Jawbone UP3 review

This is the one. The UP3. I've been waiting literally half a year for this thing to turn up. It was originally meant to go on sale last winter but problems with waterproofing led to big delays.

Also see: Best Black Friday Fitness Tracker Deals

The UP3 is more advanced than the UP2, reviewed. Jawbone says the UP3 is the world's most advanced activity tracker, but that's no longer true as it was immediately usurped by the announcement of the UP4, which isn't available in the UK (yet). It's is basically the same as the UP3 but with NFC so you can use it to pay for stuff. 

Technically then, you've a choice between the UP2 and UP3 (and cheap UP Move) because - for now - the UP4 is a US-only device. It's worth mentioning, of course, as you'd be mad if you bought an UP3 now without knowing that the UP4 could potentitally arrive before the year is out. Jawbone is keen to point out that it "has no immediate plans to roll it out in the UK". (See also: the best activity trackers of 2015.)

Getting back to those waterproofing issues, the plan was to make the UP3 waterproof, as opposed to water-resistant. 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 or in the shower, but you can't go swimming or submerge it in the sink while you wash up. That's the same as most activity trackers.

Anyone with a previous UP tracker - such as the Jawbone Up24, will notice the new bracelet design. Instead of a fairly 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 (yes you, Fitbit) it's frustrating to have to take care of a small cable and ensure you've always got it to hand when your device's battery is low.

I appreciate there are some sensible reasons for making a proprietary charging connector, but standard USB can be used: take a look at the Nike Fuelband SE, for example.

As ever, there's no real display on the UP3. Some people like this. I don't. I'd much rather have only one device on my 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. For most functions, and to see any stats, you have to fire up the app.

 Jawbone UP3 review

Jawbone UP3 review: UK price and availability

The UP3 costs £129.99 from Jawbone's website, and you won't find it cheaper anywhere else - yet. There's a choice of black or silver versions, with the quilted effect on the silver one making it non-manly enough that I'd be surprised if any blokes choose that model.

Update 17 September: There are now four new colours for the UP3: Indigo Twist, Ruby Cross, Sand Twist and Teal Cross. The twist versions have a texture like the black band above, while the cross ones have a quilted finish like the silver band.

One size fits most: the buckle is adjustable to fit most people's wrists, from 140-190mm. As with the UP2, it fitted everyone who tried it in the office.

Jawbone UP3 review: features and specifications

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.

Jawbone UP3 review

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 heartrate. 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'.

This is fair enough, because its aim is to monitor heart health, and your resting heart rate - while asleep in the UP3's case - is a good indicator of this. Jawbone has also said this approach means they can add "exciting new features" via over-the-air firmware updates in the coming months.

Update 17 September: Those updates - or some of them - are here now. They include automatic mode switching to and from sleep mode (this works well) and monitoring your resting heart rate during the day as well as when you're asleep.

Jawbone calls it Passive Heart Rate and says - quite correctly - that it offers a more complete picture of your heart health and can help you see how caffeine, stress and other factors affect your heart (rate).

With automatic sleep detection, the UP3 now works like a Fitbit Charge, or Charge HR. No longer do you have to tap to change modes, which was often tricky and easy to forget to do. It then detects when you get up in the morning and switches back to 'active' mode.

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 (rapid eye movement) sleep. Plus, you'll see a graph of your heart rate through the night along with a lowest figure for that night.

Jawbone UP3 review: design and build

Jawbone UP3 review

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. I don't really like it much. For one thing, I found I 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. Second, it came undone more than a few times - when gardening and washing the car - and almost fell off.

Update 17 September: Jawbone has tightened the buckle on all new UP3s, and having tested out the new Ruby Cross version, I'm happy to say that it no longer comes undone and stayed in position on the band.

What I do like is the size. It's slim and so light you quickly forget you're wearing it. It will fit under tight shirt cuffs, and even I'll admit 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 itself 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.

Yet another problem was that too many times I found the UP had switched to sleep mode by accident. Once, it switched repeatedly when I was wearing gloves (for gardening) and several times simply by accident.

For what it's worth, my colleague Matt had none of these problems with the UP2.

Update: The latest test of the Ruby Cross band revealed no issues with the band losing pairing with my phone, and the band didn't switch modes by accident.

Jawbone UP3 review: battery life

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 heart-rate monitoring using an optical sensor. It's a little bigger, yes, but not uncomfortably.

Both, though, use annoying proprietary charging cables.

 Jawbone UP2 review: smartwatch poll

Jawbone UP3 review: app

Even with the tighter buckle and automatic switching to sleep mode, I'm still not the biggest fan of the hardware. The app, though, 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 no doubt 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.

Most other apps merely display the figures and leave it at that.

 Jawbone UP3 review

If you're so inclined you can log what you eat, but even if you don't do that, the app will prompt you to at least log glasses of water. The morning after a night down t'pub, the app warned me that my resting heart rate was higher than usual and that I was dehydrated. Obvious to some, but those sorts of tips can be pretty useful reminders.

You can compete with friends who own Jawbones and, again, the app will prompt you to add some team members, presenting you a motivational note explaining that people who compete tend to do 30 percent more steps than those who don't.

Another nice feature is that it will notice if you've beaten your step goal and ask if you want to make it your new goal.

Along similar lines, it will detect exercise (even just a brisk walk) and let you tag it in the app. It's not much cop for cycling, but you can add activities manually too.

Remember that there's no built-in GPS, so it's not going to be as accurate as a device which has GPS for tracking your runs and rides. (See also: Microsoft Band review.)

Jawbone UP3: Specs

  • Bluetooth, splash-proof, LED display, accelerometer, bio-impedence electrodes for heart-rate, respiration and galvanic skin response, measures skin temperature and ambient temperature, up to 7 days battery life (USB charger provided), compatible with iPhone 4s or newer & Android 4.3 and newer, 29g, 220mm x 12.2mm x 3.0-9.3mm
  • Bluetooth, splash-proof, LED display, accelerometer, bio-impedence electrodes for heart-rate, respiration and galvanic skin response, measures skin temperature and ambient temperature, up to 7 days battery life (USB charger provided), compatible with iPhone 4s or newer & Android 4.3 and newer, 29g, 220mm x 12.2mm x 3.0-9.3mm

OUR VERDICT

The UP3 adds a few extra features over and above the UP2, namely the ability to track resting heart rate and REM sleep. Is it worth the extra £40? Only if you really want those features. Don't forget that neither the UP2 nor UP3 can track height climbed, whereas the similarly priced Fitbit Charge and Charge HR can. (They can also tell you when someone is calling your phone, a feature that's particularly useful.) What the UP3 is good at is monitoring your health and fitness, as well as motivating you to become better on both counts. Laying aside the problems I had with my test bands, the UP3 is a good tracker, made better by the recent hardware and software updates. Whether or not it's for you will depend on the features you want. Plus, don't forget that the UP24 is much cheaper these days: you can pick one up for the bargain price of £50 if you hunt around.

Best prices today

Retailer Price Delivery  

Price comparision from , and manufacturers