Best Jawbone: How to pick the right fitness tracker for you

Best Jawbone

While it's one of the biggest makers of fitness trackers, Jawbone doesn't offer quite as many options as its main rival, Fitbit. It only has four core products to choose from - the UP Move, UP2, UP3 and the newly launched UP4. You'd think the small selection would make the decision easier, but there's actually still a lot to consider before making a purchase.

Because of that potentially awkward choice, we take a look at what makes each Jawbone stick out from the crowd, and determine which one is best suited for you.

What each one offers

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All Jawbone trackers offer many of the same features. Given their primary focus as pedometers, they each count your steps and calories burned.

Via the UP smartphone app, they all also give you the ability to track your sleep, log your food intake while keeping track of leaderboards and goals allowing you to compete with your friends.

Jawbone app

The app is one of Jawbone's key strengths, given you can use it to tag all kinds of activity, in addition to walking or running. A flexible API means you can use it in conjunction with services such as RunKeeper and IFTTT, which is great for tinkerers who love to set up automation services. Technophobes needn't worry though - it's still a very clear interface for those who just want to enjoy graphs highlighting their progress.

For casual users

At the cheapest end of the scale comes the Jawbone UP Move for $49 (£39.99, AU$89). It's a device you clip to your clothing, rather than wear on your wrist. Much like the Fitbit Zip, you can clip it to your belt strap, your bra, or anywhere else that's convenient, without worrying about it being constantly visible. That's a very good thing, given its garish, plastic exterior. If you want to show off your wares, you can always buy a wrist strap for it, which is pretty handy for sleep tracking purposes.

The UP Move is a fairly simple device in that it's there to track your steps, sleep, offer you a way to track what food you consume and not much else. But it comes with the considerable benefit of offering six-month battery life, which is perfect for anyone who doesn't want to worry about regularly charging their wearable devices.

The UP Move is a device that's perfect for those unsure about investing in a fitness band. It's also a great way to check out just how good the UP smartphone app is, with food intake being particularly easy to track.

For the average user

The Jawbone UP2 is the tracker that's going to be the right choice for many users. Priced at $99.99 (£89.99, AU$149.99), it's Jawbone's mid-range offering, which is reflected in its stylish but understated looks. It's thinner than any other Jawbone and could easily be mistaken for a piece of jewelry. A choice of two colors means you can go for a classy silver or more rugged black. It uses a clasp mechanism, rather than clip to strap round your wrist.

Jawbone UP2

For the price, you gain all the benefits of the UP Move but with the advantage that it will blend in with your clothing a lot more than a chunk of plastic. The UP2 is also the cheapest Jawbone for those wanting a smart alarm feature. That means your trusty tracker will identify the best moment in your sleep cycle to wake you up, silently vibrating to gradually get you going in the morning.

The UP2 also offers an Idle Alert: it gives you a vibrating nudge when you've been sitting still too long. It's not convenient when you're enjoying a judgement-free Netflix binge watch, but it's great when you need to keep moving in the office.

There's no detailed LED display or any physical buttons, so you're going to be fairly reliant on the app, but it's a reasonable payoff in order to enjoy such a lightweight device.

For tracking addicts

For an additional $80 (£40, AU$100), the Jawbone UP3 goes a couple steps further than the UP2. Again, it's stylish, light and available in a choice of black or silver, but it's under the hood where it offers so much more.

Jawbone UP3

Alongside all the standard features like activity tracking, food logging, smart alarm and idle alert, there's also the benefit of heart rate monitoring and advanced sleep tracking. The former works through some physical sensors that leave some pressure marks on your skin, but fortunately don't hurt. The UP3 only offers a morning resting heart rate though, rather than continuous heart rate monitoring throughout the day. That's a missed opportunity for those who want to track whether they're hitting intensity zones during workouts.

The UP3 also uses heart rate monitoring for its advanced sleep tracking, giving you some insight into how your body deals with sleep. It's serves to fulfill curiosities without providing vital info, but it should appeal to the inner hypochondriac in us all.

For the person who wants (almost) everything

Similar to the Fitbit Surge, Jawbone has the UP4, the pinnacle of the company's technology thus far. It's only $20 (£13, AU$27) more than the UP3 but that's because it only gives us one new feature: Amex Payments. As you may have guessed, the UP4 is only currently available within the US.

Jawbone UP4

Hook up the UP4 to your American Express card and use it to pay for various things such as a taxi, coffee, or groceries, all through the contactless payment chip located on the wristband.

That's a pretty convenient bonus for regular fitness band users, saving them the effort of carrying cash or a card while out and about. However, the UP4 lacks contextual notifications, text and email alerts, meaning it's not a full replacement for a smartwatch and isn't as helpful as a tracker like the Surge.

Which Jawbone should you buy?

For most shoppers, you can easily break down the Jawbone between one of two choices, depending on your budget.

For the vast majority, the UP2 will offer everything you require. It does an effective job of tracking your waking and sleeping moments, and the smart alarm is great for producing better sleeping patterns. While some users might like the novelty of heart rate tracking, the $80 (AU$100, £40) difference between the UP2 and the UP3 is a lot for the sake of a daily heart rate check.

Jawbone UP2

However, if money isn't an issue, you might as well skip straight ahead to the UP4, despite being twice the price of the UP2. Contactless payments are the future, and not having to carry so much while out for a run, for example, is sure to be a great advantage.

While the UP app is second to none in terms of functionality (especially when it comes to connecting to other apps), the hardware itself seems to focus more on style than extensive functionality.

Forgoing screens that can offer SMS alerts and caller ID mean that the UP3 and UP4 lack options offered by the the Fitbit Surge. But Jawbone wearables are much more stylish devices, and lack of notifications aren't a complete deal breaker.

Looking more like bracelets than the chunky Fitbits, Jawbones suit most occasions and provide more comfort. The UP2 will cover most people's needs, even if it doesn't cater to every single desire. Meanwhile fitness fanatics will find themselves wanting more from the UP3 and UP4 - namely heart rate monitoring that works more frequently and doesn't just offer a resting heart rate. For that kind of functionality, you'll have to look elsewhere.

Jennifer Allen

Jennifer is a roving tech freelancer with over 10 years experience. Having graduated from Swansea University with a degree in Media and Communication Studies, and later with a diploma from Staffordshire University with a post graduate diploma in Computer Games Design, she's written for a huge number of publications, including T3, FitandWell, Top Ten Reviews, Eurogamer, NME and many more. 

Her main areas of interest are all things B2B, smart technology, wearables, speakers, headphones, and anything gaming related, and you'll find her writing everything from product reviews to buying guides and hunting down the latest coupon codes to save you money. In her spare time, she enjoys the cinema, walking, and attempting to train her pet guinea pigs. She is yet to succeed.