Jawbone Up3 review

I’ve had a Jawbone Up 3 for two weeks. I’ve read some good and bad reviews, but they don’t describe my experience very well. Keep in mind that this is the first fitness tracker that I have used, so I can’t compare this to other trackers.

The band came with almost no instructions. If you pull up the cardboard lining in the box, there is a slip of paper with a URL to some very simple setup steps. Beyond charging the band and installing the android app, there really isn’t any setup to do.

The band itself has no display and is fairly small. I think it is less ugly than some of it’s competitors, but it is still clearly a fitness tracker. The band is very comfortable. I am picky about things on my wrist, but the UP3 is barely noticeable. It stays in place without being too tight and hasn’t caused any itchiness. It took a couple of days to get used to the latch mechanism, but now it comes on and off quickly and has never come unlatched on its own.

The band comes with a short and proprietary USB charging cable. The cable attaches to four pins on the inside of the band. There is a magnet to keep the band in place. Other reviews have complained about the charger being hard to connect. I can see why they had problems: the magnet can make it feel like the band is connected even when it isn’t. And the band must be facing the right direction to charge. But there are indicator lights to let you know when it is charging, and if you pay attention to put the band on facing the correct orientation, it is pretty easy to link them up.

The battery in the band is supposed to last five days, and that seems accurate. I charge it every day while I shower (it is waterproof enough to shower with, but I’d rather not), and that 10-15 minutes per day is keeping it charged.

It connects with my phone via bluetooth, and the connection with the phone has worked flawlessly. The band sends data to the phone whenever I bring up the app. If it has been a while, it can take up to 30 seconds to finish the sync.

The phone app is how all the data is displayed and also how the band is controlled. The only thing that you can do with the band directly is switch between sleep and awake modes. This is done by tapping the band twice and then pushing the front till it switches modes. Some reviewers have complained about the difficulty of getting the taps to register, and it was difficult for me too, until I tried tapping with a knuckle instead of my finger. Now I can get it to register on the first or second try.

The app allows you to set goals (steps, hours of sleep and weight), create alarms and alerts, and start/stop a workout. The alarm system is pretty nice. You can set an alarm to wake you up within some window before your real deadline, and it will vibrate the band when it senses you’re in light sleep. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t register as an alarm service with the phone, so you can’t set the alarm with Google Now.

The alerts are less useful (at least for me). The app allows you to set a daily alert at a particular time and/or to alert you if you have been idle for some duration. The idle alerts are a nice touch( even if I get them too frequently), and I can imagine the timed alert being very useful if you have medicine to take, or something else that needs to be done at the same time every day.

Using the app to put the band in workout mode lets you track how many steps you took during that workout, but that is it as far as I can tell.

The app is (as far as I know), the only place to see your data. And this is where the app is weakest. My data is spread across four or five different pages in the app that are accessed differently. Today’s sleep and steps are summarized on the home screen along with fitness tips and goals from the “smart coach”. To see details about today’s sleep or activity, you click the summary. From the home page you can also bring up a resting heart rate graph. If you want to compare today’s activity or sleep to yesterday’s, you first have to close the page, change the date on the home page (one day at a time) and then bring up the detailed page for that day. Information about a tracked workout can only be brought up from the daily activity page. The only way that I can find to see how my weight has changed over time is to pretend that I am going to enter my weight again, and that graph doesn’t seem to let you change the date range. There is also a “trends” page where you can display a bar chart for each nutrient or type of sleep and a few other things. But you can only see two things at once and they use one of those wheel selectors where you can’t quickly pick what you want to view.

My main interest in the UP3 is the sleep tracking and resting heart rate. These are the features that made me choose this device over the fitbit or the UP24. These both seem to work pretty well. It seems to log me as sleeping too soon when I am still falling asleep, and it doesn’t catch all the times that I wake up at night. But the light/deep/rem measurement feels accurate. When I wake up groggy, it says I was in deep, when I wake up easily it says I was in light, and when I wake up from a dream it says I was in REM. I don’t have a good way to check the resting heart rate beyond counting my pulse, but it is close and the reading is consistent.

After a night of sleep, the UP app provides a graph that looks like this:



Another reason that I picked Jawbone over Fitbit is their data policy and API. Jawbone clearly states that I own the data that the band collects, and they provide a simple way to download it as a CSV and a full API to get all the data. Unfortunately, there is no way to get the raw sensor data from the band. I am not even sure if it is sent from the band to the phone app. It may all be processed on the band itself. All the data that is displayed on the phone app is uploaded to the Jawbone servers. The API accesses the Jawbone servers to provide all the data that is available on the phone app. I haven’t played with the API yet, but I fully expect to write a small application that will download my data and let me build some more interesting charts.

The UP3 app allows you to manually enter a sleep or workout (if you didn’t put the band into the correct mode before you started), enter your mood, weight, and foods consumed. The mood and weight entry work well. The food entry is a huge hassle. Food tracking takes a long time even in a good program, and the jawbone app is not good. It takes too many clicks to enter things, it doesn’t have a very comprehensive list of foods, and it isn’t easy to build up favorites and recipes.

Along with the problems that I have mentioned with the app, I wish that the app did some things better. I wish that you could see information about the workout (how long, how many steps) as it is happening. I wish that you could get a heart rate reading whenever you wanted one instead of only during the night. I wish that you could just see the raw data from the sensors. I’d like to see the skin temperature and ambient temperature readings along with anything else that it has. Jawbone has promised updates to the firmware and phone app to provide more features. Hopefully that happens.

Overall, I am enjoying the device. I like to see the sleep information each morning and the step data during the day. I think that having sleep, activity, mood and diet information might help me improve my habits or isolate risk factors for my headaches. It also encourages me to walk more and to get up from my desk a few more times.

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