Jawbone UP3 v Fitbit Charge HR : The best activity wearable

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Fitbit or Jawbone – what activity tracker should you be rocking?

Jawbone versus Fitbit has been the big battle of the fitness tracker genre since 2011 when the original UP and the Fitbit Ultra both went on sale.

And 2016 sees the rivalry continue with as the Fitbit Charge HR and theJawbone UP3 going head-to-head for your wrist-space. This might not be Fitbit’s newest tracker, but it’s still one of the most popular. While the UP3 remains Jawbone’s top of the line wearable.

But is the UP3 or the Charge HR right for you? Read on for a comparison of the rivals’ features, and make sure you check out our in-depth reviews for the nitty-gritty.

Design

The Fitbit Charge HR looks a lot like its non HR labelled brethren – the Fitbit Charge. It is made from a flexible, durable elastomer and features a surgical-grade stainless steel buckle. There are three different sizes available with wrists from 5.5 inches up to 9.1 inches catered for. The Charge HR is 34mm wide, so is a fair bit meatier than the 12.2mm thickness of the UP3.

With Fitbit’s tracker you have a choice of black, plumb, blue and tangerine and, like the discontinued Fitbit Force, it has a small OLED display to show the time, stats and incoming caller IDs. There are no other smartphone notifications – you’ll need to upgrade to the Fitbit Surge to get those – but it certainly beats its Jawbone rival in this area.

Overall, in our Fitbit Charge HR review we enjoyed wearing the fitness band – it’s discreet, unisex, comfortable even when sleeping and the only potential problem is skin irritation – some users suffer from it, some don’t.

The UP3 only comes in one size but there’s an adjustable clasp so in theory should fit any wrist size. It’s quite awkward to hitch, however, and we prefer Fitbit’s more secure buckle. The UP3 originally hit the shops in two designs – black diamond and silver cross, although new colours and patterns are now available including red, teal, sand (sort of a rose gold) and indigo.

There’s no OLED display here but there is a trio of lights to indicate sleep, activity and notifications. Blue lights are used in sleep mode, orange is for activity, and white lights tell you about notifications. You can tap on those lights to switch between sleep and activity tracking modes, but it’s fiddly and thankfully Jawbone’s most recent software updates mean you don’t have to play around with it at all.

It’s Jawbone’s thinnest and lightest tracker so far which really makes a difference and we didn’t experience any irritation issues. Design and fit is a really personal choice – both of these trackers are comfortable and will look good with a range of outfits – from gym clothes to office wear. Both are also splashproof, not waterproof. You can wear the UP3 in the shower though. The UP3 wins for looks, but if security is your main concern here, Fitbit wins this round.

Heart monitoring

The Charge HR has 24/7 heart-rate monitoring on offer, using the company’s new PurePulse technology. It’s the same sensor you’ll find packed into the Fitbit Surge ‘super watch’ and the Fitbit Blaze.

Fitbit states that the constant bpm recording results in a more accurate calorie burn figure and that it allows users to train in different intensity zones using their heart rate peaks. Take a look at our guide to heart rate training to find out more.

We tested the Fitbit’s heart rate monitoring versus a gym machine for our review and found it to be spot on, but on the road during runs the jiggling and bouncing hurt the accuracy substantially. We also found resting heart rate data to be wide of the mark.

The Jawbone UP3 is built on an advanced multi-sensor platform that includes a newly designed tri-axis accelerometer, bioimpedance sensors, as well as skin and ambient temperature sensors.

The new band uses this sensor setup to provide wearers a resting heart rate, which is a crucial indicator of your overall heart health and the company is touting its new device as “the most advanced activity tracker known to man”.

Originally, the UP3 could only track resting heart rate, but in the latest update you can take readings at any time and the band will also track your heart rate across the day – so you can see your vital signs in more detail. We also felt heart rate readings were a little lower than we’ve seen on other bands.

Neither the Fitbit or Jawbone offers a perfect heart rate tracking system but both capture they key metric of resting heart rate – so we’ll call this one a tie.

Tracking

Both of these bands will track your everyday activities such as steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, floors climbed and active minutes.

Neither the Jawbone nor the Fitbit pack GPS tracking like the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ or the Fitbit Surge, which is a real shame for runners. You can pair the Charge HR with your smartphone to piggy back of the handset’s GPS signal.

The Charge HR’s OLED display will give you your stats in real-time using the Exercise Mode and the Fitbit app lets you see progress, record workouts, share and compete with your friends, log your food intake and earn badges based on your activity.

Generally your step count will probably be slightly higher on the Fitbit than the Jawbone but both are at least consistent which is useful for setting and sticking to goals.

The Jawbone UP3 nudges you when you’ve been idle too long and has automatic sport detection skills much like the Charge HR now offers through its

The new UP3 app ties in the new Smart Coach system – a real-time information system that analyses the data that the UP3 band records about you to provide personal advice on your goals and objectives. The more you use your UP3, the better the Smart Coach will understand you. Give it time and it will begin to deliver the useful insights.

There’s also automatic sleep monitoring on offer with both trackers and both offer alarms to give you a nudge in the morning.

Fitbit tracks how many hours sleep you get – it’s very simple. A new Sleep Schedule mode now looks at your sleep data and suggests what time you should go to bed. It’s not a revolutionary update, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Things are a little different on the Jawbone UP3 which tries to do a whole lot more but ends up in a bit of a jam.

Not only does the UP3 claim to differentiate between REM, light and deep sleep, the Jawbone app should also provide information and analysis on your kip to help you improve it. While our original review found serious shortcomings, the update to the Jawbone UP3 has improved sleep accuracy and it’s now one of the best wrist-based sleep trackers we’ve used.

The original UP3 also required users to manually activate its sleep tracking mode, but the updated band introduced automatic sleep detection – a much need addition. There’s also a smart alarm function which gives you a 30 minute window to wake up during lighter sleep.

With the added features, the Jawbone UP3 is a top sleep tracker, with accurate results and plenty of detail – and certainly wins out here.

Price

You can grab a Fitbit Charge HR for $149.99. The battery life of five days is manageable and it’s easy to charge via the proprietary cable – just don’t lose it.

The Jawbone UP3 is the slightly more expensive device at $179.99 across the pond. The battery life is up to seven days, which we found to be fair, but the short charging cable is badly designed and awkward to use with a laptop.

Verdict

Both flagship trackers claim to be two of the most comprehensive fitness trackers out there. What is clear is that both the Charge HR and UP3 are in many ways vastly superior to their predecessors.

It’s also apparent that both Fitbit and Jawbone want their existing device users to upgrade to the new models with the updated apps offering a wealth of extra info and features while at the same time staying loyal to the current communities.

Our updated reviews now put the Jawbone UP3 a whisker ahead with 7/10 to theFitbit Charge HR’s 6/10. Before Jawbone’s update the Charge HR was a clear winner, but now sleep tracking and heart rate data has been fixed, it’s capitalised on the Fitbit’s worrying heart rate accuracy.

We love the Yves Behar design of the Jawbone and the way it will recognise bursts of activity throughout your day, while the Fitbit benefits from better analysis of heart rate data and a live display of your bpm on the wrist, Jawbone’s data proved to be more reliable in our testing.

(wareable.com, http://goo.gl/b8JKNk)

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