Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Jawbone’s New Up Band Syncs Wirelessly, Costs $20 More

The new activity-tracking wristband from Jawbone Up
a) syncs your data to your iPhone over Bluetooth,
b) works with an updated version of the app that offers more insight and inspiration,
c) takes baby steps rather than a giant leap forward in the “smart” wearable device category,
d) all of the above.

If you guessed choice “d,” you are correct! Jawbone, the San Francisco-based maker of popular Bluetooth audio devices and now the Up wristband, has just released the next next version of its activity tracker.

Called Up24, this wristband sends all of your activity information to its compatible app via Bluetooth 4.0, unlike the previous Up band, which had to be manually plugged into the phone’s audio jack to send data.

And the just-released version of the Up app — Up 3.0 — promises more motivational features, such as a “Today I Will” option that prompts you to commit to goals like going to bed by a certain time or drinking more water. There’s also a new Activity Log, a vertical connect-the-dots display of your activities that’s accessible by swiping down from the app’s home screen.

As with the previous version of the app, Up 3.0 works with partner apps like RunKeeper, Strava, MyFitnessPal and iFit. So the Up app aims to be a one-stop destination for many of your fitness and health needs.

Here’s the thing: The new Up24 band, which looks almost identical to the old one (except for a slightly different swirl pattern on the band), costs $149, compared with $129 for the original Up (which is still being sold, and will work with the new app). So, it’s basically $20 extra for real-time Bluetooth syncing.

Jawbone hasn’t gone the route of the Fitbit Force, which added a tiny display and an altimeter, which measures when you go up stairs. And the company hasn’t gotten fancy with skin sensors or a heart-rate monitor. Up24 even has a slightly shorter battery life than the previous version. And it doesn’t work with Android phones at launch.

The most noteworthy changes, then, are within the new app. It can take several days of use before the app will really start to show its full potential, so I’m looking forward to seeing how this works.

It’s not entirely surprising that Jawbone has opted to focus more on fine-tuning its software — earlier this year, the company bought BodyMedia for a hefty sum, and acquired two smaller mobile app firms; it has also been hiring data scientists and software engineers. As I wrote earlier this year, these moves are so the company can bolster some of the software components and data analysis that are so critical to the success of the Jawbone Up.

In September, Jawbone raised more than $100 million through debt financing and new equity.

Interestingly, Jawbone said it doesn’t see the emerging smartwatch category as cause for concern. “I don’t see the smartwatches as competing with what we’re doing,” Jawbone’s vice president of product management and strategy, Travis Bogard, said in an interview. “We know that sleep is something people are interested in, and you’re not going to sleep with a smartwatch. And once you pack everything into a smartwatch, you’re charging it every night.”

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