Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Jawbone Gears Up for a Second Shot at Wearable Tech

Jawbone’s foray into wearable fitness tech has been, well, up and down.

The new Jawbone Up

But now, nearly a year after the company pressed “pause” on its first activity-tracking wristband, Jawbone is giving it a second go.

The new Up band, announced today, promises to fix earlier issues with the product, and comes with much-improved mobile software that offers a more comprehensive data-tracking experience.

The Up looks pretty much the same as it always did. But the company says the band has improved water resistance — one of the reasons why the first band couldn’t hold a battery charge — and better circuit-board pliancy, allowing it to be flexible while protecting the tiny components inside from damage.

In addition to recording activity, the Up mobile app now includes a Trends tab that allows side-by-side comparisons of personal metrics. There are also Moods, which allow the user to say if they’re feeling cranky or like they’re going to conquer the world on any particular day; and more detailed food logging, with a bar-code scanner for scanning food items.

With the last Up, Jawbone’s solution for food tracking was to tell users to snap and add photos to the app. Now, Up provides actual data, like calories and grams of sugar in a particular food item.

And for users who want to track intense workouts, there are now options to log running, yoga or cycling sessions, among other activities.

The wristband costs $129 — $30 more than the original Up — and hits the market today. It’s available through the Apple Store, AT&T, Target, Best Buy and Jawbone’s own Web site. The free app works only on iOS devices to start.

The redesigned Up arrives 11 months after Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman had to issue an apology to some Up owners who were complaining about technical and design issues with the first wristband.

Jawbone also initiated a “no questions asked” refund program (which the company says is technically still in effect, for those who haven’t yet requested a refund on the original Up).

Since then, the Bay Area-based start-up has conducted 46 weeks of user tests and trials, across “thousands” of Jawbone Up devices, the company said.

In the foreground: The guts of the new Jawbone Up, compared with the earlier model

While the redesigned band boasts some important features that weren’t in the previous version of the product, it’s coming to market at a time of increasing competition in the area where mobile health meets wearable tech.

Earlier this year, Nike introduced its own version of an activity-tracking wristband, the Nike+ FuelBand, which also syncs with an iPhone app. Nike uses its own currency, called “fuel,” to measure the wearer’s exertion level.

And Lark, maker of a wearable sleep sensor, just announced its own holistic wristband-with-app, called Larklife, that tracks activity, sleep and eating patterns. Lark CEO Julia Hu declined to give details on when the product will launch, except to say it will hit “this holiday season.”

Both the Nike+ FuelBand and the Larklife bands cost around $150.

But there’s likely to be more competition in the near future. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this coming January, the CEA expects to see more than 215 exhibitors — about 25,000 square feet of exhibit space — devoted to tech surrounding weight loss, body mass, calorie-tracking and other areas of health and wellness. Compared with last year’s CES, this is a 25 percent increase in tech health exhibitors, according to Jeff Joseph, senior vice president of communications for the CEA.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik