Battle of the Heavyweight Trackers: Jawbone UP3 vs Fitbit Charge HR
Ask any average technology user what the most popular fitness tracking device is, and you’ll likely hear one of two names: Jawbone or Fitbit.
Jawbone vs Fitbit
These are definitely two of the biggest companies developing fitness trackers. Their products dominate the top sales lists on Amazon and just about every other tech retailer, and both companies offer lots of choices at several different price points. Plus, their devices are easy to use and well-regarded by consumers.
Nearer to the high end of the price spectrum, each company has an excellent device that could become the new top selling tracker. For Jawbone, it’s the Jawbone UP3, their self-proclaimed “world’s most advanced tracker.” For Fitbit, it’s the Charge HR.
If you are in the market for a new fitness tracker, you’d do quite well to consider either of these devices, but which one should you get? You’re not going to buy two, especially when they perform essentially the same functions.
Which one is the better investment, we decided to compare the Jawbone UP3 vs Fitbit Charge HR? Let’s take a look, point by point.
Jawbone UP3 vs
Fitbit Charge HR
1. Tracking and Heart Rate
These are the biggest reasons for getting a fitness tracker, and both the UP3 and the Charge HR take care of all the essentials: steps taken, distance travelled, elevation climbed, time active, and more. Plus, both track sleep data, and both have a silent alarm to gently wake you at a lighter point in your sleep cycle; this allows you to get up feeling rested rather than sluggish.
The UP3 is a little more in-depth with its sleep tracking than the Charge HR, but both will give you a pretty good idea of how long and how well you’re sleeping.
As for heart rate, each device has a different approach.
Heart rate tracking
on the Jawbone UP3
The Jawbone UP3 uses a total of four sensors for what Jawbone calls bio-impedance tracking; this refers to how your body reacts to small stimuli and changes. It tracks resting heart rate, breathing rate, skin temperature, and galvanic skin response. Doing all this, according to Jawbone, gives you a complete and precise picture of your health.
Heart rate tracking
on the Fitbit Charge HR
Fitbit Charge HR, on the other hand, uses its PurePulse heart rate monitoring technology for constant heart rate data: resting, active, whatever. Not only does this give you a complete cardio picture of your day, but it also ensures the most accurate information about how many calories you burn.
2. Jawbone and Fitbit: Smartphone Sync
Both devices are easy to sync via BlueTooth with their corresponding app on your smartphone, and both are compatible with most iOS and Android devices.
However, the Fitbit Charge HR is the clear winner in this round. Why? Because it has a screen!
Again, functionality as a smartphone satellite isn’t exactly why most people buy a fitness tracker, but it’s a nice feature to have. The screen on the Charge HR, albeit small, can actually show you who is calling or texting. The UP3 just has a tiny notification light to let you know that someone is trying to reach you.
3. Extras and Omissions
Each device attempts to motivate you in different ways. Jawbone has its proprietary Smart Coach feature that learns your habits and sends you personalised notifications (on your phone, of course) to help you meet your goals. In Fitbit’s app, you can earn badges when you reach a milestone, which seems like it would be fun. Also, both apps allow you to log your food intake to see your calories in versus calories out.
What both the UP3 and the Charge HR are lacking is a built-in GPS. If you want a fitness tracker primarily for running outdoors, you may want to consider a different device, like the Microsoft Band, altogether. However, not having an onboard GPS helps to keep the price of these two products down; trackers with built-in GPS tend to hover closer to the £200 range.
4. Jawbone and Fitbit: Design and Looks
While aesthetic preferences are a highly personalised choice, there are a few things you should know about the appearances of each of these trackers.
First, their sizes: the Fitbit Charge HR comes in three sizes, while the Jawbone UP3 is one size fits all and easily adjustable. For fashion coordination, the Charge HR comes in four colours, whereas the UP3 comes in only black or gray. With the UP3, each colour has a different design on the front, and more colours are expected soon.
What it all comes down to is this: the Charge HR looks more like a smartwatch or activity tracker, whereas the UP3 looks more like a bracelet. One is sporty, one is elegant, and the one you find best all depends on the specific look you’re after.
5. Jawbone and Fitbit Sleep Tracking
You would think that the sleep monitoring capabilities would be highly advanced on both the Fitbit Charge HR and the Jawbone UP3. After all, both of these trackers continually monitor your heart rate, which should aid in differentiating deep sleep patterns from lighter and more fitful ones. And while both of these trackers do a decent job in tracking sleep, and while the graphs in both trackers’ apps certainly look impressive, we found that neither one seemed to be 100% accurate in terms of number of times awake throughout the night.
Still, Jawbone has an edge as a sleep tracker, thanks to its ability to record other metrics like galvanic skin response. This goes into the algorithm to help track light sleep versus deep sleep periods. Sure, the Fitbit sleep tracker will give you your total time asleep and the number of times you’re restless or awake during the night (with, as mentioned above, good but not great accuracy), but that’s about it. There’s no deep or light sleep separation with Fitbit sleep tracking.
So, if you’re buying a tracker predominantly for the sleep data (something that’s more common than you might think), and you’re down to these two choices, you’ll probably want to consider buying the UP3 rather than the Fitbit sleep tracker. It simply provides better information, for what it’s worth.
6. Jawbone and Fitbit – Calories Burned
Fitness trackers have also been under fire in the last year or two for their accuracy, especially when it comes to counting calories. How can your Charge HR or UP3 actually know how many calories you’re burning? Is the little number that shows up on your app truthful? Well, mostly.
Both the Fitbit and Jawbone are able to give you an estimate of the number of calories burned based on the data you enter (height, weight, and other personal information) and based on the data it measures (heart rate, movement, and so on). As with sleep tracking, it would stand to reason that Jawbone has the edge in this category thanks to its bio-impedance sensors. However, the overall glitchiness of the UP3 makes us wonder if its calorie counts are realistic. Then again, we’re a bit suspicious about Fitbit’s calories burned too.
Quite simply, we can’t tell if either tracker is totally accurate — not without a more in-depth scientific caloric analysis, anyway. However, because both of these trackers measure your heart rate and your activity with reasonably good accuracy, we feel mostly confident about the accuracy of their calories burned numbers.
Though of course, the data you get from your Fitbit or Jawbone tracker is for your own informational and, to some extent, entertainment purposes only. These numbers probably aren’t admissible as court evidence or anything like that, but if you’re trying to lose weight? They’re absolutely helpful.
7. Is Fitbit Waterproof? What about the Jawbone UP3?
Probably the most disappointing aspects of both the Fitbit Charge HR and the Jawbone UP3 is that neither one is rated for pool use. In fact, you’re not even supposed to keep either one on while you’re in the shower. Neither the Jawbone nor the Fitbit is waterproof. Splashproof yes, sweat resistant yes, but don’t figure on either one of these basic trackers counting laps for you.
Fortunately, there are a number of trackers on the market that are more geared toward swimmers. The Garmin Swim is one that’s designed specifically for the pool, but others like the MOOV NOW and the now-shipping Atlas wristband will detect strokes and count laps. Additionally, trackers like the Mio Alpha 2 and even the Misfit Shine have enough water resistance to wear for swimming.
Ultimately, if swimming is your sport of choice, neither the Charge HR nor the UP3 will do what you need them to do. There’s no Jawbone or Fitbit swimming device on the market — not yet, anyway.
8. Jawbone vs Fitbit: Price
The Fitbit Charge HR sells for around £120, while the Jawbone UP3 sells for around £150. It’s not a huge difference, but if money is scarce and you’re hoping to get a tracker on a tight budget, that’s a huge selling point for Fitbit.
9. Don’t Want Either One? The Jawbone and Fitbit Alternatives
Maybe you want a fitness tracker, but you’re not so interested in either the Fitbit Charge HR or the Jawbone UP3. In that case, perhaps you’d like to check out one of these:
With a full colour touch screen, built in GPS, compatibility with just about everything, and smartphone syncing, the Microsoft Band is a pretty impressive device.
Industry professionals feel like it’s not quite everything it could be, but user feedback has been mostly positive. For a software company, Microsoft has made one heck of a piece of hardware.
A fairly basic tracker with a relatively low price (£69.99) this offering by Garmin keeps tabs on your basic activity and helps you set daily fitness goals. Its big selling point, though, is its battery life: a full year!
The little sister of the UP3, Jawbone’s UP2 can handle all of your standard fitness tracking without a few key features.
Namely, the UP3 won’t give you heart rate monitoring (and everything that goes along with it), advanced sleep metrics, or mood tracking. If you can live without those, you’ll pay less for the UP2: £89.99.
If you like everything about the Fitbit Charge HR, but want a tracker that has onboard GPS, then check out the Fitbit Surge.
In addition to highly accurate distance tracking, this top of the line Fitbit model also has a touch screen and syncs with your smartphone.
It’s maybe more of a smartwatch, and its definitely bulkier than the Charge HR, but it has that same Fitbit feel.
A smartwatch with a fitness bent, the Basis Peak is one of the more attractive fitness trackers you can buy.
There’s no GPS sensor chip built in, but it’s got everything else: heart rate and skin temperature monitoring, waterproof design (you can swim with it!), full activity tracking, smartwatch sync, you name it.
Maybe the reason you’re just not impressed with either of these two trackers is because you’re after the crème de la crème of wrist-worn devices: the Apple Watch.
And you know what, if you’ve got the £299 or more to plunk down for it, it’s a lovely device that will track everything, sync with your phone, and basically make you feel like the coolest person in town.
10. Jawbone UP3 vs Fitbit Charge HR – WHAT OTHER REVIEWERS THINK
Update July 30, 2015: There’s a lot of buzz about both of these fitness trackers, so we’ve decided to add a section rounding up the opinions of other tech magazines. Here’s what some other reviewers have to say.
FITBIT CHARGE HR REVIEWS
1. CNET’S FITBIT CHARGE HR REVIEW
Ace reviewer Scott Stein gives the Charge HR a thorough once-over and gives it a very respectable 7.8 out of 10.
He applauds the heart rate monitoring, as well as its easy syncing and overall Fitbit familiarity. As for concerns, Stein bemoans its less than functional design, its inability to really get wet, a few accuracy glitches, and its proprietary charging cord.
Still, he writes, the Fitbit Charge HR is “the best all-day heart-rate-tracking casual-use fitness band that’s currently available.”
2. GIZMODO’S FITBIT CHARGE HR REVIEW
Highly recommended is what Gizmodo’s Brent Rose asserts in this overwhelmingly positive write-up. Unlike CNET’s Stein, Rose found his Charge HR to be pretty accurate.
Plus, he mentions, the Fitbit app is fantastic; your personal data is easy to understand, and it has some other features like a smart alarm and food logging.
As for drawbacks, they’re small, according to Rose: slightly uncomfortable clasp, no text message syncing, not waterproof, and the proprietary charging cable. Other than that, he seems to say, this device rocks.
3. WIRED’S FITBIT CHARGE HR REVIEW
The 7 out of 10 rating is consistent with what other reviewers give the Fitbit Charge HR. Reviewer Josh Valcarcel also has praises and gripes about the device that are in line with other reviewers’ comments.
For example, he applauds the excellent Fitbit app, the device’s accuracy, and its ease of use.
However, he’s less keen on the somewhat uncomfortable clasp, its non-waterproof nature, and the fact that for all of its monitoring, this isn’t really a wearable for “hardcore athletic monitoring.”
JAWBONE UP3 REVIEWS
1. CNET’S JAWBONE UP3 REVIEW
With a rating of just 6.9, you have to wonder what CNET’s Scott Stein doesn’t like about the UP3. Not to worry — he’ll tell you.
The difficult clasp, the high price you pay for heart rate tracking, and the fact that you can’t really use it for serious exercising are all causes for concern, he says.
He’d also prefer a screen, though that’s obviousy a matter of opinion.
What’s good? The UP3’s resting heart rate tracking using bioimpedence rather than LEDs, as well as the awesome Jawbone app are both plusses in Stein’s eyes.
2. GIZMODO’S JAWBONE UP3 REVIEW
Subtitled “A Fitness Fiasco,” reviewer Brent Rose’s brutal rundown of the UP3 reads like a laundry list of how not to design a fitness tracker.
While he does give Jawbone credit for decent design, good battery life, and an effective silent alarm, he’s pretty brutal about the rest of the UP3’s characteristics: the lousy clasp, the finicky charging dongle, the clunky set up, the difficulty interacting with it, and of course, the high price.
Answering the bottom line “Should I buy it?” question, Rose responds with, “100% no. Definitely not. Hell no. No. Just no.” He then recommends buying the Fitbit Charge HR.
3. TechRadar’s Jawbone UP3 Review
Nick Broughall is a bit more forgiving than the previous two UP3 reviewers, though he definitely points some of the same flaws: the frustrating interactivity, the clumsy clasp, and the XL price tag.
However, he is complimentary when it comes to the UP3’s sleep tracking capabilities and the Jawbone app.
It’s a step up from the UP24 and the UP2, he concedes, though he still doesn’t seem overly enthusiastic.
Jawbone and Fitbit Updates: Summer 2015
New firmware can breathe new life and new features into a device that’s been on the market for a while. In the summer of 2015, both Fitbit and Jawbone offered updates for the Charge HR and UP3, respectively. These upgrades addressed some minor issues and added some functionality to these already solid devices.
Fitbit Charge HR Software Updates
For the Fitbit Charge HR, the August 2015 firmware update included support for twist toggling, or switching on the display when the wrist is lifted; this is a standard feature on many smartwatches, so it’s good to see Fitbit catch on. Additionally, the Charge HR can now toggle through different measurements with just a tap on the band, and it now has an exercise mode complete with a stopwatch.
Jawbone Up2 and UP3 Software and Design Updates
As for the Jawbone UP3, the company listened to the concerns and complaints of their customers, and released some new firmware in August 2015 to add some in-demand features. Specifically, the UP3 now records passive heart rate in addition to resting heart rate. Plus, sleep detection is now automatic; users found mode toggling to be frustrating, and this eliminates the problem.
If you’re an owner of either device, or if you purchase a device with older firmware, it’s easy to upgrade through the Fitbit or Jawbone app on your smartphone.
Plus a new design was released for the somewhat admittedly quite familiar UP2 and the UP3 wristbands.
Which is Better – Fitbit or Jawbone?
Overall, these are both great devices. They’re both strictly fitness trackers but with a few extras, making them useful for just about anyone with the desire to track their activity and slumber. They’re definitely not as robust as a smartwatch, but they both do their jobs and do them well.
Which is better Fitbit or Jawbone? We compared the Jawbone UP3 vs Fitbit Charge HR in depth, but it all depends on how much you value what each one offers and how much you prefer the look of one over the other. If a screen is important, you should definitely go with the Fitbit. If the multi-sensor feature of the Jawbone is most appealing, than that’s the one you should get.
Ultimately, though, you really can’t go wrong with either one.