Jaw­bone UP3

Tech Advisor - - REVIEWS - Jim Martin

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.

Ver­dict

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.

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