Jawbone UP3: Advanced heart and fitness tracker (Tech Review)

One of the late entrants into the wearables market segment in India, San Francisco-headquartered Jawbone claims that its recently launched flagship device in India – UP3 priced at Rs.14,999 – is the most advanced activity and fitness tracker in the market. Here is what we thought of the UP3:

What is good?

The UP3 is as light as the UP2. There is a change in locking mechanism which seems to make it more secure. It comes with the same medical-grade hypoallergenic thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) rubber as its predecessor and is generally comfortable to wear. The band has been designed in a way that it can worn with any outfit, at any place, at any time.

TPU is any of a class of polyurethane plastics with many properties, including elasticity, transparency and resistance to oil, grease and abrasion.

Jawbone wanted to make the band water proof to allow swimmers to take advantage of it and had internally named the project “Thorpe” after the noted Olympic swimmer but couldn’t eventually do so. So, like the UP2, the UP3 is splash, dust and shower proof. Other features are mostly similar except the addition of the bio-impedance sensor to track the heart rate.

The band is very efficient in tracking activity and sleep. Users can also set reminders, and smart and silent alarms via the UP app that delivers all the same features to users as it did with the UP2 system. The ‘Smart Coach’ in the app also helps with suggestions after the artificial intelligence-driven app-band duo learns about the user’s living pattern.

The game-changer for the UP3 is the bioimpedance, heat flux and respiration and galvanic skin sensor, along with a tri-axis accelerometer and a Bluetooth 4.0 ready smart sync-ready system.

The bioimpedance sensor measures the resistance of body tissue to tiny electric currents to enable capturing a wide range of physiological signals, including heart rate. There are several advantages to using this sensor. The first is better battery life as it requires significantly less power compared to optical sensors for same level of accuracy.

Secondly, a single platform utilising bioimpedance sensors captures a wide range of signals: heart rate, respiration rate and galvanic skin response (commonly known as skin conductance).

The band tracks sleep using the bioimpedance sensor and body movement. It also provides a resting heart rate which it claims is necessary to properly diagnose the actual health of the heart. According to doctors, a resting heart rate reading close to 40 is more healthy.

The band has a battery backup of seven days.

What doesn’t work for the phone?

The UP3 is slightly wider than the UP2, which also looks more stylish as it has a different locking mechanism band. The band has electrodes on the inside which aids in tracking heart rate along with the bioimpedance sensor and hence indentations appear on the skin after wearing it for a long time. User experience may vary depending on how tightly the band is strapped, though Jawbone says that a snug fitting will work.

Then, the UP3 has no display and Jawbone has often reiterated that it was going in for a minimalistic design so they excluded the display. Another downside is that continuous or real-time heart rate monitoring is tough. Jawbone has said that it will come up with a firmware update to soon fix this. The band doesn’t have an altimeter and is water resistant till only 10 metres.

Arguably, bioimpedance sensors have their own flaws as well as they are prone to several signal disturbances which might stop the continuous tracking of the heart beat. Motion artifacts, electrical interference and other biological signals that are much stronger than the minuscule heart rate can affect it.

Verdict: One of the most advanced activity trackers seen till date – only without a screen. A good buy for people with affinity towards healthy living or fitness and a thumbs up from our end.

(Anirban can be contacted at anirban.g@ians.in)

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