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Jawbone's new trio of Up2, Up3 and Up4 bands: Fitness tracking, heart rate and mobile payments (hands-on)

Jawbone's Up2 and Up3 are available to order now, and the mobile payments-enabled Up4 is coming this summer. We have two of the bands, and saw the third up close.

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The long-delayed Jawbone Up3 fitness tracker is finally about to hit stores. But it's not alone: Jawbone is bringing two other fitness bands to market this year: the Up2 and Up4. The former replaces 2013's Up24 , while the latter adds on-band wireless payments from American Express.

The three new trackers -- all of which have no display, and instead rely on wireless Bluetooth connectivity to a user's iPhone or Android phone -- enter an increasingly competitive market for smartwatches and fitness trackers just ahead of the much-hyped Apple Watch , set to be released later this month.

I took a look at all three new Jawbones during a briefing with the company earlier this week in New York.

The Up3 is pretty low-profile, for a fitness band. Sarah Tew / CNET

Up3: Jawbone's heart rate band

The Jawbone Up3, Jawbone's new flagship band: it's available to order from Jawbone.com for $180, but it's shipping April 20 or later, depending on when you ordered it.

Why the delay? It's partly due to the band now being "splash-proof" versus waterproof. According to Jawbone, manufacturing challenges prevented the company from attaining a truly swim-friendly band. The new Up bands can all be worn in the shower or while washing hands, just like the last Up24 band.

We have a review unit here at CNET that we're just getting set up. It's much lighter and thinner than the older Jawbone Up24 band, with an adjustable metal clasp. There's still no display: the Up3 has basic LED status lights, but otherwise uses your phone app to show your fitness data. The Up3 adds heart rate tracking, but with a different technology than other heart rate trackers: it measures bio-impedance using metal contacts on the inside -- technology originally in armbands made by BodyMedia, which Jawbone bought in 2013. The Up3 tracks heart rate, ambient and skin temperature, galvanic skin response, and could even allow stress measurement in the future.

The band's low-key design makes it the slimmest fitness tracker I've ever seen, but not the easiest to put on: the one-size-fits-all clasp takes a lot of fiddling to adjust and attach. It charges via a new magnetic USB dongle that snaps on to the back easily.

I wore the Up3 in the shower once already, and all seemed fine. But for full review testing, stay tuned as I wear it for a week and see how it performs.

The Up2 feels smaller and snugger than the Up24. Sarah Tew / CNET

Jawbone Up2: basic fitness

The Jawbone Up2 is a replacement for last year's Up24 band. There's no heart rate tracking, but it's got the same new design as the Up3, the same 7-day battery life, and the same sleep- and activity-tracking functions as previous Up bands. At $100, it's more attractively priced than before, and its design, while in some ways less iconic, has a size that should look good on any wrist.

It's at a great price, but the existing Up24 band has frequently been on sale for the same price or even less. The Up2 has a new design, but the clasp could be a turn-off for some compared to the original band's easy-on mechanism.

The Up2 can be ordered through Jawbone.com and Amazon online now, and will be in Best Buy retail stores starting April 19 in the "Black Diamond" color seen here, with other retailers to follow. It'll also be available in light grey and silver later on. Like the Up3, the Up2 is a US-only product for now: international availability is slated for "later this year," according to Jawbone. We also have an Up2 in-house: stay tuned for that review.

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The Jawbone Up4, making a payment. Scott Stein/CNET

Jawbone Up4: mobile payments, too

To further confuse the landscape, there's also a Jawbone Up4 arriving this summer. It's the Up3 band with added NFC-based mobile payments baked in, operating similarly to Apple Pay: a unique tokenized credit card number gets sent to the band, and can be deactivated without cancelling your credit card.

Unlike phone-based payment services like Apple Pay or Samsung Pay, or even the Apple Watch, the the Jawbone Up4 doesn't use any passwords: once paired with your band, you just tap to pay at a store. That also means someone could take your band and go shopping, but American Express will enable instant deactivation of that payment number at any time in the event of fraud. The band doesn't need to be on or paired for the deactivation to take effect, since payment authorization happens at the bank's end.

It's a bit like Disney's MagicBands, in concept: a simple wearable that just goes with you and works.

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The wireless icon shows it has NFC, but it's only American Express-enabled right now. Scott Stein/CNET

The Up4 will cost $200, twenty dollars more than the Up3. You need to be an American Express cardholder to use the Up4, and you need to find a contactless payment terminal that accepts American Express: many of them do, but it's not necessarily guaranteed. Other banks and credit card companies aren't currently signed on to Jawbone's Up4, and they might never be. You can apply for an American Express card within Jawbone's new app, but you'll need to wait for it to arrive by mail the old-fashioned way: you can't get instantly add a newly generated credit card to the band using your phone.

All the new bands use Jawbone's newly updated app: the purple one (Jawbone has two similar-looking Up apps). The blue Jawbone Up app syncs with older bands and the $50 Jawbone Up Move. Confusing? Yes, but at least you know now. For more impressions on the new coaching features and heart rate tracking strategy of Jawbone's ecosystem, which favors resting heart rate over active heart rate, read the full review once we've had a chance to use the bands for a week.