This is the one. The UP3. This reviewer has been for almost eight months for this thing to turn up. It was originally meant to go on sale last winter but problems with waterproofing led to big delays.
The plan was to make the UP3 waterproof, as opposed to waterresistant. Early production models didn’t make the mark, though. So, the UP3 has been reclassified as water-resistant and means you can wear it in the rain, but you can’t go swimming or submerge it in the sink while you wash up.
Anyone with a previous UP tracker will notice the new bracelet design. Instead of a rigid twist-on, twist-off mechanism, the new bands (all three) have more traditional straps with a new buckle.
Gone is the removable cap and 3.5mm minijack connector: the only way to sync is via Bluetooth. That’s not a problem for most people, who would want that anyway. The proprietary magnetic charging cable is a pain, though. As with other activity trackers, it’s frustrating to have to take care of a small cable and ensure you’ve always got it to hand when the battery is low.
As ever, there’s no real display on the UP3. Some people like this. We don’t. We’d much rather have only one device on our wrist – a tracker and clock in one – than wear a separate watch. There are also no buttons: you have to tap and touch the band to check its status and change modes.
There’s a choice of black or silver versions, with the quilted effect on the silver one. One size fits most: the buckle is adjustable to fit most people’s wrists, from 140- to 190mm. As with the UP2, it fitted everyone who tried it in the office.
Like any activity tracker, the UP3 isn’t a standalone device. You’ll need an Android phone or iPhone to use it and the app is free.
Thanks to a collection of sensors, the band can detect what you’re up to and along with information you enter into the app about yourself, it will pretty accurately estimate how many steps you’ve walked, the distance you’ve travelled and how many calories you’ve burned.
Those golden pyramids on the inside of the band are electrodes which measure heart rate. This is different from the optical sensors used on Fitbit bands and the Apple Watch. There are pros and cons to each method.
Jawbone says it uses a lot less power, so the UP3 lasts longer with a smaller battery than it would with optical sensors. The disadvantage is that it doesn’t offer continuous heart-rate monitoring, which is why Jawbone talks only about ‘resting heart rate’.
When you wake in the morning, you sync the band and you’ll get a detailed graph of your sleep split into light, deep and REM sleep. Plus, you’ll see a graph of your heart rate through the night along with a lowest figure for that night.
You can tell none of this from the band itself because it relies on three LEDs for a display. The orange man is the ‘awake’ state. The blue moon is ‘asleep’. A third white ‘message’ LED is for alerts.
You’ll know about these alerts because of the vibrating motor inside the band. There’s the usual get-off-your-bottom alert if you’re idle for longer than the time you set in the app. It can also buzz when it’s time to get ready for bed, and there’s the same smart alarm that wakes you at the optimal time within the range you set.
The new buckle is a bit fiddly to use. We don’t really like it much. For one thing, we had to adjust it regularly as it relies on friction to keep it in the position you’ve set so it’s the right size. Secondly, it came undone more than a few times - when gardening and washing the car - and almost fell off.
What we do like is the size. It’s slim and so light you soon forget you’re wearing it. It will fit under shirt cuffs, and it’s one of the more stylish fitness monitors.
The original Jawbone UP suffered from worrying build quality issues and these don’t appear to have entirely gone away with the UP3. On the one hand Jawbone couldn’t make it as waterproof as it wanted to, but during testing one band stopped working and a second lost its pairing with my iPhone three times. That wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t need the charging cable for the pairing process.
The battery lasted a little over a week between charges which is what Jawbone claims. However, while that’s a couple of days more than the Fitbit Charge HR, it’s hardly impressive given than the Charge HR has a display showing the time and stats, plus continuous heartrate monitoring using an optical sensor. It’s a little bigger, yes, but not uncomfortably.
We’re not the biggest fan of the hardware, then, but the app is still one the best out there. It looks great and presents information in a way that’s easy to understand. The Smart Coach is also far better than you might think.
Far from just being generic advice, your stats are interpreted so you know how you’re doing. It’s motivational, and also educational. Unless you’re already a health and fitness expert, you’ll benefit from the tips it serves up each day, ranging from how to eat more healthily to nudges to go to bed earlier to get more sleep.
You can compete with friends who own Jawbones and, again, the app will prompt you to add some team members, presenting you a note explaining that people who compete tend to do 30 percent more steps than those who don’t.
Remember that there’s no builtin GPS, so it’s not going to be as accurate as a device that has this feature for tracking your exercise.
The UP3 adds a few extra features over and above the UP2, namely the ability to track resting heart rate and REM sleep. What it’s good at is monitoring your health and fitness, as well as motivating you to become better on both counts.