A year ago, Jawbone — the company best known for its Bluetooth headsets and Jambox portable speakers — got into an entirely new business with a wristband called Up. Like the Fitbit, Nike’s FuelBand and other products, Up was a bit of wearable technology which aimed to encourage healthy living by monitoring your activity and turning it into data you could track over time, using (in Up’s case) a smartphone app.
It was a neat idea and an elegant-looking little gadget. Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that the wristband had serious reliability issues — it sometimes failed to charge properly or simply stopped working altogether.
Jawbone dealt with the problem as best it could: It pulled Up from the market after just a few weeks, and told early customers that they could get a refund (and keep their wristbands). It also said that Up would be back.
And now it is. The company is releasing a new version of Up today, with a new companion iOS app. (An Android version is on its way.)
Everything that’s new about the band itself is invisible: On the outside, it looks just like its attractive-but-troublesome predecessor. It’s still a slender, bendable plastic loop, with a plug on one end which you use to connect the band to your iOS device and transfer the data it’s collected. (Jawbone may be famous for Bluetooth technology, but Up isn’t a wireless device.)
Upon diagnosing the original version’s failures, the company discovered that it wasn’t water-resistant enough, and that some customers twisted it in unexpected ways that damaged the interior components. So it reengineered the design, making it simpler and more robust. And then it performed vast amounts of testing to ensure that it would stand up to the way real people used the wristband, which is designed to be used 24/7, except when the user is charging and transferring data.
It also redid the app, which collects data about your movements both when you’re up and about and when you’re sleeping, but also lets you record details on items such as exercise you’ve performed and foods you’ve eaten (it can identify snacks from the UPC symbols on their wrappers).
I haven’t used the new version of Up yet, so I don’t have any definitive opinion other than that it’s still a cool concept and I hope the new version lives up to its promise. Offhand, I can’t think of another example of a major product which was yanked from the market and then attempted a comeback almost a year later. The good news for Jawbone is that none of Up’s numerous competitors sewed up the market in its absence. It’s still got as good a shot as any of its rivals at being a big deal.
Up is $129.99, and is available in eight colors and three sizes — small, medium and large.