There’s no doubting that fitness bands are here to stay. While many consumers may have been active before the need to keep track of every single detail of their activity, the simplicity and effectiveness of including such units to their regimes make it an alluring alternative to carrying around your smartphone to perform similar functions.
Having previously reviewed the Jawbone UP2 on FoS, we now turn our attention to the more premium offering from Jawbone, the UP3. Apart from the design, the unit also includes a heart rate monitor, tracking your resting heart rate throughout the day, and while you sleep. But, with all the hype before the actual launch of the UP3, Jawbone were forced into a number of changes, which affected marketing, and possibly sales as well. But how does the revised unit live up to the expectation, and, moreover, how does it compare to the much more affordable UP2.
Build and Design
As with many of the previous band designs from Jawbone, Swiss designer, Yves Béhar, takes centre stage as the chief creative officer for the UP3. As with the UP2 we reviewed, the UP3 is a one-size-fits-all band, which takes the appearance of an accessory or jewellery, rather than any type of gadget. In that way, the unit appears inconspicuous for the most part. There are many who would criticise the band’s adjustable clasp system, but, as on the UP2, I had no concerns at all on either, and it never felt as if it was about to detach and fall off my wrist, even when bumped or hooked onto any obstruction. The main component is made from a durable, anodized aluminium, which contains less than 0.5% nickel to alleviate potential rashes, while it is held together by means of a rubber, hypoallergenic TPU strap.
The unit measures 220×12.2×9.3mm and weighs just 29g. In fact, the UP3 is the thinnest and lightest band designed by the company. After only a couple of hours of wearing the UP3, you’ll barely notice that its strapped to your wrist, and is comfortable to wear even in the most awkward of situations, making it easier to sleep without causing too much irritation. There are six different colour themes to choose from, with two types of patterns, one cross-based, and the other with diagonal lines.
As with the UP2, there are three LED indicators on the UP3. These indicators, however, have taken a backseat since a major firmware update was released for both units. Users no longer have to switch between active and sleeping modes, and, thus, don’t have to use the capacitive touch at all either, apart from switching off alarms, notifications, and alerts. Where the lights to come into play is an indicator for successfully charging, while haptics provide alerts at 30-minute intervals when inactive, or when performing an extended activity.
Tracking and Performance
While the UP2 included a tri-axis accelerometer to handle all its tracking, the UP3 is a tad more intricate. Each unit not only includes the same tri-axis accelerometer, but also a few additional sensors to measure bio-impedance. These sensors include the heat flux sensor, skin temperature sensor, heart rate monitor and respiration sensor. This assists in tracking user heart rate, breathing, and galvanic skin response (GSR). These sensors all lie on the inside of the band, and measure by means of electric currents on the skin, aided by the five metal squares, four of which rest against the underside of your wrist. Again, there are those who would complain about these squares digging into their skin, as the band is required to fit tightly on the write to measure accurately, but again, for me, I had no such issues. I can imagine that a tighter grip may cause annoyance to a few, but it isn’t the same for everyone.
The UP app is the same that is used for the UP2. What’s different here is that the app detects the UP3 band, and makes the necessary adjustments to the UI in displaying the heart tracking statistics. There are still a few shortcomings with the app, with a few tweaks required for the food intake tracking, as well as the heart rate monitoring capabilities, as discussed below. One of the big marketing factors for any UP tracker is the apps ability to provide suggestions and advice by means of the Smart Coach. My biggest gripe here is that it doesn’t quite live up the “coach” tag, and doesn’t do enough in the line of suggesting which areas need to change in order to better improve your health and training. The coach, instead, provides information more in the line of Google facts on a daily basis, with statistics on your activities and sleep patterns measured against other UPsters of similar age.
Heart Rate Monitor
The heart rate measurement is split into tracking the passive heart rate during the day and the resting heart rate overnight. Jawbone has placed quite a large amount of emphasis on the heart rate monitor and its tracking in providing a key BPM metric. The claim here is that measuring the levels at certain intervals throughout the day provides a good indication of general health and fitness, while a spike in heart rate over a prolonged time could be indicative of an upcoming bout of illness. Interestingly, this split in measurement wasn’t available at the get go, offering only the resting heart rate just before waking each morning. The firmware update, as discussed earlier, also included better readings from the sensor in order to provide a lot more detail throughout the day. The passive tracking also accounts for trends throughout a given day or week, while also monitoring effects of alcohol, stress and lack of sleep on your body.
Points of Concern
While the included heart rate measurements are useful, it still isn’t quite the end product I would’ve expected given the inclusion of the heart rate monitor. There is an obvious omission of ad-hoc/active measurements whenever the user requires. Given that such a big difference was made since the firmware update, both for automatic sleep detection and heart rate tracking throughout the day, one could only assume that there’s still great potential to include further updates in the near future.
While the cost may be nearly double that of the UP2, the UP3 doesn’t deliver double the value with its heart rate monitor with the current firmware. Jawbone’s biggest competitor to its UP3 is, thus, the UP2, mainly due to the issues the company had during the design stage, not being able to quite get the waterproofing certification it needed to include other activity tracking such as swimming.
The UP3 certainly has a lot to offer, but unfortunately, it’s still not the complete fitness band that Jawbone may have hoped for. Jawbone’s biggest competitor to the UP3 is actually its very own, UP2. With the lack of waterproofing from the original design, as well as the limited functionality of the coach via the UP app, the heart rate monitor isn’t really something that makes a big difference. Then there’s the cost. The UP3 costs R800 more, with an RRP of R2,400.
But, thankfully, most of these issues can be addressed with app and firmware updates in the near future. Given the almost weekly app updates, I would believe that the necessary changes are imminent. Such updates as manual heart rate reading, and improved coaching to help active UPsters get the most from their respective activities will definitely add tremendous value to the UP3.