Jawbone Up3 review: Fantastic app, but the band’s not good enough yet

It’s been on my wrist for two weeks and I barely feel it’s there. I don’t look at it. I don’t take it off, except when it needs to be recharged every seven days. It is thin and black and has no screen.

Jawbone’s fitness straps take a completely different approach to recent fitness watches and super-smart smartwatches – you’re not meant to interact with them. The oldest jaw up And Su24 they were like that, and so was the new Up3. Its job is to collect data, sense things, and send you to your phone for the rest. This time, Jawbone added heart rate tracking.

Jawbone’s bands never had heart rate sensors before. But the Jawbone Up3 – which sells for $ 180 in the US and will cost £ 150 and $ AU 230 when it debuts elsewhere in 2015 – uses a unique technology: bioimpedance. This is a big departure from the optical sensor and green LEDs used in competing trackers like the Microsoft band , Apple watch and the latest from Fitbit Upload HR And Sway bands. Plus, the MP3 doesn’t even constantly track your heart rate.

No, no display on these bands.

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The Jawbone Up3 band is meant to be a general lifestyle trainer, not a hard-core fitness tracker. It aims to do more as it collects data for days, weeks, even months. You are destined to relax, to live with it, to make yourself understood.

But even after two weeks, the MP3 didn’t do enough to justify its price; the heart rate feature isn’t a killer app, nor – so far, anyway – a particularly useful feature. I love Jawbone’s Up app and ecosystem, but I’d rather have heart rate free Upper jaw 2 band, which offers all the other Up3 tracking features at nearly half the price.

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Design: underestimated to the point of excess

Jawbone Up and Up24 have been CNET’s favorites for years because they were low-key, looked like casual sports wristbands, not “wearable tech”. The Jawbone Up3 is even smaller – 45 percent smaller, in fact, than the old Up24 band. It is definitely small.

The elastic design becomes thicker at the top, where an aluminum body houses a touch sensor and three integrated LED status lights. Tap it a few times to see if you are in “awake” activity mode (an orange man icon) or sleep tracking (a blue moon). The band vibrates when there are notifications to read in the Jawbone phone app or when a silent alarm sounds to wake you up or to tell you to go to sleep … or to start moving.

The metal prongs on the underside measure the heart rate.

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Below, metal studs spread across the strap, emerging through the rubber. These are the Up3 bioimpedance sensors, which measure the heart rate (among other things, at the end). They are meant to make contact with your skin, so the band must be fastened so that it touches your arm all around.

The USB charger is magnetic and attaches easily.

Sarah Tew / CNET

The MP3 is one size, unlike the old Up straps. But it is also much more difficult to wear on the wrist. A metal buckle on the bottom is adjustable, but it took me a few minutes to get it into place and fit snugly – not too snug, not too loose. The weird metal slide buckle design looks, well, like the buckle on a bra strap. It’s okay once it’s turned on, but it’s not okay to remove and reattach it.

The Up3 closure … embarrassing.

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You can wear the MP3 in the shower or while washing your hands, according to Jawbone, but it’s not meant for swimming. It has basically the same level of water resistance as the previous Up bands.

One thing that is much better is how it loads. The MP3 requires an included USB dongle, but magnetically attaches to the back of the strap. And the dongle is foldable, so you can place it somewhere and have the MP3 attached to it, charging.

The Jawbone Up app shows your daily resting heart rate, and that’s it.

Sarah Tew / CNET

The strange use (or non-use) of the Up3 of the heart rate

The Up3 measures heart rate using a completely different technology than most current wristbands: instead of a green LED, it uses metal studs to measure bioimpedance. (Older BodyMedia bands used similar technology; Jawbone bought BodyMedia several years ago.)

Along the way, Jawbone says, these sensors could also be used to measure changes in skin temperature, hydration, and even stress levels. But, right now, all they’re used for is sleep tracking and resting heart rate. Some of these features are what the Base peak he also claimed to be able to measure, but it never seemed meaningful. But at least the Basis Peak does real-time heart rate monitoring for exercise and daily use and even has a screen. (It was even bigger and uglier.)