A few months ago I contacted Jawbone to see if they’d be willing to send me over one of their fitness tracker bands to test drive – and much to my delight they were more than happy to. I opted for their latest UP band, the UP3TM, a multi-sensor activity tracker which tracks activity levels, calorific intake (as well as quality of food), passive and resting heart rate, and most importantly sleep.
I’ve read numerous negative reviews of the UP3 – mainly all released before the updated clasp and firmware came out – but I just had to figure it out for myself. When the Jawbone® UP3 arrived I did my little obligatory squeal of joy and I was amazed at how sleek and stylish it was, but I just couldn’t help but ask – is this a piece of fandangled jewellery or is it a real legit gadget?
Before I even start my review I want to make one little thing clear – this isn’t just a fitness tracker, it’s a lifestyle tracker – so if you’re looking to hack your life then the Jawbone® UP3 will most likely be for you.
The Design and Fit
Designed by Yves Béhar, the Chief Creative Officer for Jawbone, the UP3’s slick and svelte design is sure not to disappoint. The UP3 definitely looks more jewellery or accessory than fitness tracker due to the slimness of the band itself. Weighing in at a mere 29g and measuring 220mm x 12.2mm x 3.0mm-9.3mm making the UP3 the slimmest and lightest of activity trackers currently out there on the market. It sits elegantly on the wrist (but not so elegantly that a man can’t rock it) and it’s great for casual, gym, or smart dress – so for those of you that are office workers or love to wine and dine, don’t worry Jawbone have it covered.
There are 6 different colours of band available which makes it almost impossible to want to own just the one but common sense will always prevail. I went with Sand Twist – a sort of neutral but slightly warm beige strap with a golden casing to compliment my rather pale yet yellow toned complexion. The strapping is made from a medical-grade hypoallergenic TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) rubber – basically a rubber that is somewhere between a hard plastic and soft silicone. This material makes it super comfortable and malleable for all day (and night) wear, and for most other activities, but it also makes it pretty stain and grease resistant meaning no dodgy sweat marks being left behind after exercise. I found that mine definitely picked up dirt along the way, discolouring the rubber strapping, but it just takes a little bit of mild soapy solution soaked into a cotton pad to wipe any stains away.
There isn’t a screen included in the Jawbone® UP3 casing to read your notifications unlike most other activity tracker bands, but instead there are three subtle single colour LEDs; blue for sleep, orange for activity, and white for notifications. I didn’t really find these that useful in terms of functionality but I didn’t dislike seeing them flash up either. This means that you will have to solely rely upon the iPhone or Android UP app to access all of your data.
The overall fit of this band is fantastic – I certainly found it that light and comfortable that I didn’t know I was even wearing it (not even whilst sleeping) and I really am one of those no jewellery kinda people. The overlapping watch-style clasp makes it easily adjustable to pretty much any wrist size (140mm–190mm) but my only qualm, like many others, is the flimsy mechanism within the clasp itself. Unlike a lot of other people I didn’t really struggle getting the band onto my wrist (maybe just the first time) but I certainly had to learn a certain knack to get it on fairly rapidly – take a look at my little video below to see how to fix the band properly.
I didn’t find that the band had to be too tight to gain accurate information and it has only come undone a few times – usually when I have fixed it on too loosely myself. It does however have a tendency to loosen up a bit throughout the day and so you have to redo it every few hours to ensure that you don’t lose it. I’ve seen a few online hacks including wrapping an o-ring around the clasp to prevent it from moving.
The UP3 has a patented multi-sensor activity platform that uses a tri-axis accelerometer, bioimpedance sensors, and skin and ambient temperature sensors – phew! These features help to provide an in-depth picture of your overall health and fitness. The casing is made from anodized aluminum (with less than 0.5% nickel) and the sensing electrodes a TiN (Titanium nitride) coated stainless steel. TiN is a sort of hard ceramic like material which helps to protect the sensing electrodes from wear and tear, thus extending their overall life span, making the UP3 a pretty sturdy bit of kit.
The band is only splash-proof so it can kinda hack you doing the washing up (as long as it doesn’t get submerged) and will survive a heavy rain shower outside but it sadly isn’t suitable for swimming or any other water sports – so take heed! I did however drop it in a cup of tea, much to my dismay, I removed it and then plunged it into a mug of dry rice – it totally did the trick and my UP3 has been fine since with no hiccups.
The tri-axis accelerometer basically measures the level of movement or acceleration from the body – so to you and I that’s basically a fancy word for a more accurate version of a pedometer or step counter. The idea is that the tri-axis accelerometer is able to identify when you have become active and what kind of activity you are taking part in. Jawbone’s algorithms (fancy computer programs) help to passively track your activities, distance covered, calories, active time, and idle time. The UP® App then calculates the calories burned based upon your age, gender, height and weight, along with activity intensity and duration.
The Jawbone® UP3 is most definitely a combination of super gadget and jewellery, packed full of fun features that will keep you entertained for at least a few months, and even after the novelty has worn off you won’t want to part ways with your UP3 – or your cheeky yet cheerful Smart Coach.
I was slightly dumbfounded at first as to why bioelectrical impedance analysis technology was included in the Jawbone® UP3, it’s usually used for estimating body fat composition, until I realised that it was being used to measure heart rate and respiration as well as Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), which is the change in the electrical activity of the skin. These 3 factors all help the UP3 to deliver passive and resting heart rate measurements, and to determine the quality of your sleep including how long you spend in each part of your sleep cycle.
The UP3 totes a rechargeable Lithium-Ion Polymer, 38 mAh battery which Jawbone claims has a battery life of up to 7 days – for me I found that it was more like 5 days, maybe 6 at a push. It doesn’t take too long to fully charge the band, about an hour, and it uses a compact magnetic USB charging cable to do so. This all sounds pretty slick, and it kind of is as it allows you to charge it using your computer or laptop – and even the plug from your iPhone charger. Unfortunately I found that it was sometimes a little hard to connect the band to the magnetic charging cable and it was also very easy to knock off too. I have a big husky and a boisterous 2-year old, not to mention my computer tower lives on the floor, so this method was pretty frustrating for me. I definitely found using my iPhone plug an absolute godsend.
The UP3 tracker syncs wirelessly using Bluetooth® which I thought was soooo much better than plugging it into your computer to retrieve all of the data, but if you leave your Bluetooth connected on your phone for the whole day you’ll end up with a dead phone battery. It’s definitely best to leave the bluetooth on your phone disconnected and allow it to upload when it best suits you. It also connects to most iOS and Android devices making it a pretty universal gadget in this day and age.
The Jawbone® UP3 is also compatible with many other pieces of hardware for optimum lifestyle tracking.
This was probably my favourite function of the Jawbone® UP3 and I found it to be fairly accurate beside a few niggles – a couple of times it didn’t register me waking in the night to pick the baby up out of her cot, but other than that it was on point. One of my own personal health weaknesses is lack of sleep, I wanted to know what the quality of my sleep was like and with the UP3 I could finally do this – it uses your heart rate, respiration, and skin temperature to calculate when you fall asleep, and your full sleep cycle – how much light, deep, and REM (dream state) sleep that you have. In fact if you have a nightmare and check the app in the morning you’ll see a spike in a your heart rate during REM sleep which I found utterly fascinating!
The advanced sleep tracking is a much needed update since the Jawbone® UP2, there’s no more tapping the band to log the start of your slumber – UP3 does this all by itself. The UP3 won’t log any naps that you take during the day though so you have to manually tap the band next to the blue sleep LED to log them, you can also log sleep manually using the UP3 app if your band runs out of juice.
As mentioned earlier the UP3 uses a tri-axis accelerometer to track your movements and Jawbone claims that the UP3 will automatically identify workouts and classify your activities accordingly – such as running, cross-training, and Zumba but I didn’t find this to be particularly responsive. To be honest I didn’t find this to be a huge problem as it’s quite easy to manually log your activity within the app itself. You can also log the start of your workout by double tapping next to the orange activity LED but I found this to be temperamental and slightly irritating.
The UP3 is definitely an effective pedometer and it does work well to log the period of time that you were active for but I would like to see improvements in identifying the kind of activity you are taking part in. The tri-axis accelerometer works incredibly efficiently when it comes to logging your step count for the day, only having the odd anomaly.
You won’t want to do any contact sports wearing your UP3 as it will likely fall off or get smashed – and kettle bells are a definite no-no unless you’re strictly doing swings!
The heart rate tracker is a new feature for the Jawbone UP bands – it tracks your resting heart rate first thing in the morning and takes frequent readings throughout the day for passive heart rate monitoring. The 5 little metal squares on the inside of the band work much like the heart rate grips on a treadmill does, measuring the resistance of your skin tissue to electrical currents, and I found the readings to be pretty accurate providing my band wasn’t fastened too loosely. Being able to track your morning HR is a great way to monitor your overall health – if you notice a rise in your RHR (resting heart rate) chances are you’re about to get ill, but beyond that it’s not particularly useful for monitoring fitness and the heart rate zones that you’re falling into when you’re training.
The UP3 App
The UP3 App is a fantastic little thing – it’s well designed with a user friendly interface, you can set goals, monitor trends using graphs, and it also comes with some really cute little wellness pop ups from the Jawbone ‘Smart Coach’ telling you that you might want to get an early night and catch up on that sleep debt, or just keep going for those extra 1000 steps, and my personal favourite – just eat a few more veggies, they’re good for you.
Overall the app is delightfully easy to use and interact with, there are a lot of fun features, and I always learn something new everyday about its functionality… but I’d like to go into a little more detail about all of the features it has to offer.
Yup my favourite overall feature – and part of the app – the sleep tracking on this bad boy is immense! It tracks your every move, sweat, heart beat (and god knows what else) in order to figure out when you’re in periods of light, deep, and REM sleep. It also takes your resting heart rate reading as you first wake. Why is all of this important? Well because you can actually figure out if you are getting enough sleep, and in which ares of sleep you are lacking. You can then go from there and figure out how to improve the quality of your sleep. Your RHR (resting heart rate) is also a good one to watch as a rise can indicate impending illness.
One of my favourite features of the app is having the ability to be able to set smart alarms that allow you to wake up during a light sleep so that you don’t wake-up groggy. The smart alarms are set in 30 minute increments and wake you by making the wristband gently vibrate – to be honest you barely even notice it doing this until you finally wake up! You can also set reminders to encourage you to go to bed that little bit earlier too. I can’t say that I ever bothered to set one because I go to bed when I want to, not when someone tells me to (excuse my inner teenager).
Overall I found the app to be incredibly accurate in tracking my sleep, and a lot of what the graphs were showing made sense to me – for instance I remember having a dream one night and mid way through the baby woke me up – sure enough when I looked at the app in the morning I could see that I was in REM sleep and that I did wake-up. That day I felt groggy as all hell. So this really is a great way to find out why you’re feeling how you actually are.
The UP3 app records all of your daily activity – in my case this is where I found it to be a little on the buggy side. I could only ever get it to register me walking or running, and any other kind exercise just didn’t seem to log, including a CrossFit sesh and numerous kettlebell workouts. However, when it did recognise any movement it asked me if I’d like to log my activity but it didn’t know what kind of activity that was – everything had to get input manually except for the timespan. When inputting manually you have the option to input activity type, effort level, start time, and duration.
The options for type of exercise to log are; walk, run, weights, crosstrain, bike, stationary (bike), elliptical, cardio, Zumba, yoga, pilates, dance, tennis, soccer, basketball, swim, hike, ski, and other.
Now this might sound quite varied to some but to me not so much. I mean who actually goes skiing on a daily basis? And where the hell is martial arts, or calisthenics and resistance training, not to mention THE BIGGEST fitness movement on the planet at the moment – CrossFit – which no, is nothing like crosstraining.
Having ‘Weights’ as a category just seems all a bit too vague, and with no indication of what kind of weights those might be, i.e. are they olympic weights, dumbells, kettlebells? What weight are these weights etc.? Meaning that calorific burn just can’t even remotely be considered as accurate even when logging your effort level. Again logging your effort level is all a bit nondescript – with choices such as; Easy, Moderate, In the Zone, and Gut Buster.
Now, I am one of those people that doesn’t know the difference between being ‘In the Zone’ and ‘Moderate’, in fact most of the time I was logging ‘In the Zone’ I was probably more like ‘Puking All Over the Pavement’. I think that maybe some written examples (including HR groupings) alongside the existing sliding scale might be a little more useful.
I wanted this to be my favourite part of the app but sadly it really wasn’t. You can’t track your CICO (Calories In Calories Out) very accurately when you can’t track your activity accurately. But having said this if you’re into the more normal activities such as running, swimming, and football this will of course be less of an issue.
The app provides you with the option to set ‘Idle Alerts’ using the UP App that will set your band off on vibrate when you’ve been sat on your butt for too long, and ‘Activity Alerts’ can be set to inform you of how many steps you’ve taken throughout the day. These can be set in intervals of 1000 steps and you can set step goals accordingly. I set my step goal as 10,000 steps and I was shocked to find out that I wasn’t really reaching 5,000. Even though I know that I do a lot of exercise, such as weights and calisthenics, I still found this to be a little bit of a worry so next year I will definitely be finding ways to ramp this up. So this part of the app was more than helpful to me.
The final feature I’m discussing is a fun one – once you’ve teamed up with some fellow buddies you can start a ‘Duel’. This is an all out war to beat your fellow team mate on the stepping front. You can set duels for periods of 24 hours, 5 days, and even a whole week. The Duel doesn’t start until the other teammate accpets and the winner is the person with the most steps logged within that period of time.
Another feature that offers a simple user interface, allowing you to log the food that you’ve eaten on a daily basis – here you can also log your water intake, log your food by taking a picture, scan a barcode, or you can even hunt for a restaurant that you’ve been to and input the dishes you’ve eaten (if available). It’s all very simple really – search for an item of food, input the serving size, and save, but if you’re British you might find that a lot of what you eat isn’t available on their database. This means manually inputting your own food, finding something similar, or integrating with another app like My Fitness Pal. The barcode scanner that is available (albeit not initially visible) didn’t seem to recognise the majority of the barcodes that I scanned. I remember using My Fitness Pal in the past and having a similar ordeal – I simply just didn’t have the time to spend inputting data, nor the motivation to do so. I’d love to see a more widespread database – perhaps by negotiating with major supermarket chains but I can see how this would be every developers worst nightmare, and a mammoth task to boot.
The app logs a ‘Food Score’ marking your foods on a sort of traffic like system; green being the best, yellow being moderately borderline, and orange/red being the worst foods to eat. I finished every day on a green food score usually at around 7.0/10.0 due to my vegetable consumption but following a Paleo diet meant that the app was logging my saturated fat intake at 2-3 times the daily limit so it is monitoring nutritional intake on a pretty bog standard system. For those who don’t know how to eat well, or are a little bit too sugar happy this is where the app really starts to help.
The fact that the UP3 App allows you to track your nutritional and calorific intake and set weight loss goals accordingly is great because it means that you can see a cut off point to when the eating needs to stop, or if you like your chocolate too much (like I do) you can simply just run the calories off to get back into a deficit.
Personally I was on the fence with this part of the app – it serves its purpose but it can be a little time consuming if you’re wanting to see accurate results. Maybe one day I’ll have the time to enjoy the food logging properly but for now I use it as a rough benchmark for the day.
The idea behind the Jawbone’s Smart Coach is that is supposed to have the ability to learn your behaviour and the sort of exercise that you partake in. Sophisticated algorithms can make up to three predictions of your most likely workout types the more you log. I unfortunately never seemed to experience any of this, the most I got was being asked if I’d been active within a certain timeframe.
Smart Coach is kinda like your annoying friend that has watched too many old TV re-runs of Mr. Motivator – he constantly pops his up to remind you that it’s getting a little late and you should probably get to bed or else you won’t be as active the next day, or maybe that you should try and eat a few more vegetables and drink an extra glass of water if you want to amp up your game a little and lose those extra few goal pounds. He’s also super enthusiastic when you do hit your goals, dishing out some splendid congratulatory sunbeams and words of praise. But if I’m to be brutally honest, he’s just your common sense guardian angel.
There’s one thing that he’s good at though and that’s driving your motivation – when he points out these little things daily you do start to think “Maybe I should just get off my ass and go for a walk…” and you might actually even drink that extra glass of water, because someone else is telling you to do so, not yourself.
Another fascinating feature is the ability for the app to sync with other apps such as Fitstar which creates workout plans to help you reach your goals, with no equipment necessary, and all within the time that you have.
- The UP3 App is available in 12 different languages: English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese.
- The UP by Jawbone App for Android is available as a free download on Google PlayTM. Jawbone’s app for iOS, UP by Jawbone, is also available as a free download from the App StoreSM.
Price and Where to Buy
The Jawbone® UP3 is available to buy online via the Jawbone website and costs £129.99 which is slightly more expensive than other fitness trackers out there, but I think that the price is reasonable due to the very in-depth and advanced sleep tracking that is available.
Personally I can tell you all that I have loved my UP3 from the moment it has arrived. I can’t wait to see how the firmware develops over time, making it even more responsive and hopefully that the fitness side of things starts to improve too. The Jawbone® UP3 is most definitely a combination of super gadget and jewellery, packed full of fun features that will keep you entertained for at least a few months, and even after the novelty has worn off you won’t want to part ways with your UP3 – or your cheeky yet cheerful Smart Coach.
Where the UP3 lacks in sophisticated fitness tracking it more than makes up for in personal motivation, advanced sleep tracking, and helping those who don’t have the health awareness to better their overall well-being. It’s a kinda an all-in-one gizmo and that isn’t such a bad thing – if you want to improve your overall lifestyle and make some much needed changes then definitely opt for a Jawbone® UP3 but if you want more of an in depth fitness tracker then you might want to do some more digging before making up your mind.
As featured in my 2015 Paleo and Primal Christmas Gift Guide the Jawbone® UP3 would be a perfect gift for those wanting to embark on a healthier lifestyle or the beginner athlete.
One thing is for certain though – my UP3 makes one hell of a sexy lifestyle tracker!
If you’d like to follow Jawbone to keep up to date with their new releases and offers then check out the links below: