Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Jawbone Takes Next Step in Fitness-Tracking Race, Launches UP for Android

Four months after its re-launch on iPhone, the Jawbone UP activity tracker is finally coming to Android.

The Jawbone UP wristband and compatible mobile app will now work the with the Samsung Galaxy SII, the SIII, the Note II, the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD and the LG Optimus G, among other Android phones available in the U.S.

The Android UP app will have most of the same functions of the iOS app, minus some newer social sharing and commenting features.

Jawbone is also introducing 11 new languages for iOS. Lastly, the UP will now ship to Europe, and sometime next month will become available in Asia, Australia, and the Middle East.

The UP, in case you’re not familiar with it, is a $130, wearable activity-tracking wristband that measures your daily steps and sleep patterns. The UP mobile app lets the wearer input calories consumed, workout activities and even fluctuating moods. (Last year the company suffered a setback when the first UP malfunctioned, resulting in paused production for several months.)

The Android app introduction was spurred partly by data that shows users are more likely to stay engaged with UP — and move around alot more — when their friends are also using UP, according to Travis Bogard, Jawbone’s VP of product management and strategy.

But Jawbone’s Android announcement also comes at a time of increasing competition. There’s also the Nike+ FuelBand, the Larklife band, the Basis Band. FitBit, maker of a popular clip-on tracker of the same name, is set to launch an activity wristband any day now, one that will work with both iPhone and Android devices.

And the biggest challenge could come from giant handset makers that embed health features directly into mobile phones, “smart” watches and other wearable devices.

Samsung’s S-Health App on the Galaxy S4.

Between the pile-on of new phone features and the Kabuki theater that was Samsung’s Galaxy S4 announcement last week, it might have been easy to miss that Samsung is stepping into the health-and-fitness activity-tracking market.

The Android-based S4 will include a native app called S-Health, which maintains a daily log of steps taken, workout activities and calories consumed. The app will work in conjunction with a wearable fitness band, as well as a scale and heart rate monitor.

It’s unclear right now whether the S-Health products will be backwards compatible, working with the SIII or other Samsung phones. It will depend on the types of sensors present in older phone models. If they do work with other phones, Samsung’s potential market grows much larger.

To date, the total addressable market for health-and-activity trackers has been, by some estimates, pretty small.

Anecdotally, I’ve seen growing interest among (non-techie) friends and relatives as they’ve noticed others sporting various wristbands and sleep monitors. I often get emails from readers and friends asking which is the best device to consider.

Hardware-makers embedding these tracking features directly into devices seems a natural evolution of activity-tracking, and would streamline that decision-making process for consumers.

Then again, some consumers these days change smartphones as frequently as they change underwear, constantly upgrading to the latest and greatest, and gadgets like the Jawbone UP and FitBit will hop with you from phone to phone.

“I think Samsung getting into activity-tracking just shows increasing validation of the space,” Bogard insists. “The stuff that’s going to be worn, though, is the stuff that’s comfortable and doesn’t get in the way of daily activity. And frankly, this stuff is hard to build — we know that better than everyone else.”

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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