FitBit Charge HR vs. Jawbone's UP3

Austria (May 2014)

In 2014 Justin and I went to Europe for the first time and traveled to France, Germany, Austria, and Italy with friends. Our in-person time with these friends, in the past, had been limited to one day + a wedding + a dinner (or two), so our interactions with them had been fairly limited. In the midst of trip-planning, my husband and I got booted from our rental home and found ourselves in a desperate search for a new place to live and only two months to find it, so travel-planning took a backseat to our everyday lives. I decided we would just "play [this trip] by ear". Of course, our German friends do spontaneity a bit differently than us and we ended up having a hotel booked for each destination at least a day before our arrival. (So much for my "Hey! – There's a hotel! Let's see if they have a room!" approach.)

Back to trip-planning – While I was spending my days before the trip practicing all of the languages on Duolingo, making sure we had every plug we could possibly need, and learning about how easy it is to get Euros when you have a Schwab debit card, I wasn't considering how big of a role walking would play in our European adventure. In the US, especially where I live, you have to drive absolutely everywhere. My job is 45 minutes away with no traffic, you have to commit at least 30 minutes to a grocery store run (most likely more), and you will get run over if you try to walk anywhere. (The speed limit on the road right outside my neighborhood is 55mph.) Walking, assuming you have time after your daily commute, just doesn't happen.

But over in Europe? They walk. And walk … and walk … and walk. Up hills. Up stairs. Up everything. (Yes, I have decided that 90% of walking there involves up.) If you find parking, it's probably within a 45-minute walk of your hotel that is, inevitably, up the largest hill in the town or city. (Ok – at this point, I'm exaggerating a little.) Nevertheless, there is a lot of walking in Europe. 

When it came time to prepare for #EuroTrip2, we knew more of what to expect. I planned and booked all of the hotels in advance! There would be no "playing it by ear" German or American style. And the walking… *groan*

So, to make our #EuroNewYearTrip walking more exciting, I asked Justin if we could get activity trackers. I wanted to see how many steps I took on vacation with friends in comparison to how many steps I took on a daily basis. After a little bit of research, I bought myself the UP3 and Justin the Fitbit Charge HR. I was looking forward to daily suggestions and goals … and Justin just wanted a Fitbit.

We got Justin's first. Wal Mart was having a sale. I ordered the Fitbit Charge HR online and put the pick-up information under Justin's name. Then, when we went to pick it up on a bitingly cold, rainy night, I decided to stay in the car and keep warm. Justin ran in, only to run back out when they refused to acknowledge him. Oh – Wal Mart ftw! (I say sarcastically.) Apparently, I was the only one who could pick up the Fitbit. *rolls eyes* So, I sauntered into the store and got in the line of like two people (one of which was getting pictures printed and the employee had to make sure every image was printed perfectly and cut to size before moving on to the next customer… #anhourlost).  Finally, we emerged from the store with a Fitbit Charge HR extraordinaire in our hands. :-/ Justin happily put it on charge that night as he waited impatiently to set it up and begin using it.

The arrival of my Jawbone UP3 tracker was a lot less exciting. I had ordered online during a sale, so there was no line-waiting or cold, rainy, winter nights wherein I would be forced out of my warm car. All I had to do was check the mail. And one day it magically appeared! :)


The set-up process for both bands was pretty similar. You get it home, unbox it, and plug it in. I forget exactly how long you have to wait before using them. Justin and I both pretty much gave them a full night's charge for the first one. Then Bam! Done!

Set-up involved downloading an app, signing in, and then tapping your band to your phone (wi-fi, I guess?). The Fitbit connected easily, but the UP3 took a minute. Then it needed an update? Overall, FitBit's app is much more set-up friendly than Jawbone's. BUT you only ever set it up once (per phone and wristband), so does it really matter? Despite the fact that I had a computer engineer with me when I set up my wristband, it's not like I actually needed one.

Then came the testing.


Day one had me concerned. We drove from our home in the suburban outskirts of Atlanta to the city and quickly my step-counter went up to 3,000 or more steps while Justin's stayed steady. Needless to say, I was confused. If this happens to your UP3, don't become too concerned. Over the next few weeks, my numbers evened out. They still aren't the same as the FitBit's, but, for me, I never cared enough about accurate footsteps for it to matter too much. To discover which band is more accurate, you will have to visit another blog. :-/ Sorry.

Next, the heart rate counter. Because I had been seeing a high heart rate and blood pressure reading every time I had my blood pressure checked, this was one thing I was truly concerned about and one of the main reasons I bought the UP3. I wanted to see if just the knowledge that I was having my blood pressure checked was causing the high readings. In my humble opinion, I think it was; however, you can never be completely sure. From what I have been able to tell with blood pressure checks at home and bpm counts by hand, the UP3 is pretty accurate; I haven't run into any situation where the numbers are really far off.

The main difference between the FitBit HR and the Jawbone UP3 heart rate counter is that the Fitbit is constantly checking your pulse while the UP3 checks it only occasionally and randomly at that. I've found that if I pull up the app on my phone and click on the heart rate, it will check my heart rate at that moment, but I won't know the number until the app refreshes … potentially a few minutes later or an hour or more. Justin, on the other hand, can see his bpm (and steps counted and time) straight from his wrist right after the number has been taken.

(Side note: If you think you are experiencing high blood pressure or high beats per minute regularly and you aren't sure of the cause, go visit your doctor. Don't rely on a fitness tracker.)

Jawbone UP3 app - FitBit Charge HR app


While everything else has been relatively the same with the FitBit HR and Jawbone UP3, this is where the two products part ways.

The JawBone UP3 app:
• Tracks your sleep differentiating light, deep, and REM sleep and the time your body spent in each (estimates, of course).
• Provides options for input of food eaten, water drank, current weight, and 5 or so basic moods.
• Gives you goals like: go to bed at 10:59PM, establish a consistent wake-up time, take 1500 steps today, drink 8 glasses of water today, etc… The goals are specific and work with what the tracker is seeing with regards to your heart rate, sleep numbers, and exercise times.
• You also have regular daily goals (10,000 steps, 8 hours of sleep) you are encouraged to meet.
• At the end of each week and month, the app updates you on your goal status. (How many nights this month did you meet the 8-hour average? How many days did you take 10,000 or more steps?)
• There is an option to see graphs comparing your daily, weekly and monthly step and sleeping goals.
• Connect with friends to compete with one another!
• Set an alarm for the UP3 to wake you up at when it thinks is best.

The Fitbit HR
• Does not provide as much sleep data as the UP3. It does show how many hours you have slept, though.
• Shows you far more information regarding your steps taken like how many stories you have climbed and how many miles you have walked.
• It shows how many carbs/fat/calories you've lost based on your fitness levels
• Not only can you connect and compare with friends, you can also message them through the app.
• It tells you your heart rate zones that you should be at during exercise.
• You can change all day sync vs. manual sync.
• You can set up personalized goals – for exercise, steps, etc…
• Food and water input allows the tracker to be more individualized for you.


The best product for you is the one that tracks what you need. If you are more into exercise or trying to lose weight, I recommend the Fitbit Charge HR. If you are just trying to keep track of numbers (sleep, heart rate, steps), the UP3 is a little more simple and provides very specific goals for you. 

With the UP3, over the course of two months, I have been able to watch what raises my heart rate (caffeine, stress) and avoid it for an overall lower bpm number. I've also discovered how to get more sleep at night without taking natural supplements (less screen time, more leafy greens at dinner, pineapple?!?). 

On the other hand, Justin, who is more fitness-oriented, has enjoyed counting his steps and getting the most out of his time active with his Fitbit Charge HR. 

I love the smaller bracelet-sized UP3 band while my husband prefers the larger watch-sized FitBit.

What are you looking for in a fitness tracker? Do you want small and basic? Or large with lots of features? Either way – you can't lose out! So long as you pay attention to and learn from your numbers, you will be improving your health!

Buy the Fitbit Charge HR here and the Jawbone UP3 here.


  1. Great post! I've always thought about getting an activity tracker, but have kind of set that idea off to the side for a while. Thanks for linking up with Travel Tuesday!

    1. Activity trackers are expensive and worth taking the time to consider before simply jumping into a purchase. Hopefully I provided you with some insight so that when, and if, the time comes for you to purchase one, you will know best what you want. :)

  2. Oooh. I've been thinking about a Fitbit for a while now but the sleep related elements of the Jawbone have given me pause for thought. Thanks for this, very helpful!

    1. Awesome! Glad I could help! :) The Jawbone is much better for tracking sleep and even has an alarm to wake you up when it suspects you are in the best state for that. The Fitbit, on the other hand, wakes you up based on time and only tracks how long you are asleep. Honestly I wish the two brands could be combined, but since they can't, Jawbone definitely offers a better product for sleep tracking. :)


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