Fitbit currently sells four activity trackers – the Fitbit Flex, Fitbit Charge, Fitbit Charge HR, and Fitbit Surge – and two belt-clip or carry-on activity trackers: Fitbit Zip and Fitbit One. The Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Surge were released in early 2015. The main difference between the 2014 Fitbit Charge, and the two new Fitbits released in 2015, is that the 2015 versions include a continuous heart-rate monitor.
Jawbone claims that its fitness trackers are currently the most advanced on the market. While most other fitness bands display raw figures and leave it at that, Jawbone trackers provide you with tips throughout the day on how to improve your health and fitness. There are four devices currently on offer. The entry level UP move, and the more advanced UP2, UP3 and UP4. The Jawbone UP3 was originally meant to go on sale last winter, but problems during manufacturing led to months of delays. Ultimately, the device was released with a limited set of features which were enhanced in a later firmware update.
Fitbit relied on its popular Fitbit Charge and Fitbit Surge models to maintain its global leadership in wearables sales in Q3 2015. The latest International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker report places Fitbit’s share of the global wearables market at 22%, ahead of Apple 19% and Xiaomi 17%. Jawbone’s share of the market was well below.
The Charge HR is an activity tracker that displays fitness stats right there on your wrist. The overall look of the Charge is impressively sleek. Its discreet and the textured rubber looks smart. Fitbit Charge HR has improved the clasp, following complaints about the previous model’s looser clasp. The tracker is offered in a choice of black, plumb, blue and tangerine colours.
The screen has a monochrome OLED display, and is vibrant and easy to read despite being roughly the size of a fingernail. It shows the time, daily steps total, distance travelled, calories, flights climbed and of course your heart rate and you cycle through those metrics using the button to the left.
The device has a battery life of around 5 days and is water resistant up to 10 metres, but in reality it means it will withstand not much more than splashes and a quick dousing.
Jawbone UP3 also has a sleek and fashionable design. You can purchase it in a bunch of different colours. The dimensions are 220 x 12.2 x 9.3mm and the device weighs only 29g. As it is so light, you may find yourself looking at your wrist to to check whether you are wearing it. The fitness band is a one-size fits all affair – so no sizes to choose from.
There is no screen, so it is not a substitute for a watch. The device has a trio of lights that indicate what mode it is in. On the upside it has no display to sap the battery so it lasts up to a week between charges. The UP3 was originally intended to be waterproof but this was subsequently downgraded to water-resistant.
The magnetic clasp has been upgraded in the UP3. It takes some getting used to, but once on, it feels good. The clasp can, however, be knocked open, so you are in danger of losing the band or having it fall off while you are asleep.
Conclusion: Looks-wise, there is very little distinguishing the Fitbit and Jawbone trackers. Both have a smart, unisex design, come in a bunch of colours and are splash-proof. We would, however, give Fitbit the slight edge, due to the inclusion of a display and the convenience this adds in accessing your activity statistics. The magnetic clasp on UP3 could also benefit from further improvements.
Ease of use
The Charge HR is extremely user friendly – once you have done the initial set-up, strap it on and you are ready to go.
You can look at the results on your mobile phone app, the internet – or by clicking on the buttons on the tracker. Unlike older Fitbit devices, you don’t have to tell it you’re planning on snoozing, and sleep mode will kick in from your movements and heart rate data.
A recent firmware upgrade introduced a new feature, called SmartTrack, which automatically recognizes select exercises and records them in the Fitbit app. Activities are recorded when you’ve been active for at least 15 minutes, but that time can be manually adjusted according to your preference. After the workout you will get a summary showing your heart rate and time spent in each zone for that activity.
The Jawbone website and app provide the necessary information to get you started straight away – the band can be on your wrist and synced to the app in under five minutes. The device syncs with the app via blootooth. The revamped Jawbone UP app is one of the most comprehensive out there. The app records every part of your daily activity, with this displayed in a timeline and a series of graphs and trends.
The app is also able to automatically recognise and log a wide range of sports; including running, cross-training, tennis and hiking. If an activity isn’t picked up you can simply go in and tag a period of steps as a set exercise session. Jawbone has improved the software so that you never need to put the band into night mode – it recognises when you’re falling asleep automatically.
Conclusion: The trackers are neck and neck in this category as they are both simple to set up, easy to use, both have automatic sleep recognition, both sync well to mobile phones and have comprehensive apps to analyse the data. Therefore, no clear winner.
Use of information
Both of these bands will track the standard metric’s you would expect these days such as steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, floors climbed and active minutes. The difference in the stats provided by both trackers will not be great, with perhaps Fitbit showing a slightly higher step count than Jawbone. Unfortunately, neither of the two offers GPS tracking. Also, Fitbit does not integrate into Apple Health at the moment.
Heart rate monitoring
Keeping track of your resting heart rate over time can give a good indication of overall cardiac health. Both devices have heart-rate sensors with offer 24/7 heart rate monitoring. The resting heart rate is an important metric as it can be an indicator of longevity and current level of fitness. Both are also excellent devices for heart-zone training. The figures should, however, be taken with a grain of salt – as wrist based heart-rate monitors are not as accurate as chest straps.
Fitbit uses PurePulse technology which allows users to track workout intensity and calorie burn with algorithms that provide insight through interactive charts and graphs on the app and Fitbit dashboard. The heart-rate icon on the Charge HR display tells you if you’re in one of three heart-rate zones. These zones can help you optimize your workout by targeting different training intensities.
Up until recently, Jawbone only offered information on resting heart rate. Its firmware update however has added something they call Pasive Heart Rate monitoring, which captures the heart-rate periodically throughout the day during moments when you are still. Passive Heart Rate, when combined with your Resting Heart Rate, gives you a more complete picture of your heart health and helps you become aware of how factors such as caffeine, stress, and other stimuli can affect your heart in daily life.
Automatic sleep tracking on the Fitbit is relatively simplistic, bordering on the pointless. The graph shows a blue block, which is your sleep duration. The total time is listed in the app, along with the day’s stats. The block isn’t coloured to designate deep or light sleep as with other sleep trackers, but there are lines that mark when you toss or turn. All in all, we feel Fitbit should have done more in terms of sleep analysis.
You will gain a much deeper understanding of your sleep with the UP3. The device shows you details of light, deep and REM sleep. It does this by monitoring your heart-rate, respiration rate, body temperature and galvanic skin response. The jury is still out on the accuracy of the sleep analysis – however, the statistics are extremely detailed and impressive. The recent firmware update has eliminated the need to manually indicate when you are getting ready for bed, and the UP3 now automatically recognises when you are falling asleep.
Conclusion: Both of these devices track all of the metrics that you would expect from top of the line fitness trackers. Fitbit in our opinion offers slightly better heart rate tracking whereas Jawbone offers better sleep tracking.
Fitbit offers a wide selection of data to help motivate you to achieve your fitness goals. We feel however that more could have been done by the company to provide users with meaningfull analysis of its sleep tracking and heart rate data.
Even before the firmware update, one aspect of the UP3 was better than most of its rivals – its interpretation of the data.
Jawbone created something they call Smart Coach. Smart Coach goes well beyond delivering measurements, to show you the meaning behind the numbers. This is an intelligence engine that turns raw data into your personal fitness advisor. A clever guide that helps you make at least one healthy choice every day.
For example, if you wake up 10 minutes later than usual, Jawbone may come up with a suggestion such as “you tend to move less after a late rise. For you, those 10 minutes mean 150 fewer steps”. Then it will encourage you to take more steps during the day to make up for sleeping late.
Conclusion: While not perfect, we believe that Jawbone’s Smart Coach feature is a glimpse into the future, where wearables will become much more intelligent and will be able to provide much more meaningful analysis of our vitals data. We would therefore award this category to Jawbone.
Both the Fitbit Charge HR and Jawbone UP3 are comfortable, look good and are loaded with state-of-the-art sensors that give you a better understanding of your health and fitness. Like all bands, they monitor steps that you take and your activity, and like some, they monitor the quality of your sleep. And its clear that both the Charge HR and UP3 are vastly superior to their predecessors.
While there are many positives, there are also a few negatives with both devices which we wont go into again. You can read about them in more detail in the comprehensive reviews (Fitbit Charge HR review, Jawbone UP3 review).
Fitbit likes to think of the Charge for everyday users who want to get fitter and see how they are doing in real time on the wristband and also via the excellent free app and graphics-heavy desktop dashboard. The wearable definitely serves this purpose.
Fitbit Charge HR
While the UP3 may not be the perfect choice for those looking for a sports watch, or those looking for detailed 24/7 heart rate monitoring – for those who want a simple, unobtrusive device to track exercise and sleep, and improve overall health and well-being, the Jawbone UP3 is definitely an option worth considering.
Conclusion: On balance, our preference is to put Fitbit slightly ahead. Before Jawbone’s recent firmware update the Charge HR was clearly ahead, but now that automatic sleep tracking and passive heart rate data has been added, it is more difficult to pick a winner. While Jawbone has advantages in terms of the information it provides with its detailed sleep analysis and Smart Coach features, both of these functions are still work in progress. The inclusion of a display and slightly lower price are what ultimately edge Fitbit Charge HR slightly ahead for us.
Do you agree with us? Let us know which device you prefer.