Three fitness trackers enter the Thunderdome that is… my wrist. But which one is actually worth buying if you’re serious about tracking your steps and sleep? Like everything on the Internet these days… it’s complicated.
Jawbone Up 2/3
RRP:$149 (Up2) /$249 (Up3)
Why you’d want one:
Jawbone is one of the larger brands in the fitness space, and pretty much the reason why I got interested in fitness wearables in the first place.
With the UP2 and UP3, Jawbone’s dipped into the style design bag, switching from the loose fit band style of the previous UP24 or medallion style of the UP MOVE to a design that’s more inspired by watch bands than anything else. Both the UP2 and UP3 feature the same embossed pattern on the outside of the band, making them a little more stylish than most fitness trackers, although it’s still plenty obvious that you’re wearing a fitness band anyway.
The UP2 is essentially the spiritual successor to the UP24, with the same range of tracking abilities matched to the newer “watch” style design of the band itself, with the majority of the new goodies found in the more expensive UP3.
The key differentiator in the UP3 is a sensor for reading heart rate. The UP3’s heart rate tracker varies from the norm by using a bioimpedance rather than optical sensor to read your ongoing heart rate. It also increases the granularity of its pickup of sleep patterns, giving you more data to work from when checking your ongoing sleep patterns.
I’ve never been massively convinced that any band does particularly brilliantly when it comes to sleep tracking, but in step terms the UP2 and UP3 acquitted themselves well. As I’ve argued before, as long as a tracker isn’t wildly out of step count, it’s the data in aggregate that is more functionally useful anyway. They’re both lightweight trackers that you quickly forget are in place on your wrist, which is exactly as it should be.
The jewel in Jawbone’s UP crown remains the UP app itself, which does a great job of fostering competitive community – there’s nothing like getting a step challenge from someone in your team – as well as ongoing data that also feeds into a variety of other third party fitness services, including Apple’s Health App.
Why you wouldn’t:
The new watch style clasp is more secure than the older loose fit design which could be a plus if you’re a heavy arm flinging workout kind of person, but if you’re not, be ready for a lot of fiddling around while you work out the best possible fit. The UP2 and UP3 are water resistant but not proof, and I’ve never been happy (for instance) taking a shower or doing dishes with either band in place. That means a slow removal and replacement every time, which also increases the chance of forgetting to put it back on.
The UP3’s heart rate monitor is, at the time of writing, only used to track your overnight sleep heart rate. Jawbone’s contention here is that on-the-spot heart rate tracking is something of a gimmick, and maybe they’re right there, but right now, the inclusion of the heart rate monitor only makes a small amount of sense. They could upgrade its functionality as part of a firmware upgrade, but right now, the difference between the UP2 and UP3 is that monitor, and it’s not doing all that much.
The new design has also seen a shift from headphone-style charging sockets to a fully magnetic solution. That sounds great in theory, but the reality is that it’s a fiddly procedure that needs some solid free space to easily rest your UP2 or UP3 while it’s charging. With the UP3 notably it’s all too easy to have it clip magnetically in place but fail to connect to the charging pins, meaning that you think you’re charging when you’re not.
I’ve not had the same longevity issues with UP bands in the past that many report, but during testing the UP2 that Jawbone provided for review upped… and died. To their credit, replacement was rapid and without issue, but it’s still somewhat worrying.
Fat Duck Verdict:
Jawbone’s UP app is still an excellent resource, but it’s hard not to view the UP2 and especially the UP3 as a bit of a misstep, especially at the asking price. The UP3 might be worth it in 12 months if they start doing more with the heart rate sensor and bring the price slightly down.
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