Travis Bogard wants to get the obvious out of the way up front. Not five minutes after we sit down in a small conference room in Jawbone’s office in San Francisco, he says yes, he knows it took a long time to produce an Up3 that was ready for the masses. When Jawbone’s designers and engineers built prototypes of its powerful new fitness tracker they were waterproof to 10 meters. This was big news, and Jawbone proudly proclaimed the spec when it announced the band in November. But when its manufacturing partner started mass-producing the new bracelet, what came out of the factory just wasn’t passing the test. After months of tweaking the designs and production processes, Jawbone gave up—the new Up3 isn’t waterproof, but rather water-resistant.
On the plus side, you can finally get one! Months of pre-orders will be filled beginning April 20, and the $179 tracker will be available in stores and online as well. And lest you think the roadblocks suggest Jawbone has bitten off more innovation than it can chew, the company’s also introducing two new Up models: the Up2, on sale now, and the Up4, coming this summer.
The Up2 is functionally identical to the existing Up24, with basic activity and sleep tracking (and that great silent alarm feature), but has the same flexible, prettier, more comfortable body of the Up3. The Up24 was modeled after the infamous Livestrong bracelets everyone wore for a few months, but the rubbery look has gone the way of Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour de France victories, replaced by a more traditional bracelet aesthetic. Bogard points out the design a number of times, stacking it on top of a Fitbit Force as a reminder of just how much smaller it is. It comes in black and silver, and its $99 price hits an important spot in the market.
The $99 Up2 is a total redesign of the Up24. Jawbone
The Up4 is much more exciting. When—actually, that should be if, given Jawbone’s history—it comes out this summer, it’ll be the flagship model. After all that work, the Up3 gets only a brief moment in the sun. For $199 (only $20 more than the Up3), the Up4 also adds a handy new payment system courtesy of American Express. Bogard claims it works more or less like Apple Pay, using NFC to shuttle information between your device and your credit card company. Most of these systems are far from perfect, but in theory all you should have to do is tap your bracelet on a compatible reader and walk away. AmEx treats your Up4 like a credit card, in that it assumes you’re the one using it without other authentication. If your bracelet is stolen or lost, you can quickly use the app to disconnect your card. Jawbone’s case here is surprisingly compelling: the Up’s battery lasts days, not hours, and it’s explicitly made to never come off your body. The only cognitive workload left is figuring out if the store you’re shopping in has an NFC-capable reader, but those are quickly becoming ubiquitous too.
With the Up3 and Up4, Jawbone’s beginning to collect an enormous amount of data about its users. The new devices track your heart rate and hydration levels, the temperature of both your skin and your surroundings, and much more. But Bogard and Jawbone are crystal-clear about the fact that none of this data is useful unless it’s helping you do more and live better. The company’s “Smart Coach” feature is becoming ever more personalized and powerful, offering specific and actionable tips. It has really interesting ways of correlating data, too; Smart Coach can figure out that you’re always more active when you sleep even 30 minutes more, and can tell you exactly when to go to sleep.
When fitness trackers can not only tell us how to live better but invisibly help us do so, they'll become immensely powerful tools.
And soon, Bogard says, it could go even further. The Up3 will know that you’re sleeping poorly, and that your body temperature is higher than it should be. It can already tell you the next morning to turn the temperature down when you go to bed, but soon, thanks to its integrations with Nest and others, it might be able to just turn down the thermostat for you. When fitness trackers can not only tell us how to live better but invisibly help us do so, they’ll become immensely powerful tools. That’s what Jawbone is after, and that’s why there are so many sensors inside the Up3 and Up4. The company has been talking about this for a while, and the new devices seem to be the keys to unlock that potential.
Jawbone, as it has always been, is full of good ideas. It’s outrageously ambitious, and almost always in the right way. Yet its history is riddled with complications, particularly with its wristwear. Making this stuff is hard work—not to mention phenomenally, company-threateningly expensive—and the Up line hasn’t always gotten it right. But if Jawbone has really, truly solved its production woes, the Up3 and Up4 may prove that Jawbone is onto something much bigger than “fitness tracking.”