Jawbone UP3 review

Was the wait really worth it for Jawbone’s much-delayed UP3 fitness tracker?

Update: Jawbone recently went live with new firmware for the UP3 and, as such, we've revisited our review…

The Jawbone UP3 is arguably the highest profile fitness tracker we've ever reviewed. That's partly due to the bold claims by its makers about just how advanced the tech in the sensor-laden wearable is, but it's mostly because Jawbone made such a public mess of its global launch.

Jawbone had big ambitions to create a waterproof fitness tracker and was so focused on the UP3 being pool-proof that it was even internally codenamed Thorpe, after the Olympic swimmer.

Essential reading: The best fitness trackers you can buy

The waterproofing problems the San Francisco company subsequently encountered led to months of delays for people who pre-ordered the UP3, and Jawbone eventually had to bring a splash-proof, rather than a waterproof, product to market.

At $179.99, it's not the cheapest fitness tracker on the market either – $50 more than the Fitbit Charge HR and $80 more than Jawbone's own more than capable UP2.

Water-woes aside, was it worth the wait? We've had the UP3 strapped on for a couple of months now (with the new firmware fully loaded), so read our full Jawbone UP3 review to find out.

Jawbone UP3: Design and fit

Jawbone has again turned to Swiss designer Yves Béhar for the design of the UP3 – the same chap who came up with the flexible fit of the UP24. Unlike its predecessor though, the UP3 is a one-size fits all affair that looks more 'jewellery' than 'gadget'.

It's definitely a lot more svelte than the UP24, with a moveable clasp meaning a better, and ultimately more comfortable, fit. The slim durable anodized aluminium framework (less than 0.5% nickel, so hopefully no rashes) surrounded by a hypoallergenic TPU rubber strap works well and, despite having to wear the UP3 tight in order to get the most accurate sensor readings (more on that later), it never really caused any irritation.

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The dimensions are 220 x 12.2 x 9.3mm and it weighs 29g, making it Jawbone's thinnest and lightest tracker so far. And it looks pretty slick too. It won't rival the latest smart jewellery trackers in terms of a wow-factor but the basic design – especially on the all-black affair we were reviewing – lends itself well to a range of styles; it looks just as at home paired with a suit as it does with a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.

But while comfort isn't an issue, awkwardness is. The clasp is fiddly as anything and, although you'll get used to getting it done up (there's a certain knack that no words could possibly explain properly), it's never easy. And it's not all that secure either. We've knocked ours off reaching in a bag and it's also fallen off in the night while sleeping.

However, the new UP3 design, revealed in September 2015, adds a buckle to the clasp; making it a more secure fit.

There's also no Fitbit Charge-style OLED display on offer with the UP3. What you've got is a set of lights that indicate the mode the UP3 is in: sleep (orange) or activity (blue). There's also a white LED for notifications from the UP app.

There are also no smartwatch skills on offer at all, sadly – it seems a shame that you can't be alerted to incoming texts, emails and the like from a paired smartphone, not even just by haptics. Hopefully Jawbone will add that feature in the future.

Jawbone UP3: Hardware and heart rate

Jawbone UP3 review

The Jawbone UP3 is built on an advanced multi-sensor platform that packs in a newly designed tri-axis accelerometer and bioimpedance sensors, as well as skin and ambient temperature sensors.

These sensors sit on the inside of the band – they measure the resistance of skin tissue to tiny electric currents like a treadmill heart rate grip – and there are five little metal squares clearly on show, which immediately scream: "I'm gonna dig right into your wrist!"

And they do. After a day of wearing the UP3 you'll see five little square imprints on your skin (as mentioned, you have to wear the device pretty tight for maximum accuracy). However, it's honestly not uncomfortable, despite the pressure tattoos left behind.

Unlike the Fitbit Charge HR, there's no optical heart rate sensor. The Charge HR, like the Microsoft Band and the Apple Watch offers 24/7 heart rate monitoring using a dedicated LED-based sensor.

Jawbone claims that resting heart rate is the key bpm metric. However, while a resting heart rate is indeed an important indicator of general health levels (a spike can indicate an upcoming illness, for example), continuous heart rate monitoring is crucial for training in intensity zones.

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Originally, that wasn't on offer with the UP3 and, despite Jawbone's big claims about the UP3 being the most advanced activity tracker, it felt a bit naff that you only get one reading per day, taken in the morning when you wake up.

However, that's the key update Jawbone has recently provided. The new software adds daily passive heart rate monitoring, allowing for a more complete picture of your bpm metrics. With these additional readings you can see your heart rate trends over week and month long periods, and monitor how things like caffeine, alcohol, stress and sleep affect your daily readings.

The UP3 consistently measured our morning resting heart rate at between 45 and 47bpm. On a couple of mornings we strapped on a Mio Fuse to see what that was saying and it was around 5-10bpm more. However, those extra beats could be accounted to the effort it took to manually start the sensor on the Fuse.

Jawbone UP3: Activity tracking

Jawbone UP3 review

The usual activity band recording metrics are on offer with the Jawbone UP3, thanks to the improved precision motion sensor. We were a bit concerned about Jawbone parting ways with Fullpower and its MotionX tech, but the step tracking has been good during our testing period.

Compared to a Withings Activité, the step count is a bit shy and it's also slightly down on the Fitbit Charge but, as with all activity trackers not packing GPS, the steps and distance are calculated by an algorithm combined with the motion sensors on board and the main thing is that there's consistency. After all, you will be measuring yourself against your own previous days' recordings.

Jawbone claims that after you've completed a specific workout, the Jawbone UP app will be able to recognise and log a wide range of sports; including running, cross-training, tennis, hiking and even dance and Zumba – all step based you'll notice. For non-step based sports you can manually log an activity after, or start the stopwatch mode during it.

Essential reading: How to use your fitness tracker to get fit

It took a little while for the UP3 to recognise our runs as such, rather than just long, fast walks; but it has started to guess that we've been jogging as of late. If an activity isn't picked up you can, as stated, simply go in and tag a period of steps as a set exercise session.


The UP3 also calculates your calorie burn, based on your step count, using a basal metabolic rate (BMR) method derived from your age, weight, height and activity.

Finally, the UP3 aims to keep you active by nudging you – using a vibration – when you've been idle for too long. You can set how long you want periods of inactivity to go unnoticed for in the app, as well as periods of time you want these alerts to be active for – no one wants their fitness tracker telling them to get up off their fat arse after 10pm at night, for example.

Jawbone UP3: Sleep tracking

Jawbone UP3 review

Sleep tracking was one of the areas that Jawbone made the biggest song and dance about, with regards to the UP3's advanced credentials. It claimed that, by monitoring a user's bpm, respiration rate, body temperature and galvanic skin response, it would be able to tell the difference between REM, light and deep sleep.

Originally, we found that the the periods of time allocated to each type of sleep were inaccurate. For example, on the 28 May (pictured above) this reviewer had consumed one or two strong ales before bed time. As such, a night time pee was required (around 4am) and a weird, freaky dream (starring Pennywise from the movie IT) woke us up for around 20 minutes at about 6am. As you can see, there were no periods of awake time recorded at all, despite us moving around a fair bit when we weren't sleeping.

Manual sleep tracking has been addressed with the new UP3 firmware, with automatic sleep tracking added to the mix (and the awkward capacitive touch controls no longer part of the set-up), and we've found our updated band to be much more on the money when it comes to slumber recording.

A nice touch is that for nights you don't have the UP3 on your wrist while asleep, the app will guess – based on periods of inactivity – when you were sleeping and create a graph of periods based on your previous history. So you don't have to lose sleep over, er, losing sleep.

Your heart rate is monitored during periods of sleep and this can lead to some interesting results, especially if you've drunk too much.

As with the UP24, smart alarms are on offer, letting you wake up during periods of light sleep.

Jawbone UP3: The new UP app

Jawbone UP3 review

The revamped Jawbone UP app, the same one you'll use with the UP Move and the UP2, is one of the most comprehensive out there.

The app records every part of your daily activity, displaying in a timeline and a series of graphs and trends, and a major part of the experience is the new Smart Coach.

As we stated in our UP Move review, we hoped Smart Coach would provide a level of suggestion and training based on our fitness but we found it was more of a series of interesting factoids about sleep, and information on our performance versus our historical data or the average user. This does go some way to providing an extra kick if you're falling behind, but a coach it is not.

These Smart Coach tips can be set as notifications for your smartphone and you can receive buzzes on your UP3 when a new bit of advice is on offer.

Jawbone UP3
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The Jawbone UP ecosystem is by far the most expansive out there and there's a plethora of third party apps you can connect to your experience including ones from rivals such as Withings. We just hope it's not resting on its laurels just yet.

As well as the firmware tweaks listed above, the Smart Coach has also been improved in the revamped app, with 50% more lifestyle tips now on offer.

Jawbone UP3: Battery life and charging

Jawbone UP3 review

The battery life from the 38mAh power pack is stated as up to seven days, and the charge time from the magnetic cable is around an hour and a half. We found these claims pretty much on the money.

A week is a great battery life as it means you can get into a routine of just charging your UP3 on a Sunday evening, for example.

Charging isn't straightforward though, as the short charging cable is badly designed. Not only is it difficult to get the magnetic clasp in exactly the correct place, it's almost impossible to charge the UP3 from your laptop's USB port as the connector is essentially on the wrong side.


Jawbone UP3
By Jawbone
We gave the Fitbit Charge HR 3.5 stars when we reviewed it. The Jawbone UP3, originally, fell just short of that. The short story was that Fitbit’s top fitness tracker offers 24/7 heart rate monitoring, incoming call alerts and an OLED display, for a smaller price tag. The bigger picture was that Jawbone made such a loud noise about the UP3’s capabilities, and its intentions of being a genuine game changing device, that it was hard to not be disappointed when it came to using it. However, the addition of passive bpm readings, as well as reacting to user feedback on the clumsy capacitive touch controls, makes the UP3 now a much stronger offering – although it still doesn't allow for real-time bpm training. It's still no game changer but we're genuinely impressed with the quick turnaround of tweaks for the UP3 – it's encouraging to see a brand react in such a swift and positive manner.

Hit
  • Battery life is great
  • Step tracking is pretty accurate
  • Fantastic app
  • Fashion friendly design
Miss
  • Not waterproof as promised
  • No display
  • Expensive compared to rivals
  • No continuous heart rate monitoring

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