up in the FitBit community. Ultimately, I think it's a reflection of the company's respective shares of the fitness tracker market (In 2014, Fitbit had 68% of the US market share by revenue according to a 2015 filing citing NPD Group), rather than a quirk of my particular social circles.
The Idle Alert/Sedentary Alarm is a feature I really like. Set it up to detect if you've been stationary for a custom amount of time, and it will vibrate to remind you to stretch your legs and get active. The only difficulty I had was when too many other vibrating alerts were also enabled; It was difficult at times to tell which alert was buzzing for which reason, and required me to keep looking at my phone for disambiguation.