Reviewing the Jawbone UP3 - Is it really the most advanced fitness tracker?

3 out of 5 stars

Fitness bands are quite naturally popular these days. They offer people a lot of options for keeping track of what they're doing in the course of a day. From the simplest step-only pedometer to the most sophisticated track-everything wristbands, a fitness tracker can be a great addition to anyone's quest for better health. Jawbone offers several fitness trackers with varying features. I've been wearing an UP3 for a little over two weeks now. Does it live up to the company's description as "The world's most advanced tracker?". Let's find the answer to this question from the perspective of a casual user who wants to use an advanced tracker but it is not into advanced fitness or anything like that. My review is personal, honest and with a touch of humor. Let's get started and see what the Jawbone UP3 has to offer:

Unboxing the Jawbone UP3

There are quite a few options available for color and style, which you can see here , on the Jawbone website. As you click on each of the colored circles, the name of the band appears below the circles representing the limited edition models. Mine is the Black Twist model.

The Jawbone UP3 comes in a small, stylish white box with a plastic wrapper, so you can see the band without opening the box.

What's that black thing on the top of the box? A very helpful ribbon loop that makes it easy to slide the box out of its tight plastic wrapper. The sides and back of the box give details about the tracker. Unfortunately Amazon slapped a big label over the back of mine, so most of that information got covered up.

However, this is no big deal because the Jawbone website gives you pretty much all the information you need. Jawbone expects you to go to the website to get all your information and instructions, as we'll see.

Slide the plastic wrapper off….

...and inside you will find the band, its charger, and what looks like a quick-start guide, which turns out to be just a pointer to the Jawbone website in 15 languages.

As I mentioned, you're going to be looking at the website a lot. :)

Setup and charging

When you go to the setup page, first you will need to create an account, which requires your name and email address. Then you'll pick your tracker.

And from there you get instructions for setting it up.

Jawbone doesn't emphasize it, but #4, the iOS or Android device with Wi-Fi connection, is even more essential than the other items. You cannot use this band without a device to connect it to. Basically, no smartphone, no Jawbone .

You start by charging the band, as with most new electronic gizmos. And here we run into one of the things reviewers have groused about the most: that charger. It looks like a short USB cable, which is misleading. It's a short, extremely stiff USB cable with a magnet on the end. The magnet attaches to the inside of the band. Here you can see the tiny contacts it snaps onto.

The magnet in the charger is very strong and snapping it onto the contacts is easy, but it's also easy to position it backwards. As with all magnetic connections, you have to get the polarity correct or it won't work. While the magnet will happily attach itself backwards, you can feel the band repelling it if you move it sideways, and of course it won't charge that way. I found that out first thing. Make sure it's connected the proper way or you're doomed.

And, as I mentioned, the cable is very stiff. Jawbone says you can bend it if you need to, but it seems to me that if you do that often enough, it will break. Here is how I tried to charge it at first, plugging it into my Lenovo laptop.

The connection did not look very secure. I tried bending the cable a little more, but I just didn't want to keep doing that. My solution was to move the laptop to the edge of its table and hang the charger off it over the floor. That worked. The charger is really stiff and the magnet was strong so I wasn't worried about setting it up this way.

The three lights will cycle until the charging is complete. Jawbone says it should take about 60 to 90 minutes, but mine seems to charge in about 45 to 60 minutes. Keeping track of the charge requires you to check the app. Jawbone says a charge should last about a week. Mine has run for about 5 and a half days before needing to be charged, and I have found that unless you're an obsessive app checker it's all too easy for the band to run out of power without your being aware of it. The only way you can see it, is to look at the app and notice that the little graphic representing the band in the upper right corner has a little red icon on it. Fortunately, the UP3 will save up the data till it's charged again, so you don't lose anything.

Go to the next page of this review to learn about the experience of using the Jawbone UP3 fitness tracker.