What’s going on at Jawbone?

Almost four years after a Jawbone UP got us hooked on wearable tech, we’ve got a ‘new’ UP3 smart wristband. Our return to Jawbone made us wonder what is going on at the company, since it has been notably quiet in the wearables market.

Our new UP3 was an impulse purchase. This latest in our long line of smart wristbands was also the cheapest – just EUR 39, or around $45 for a brand new device, around a third of the original retail price for UP3.

Jawbone was THE pioneer of smart wristbands, and launched UP before Fitbit arrived with its first wrist-worn tracker, the Flex. In fact, it was the purchase of an UP in the spring of 2013 which inspired the launch of this blog.

Yet over the last couple of years, Jawbone has gone off the boil. The firm hasn’t launched anything really new since November 2014, when it introduced the UP3, right in the middle of the smart wristband wars. Back then, Jawbone was slugging it out with Fitbit, and already behind on market share. Instead of continuing to add functions to its wristbands, as Fitbit has done, Jawbone went down the contrarian path – and to this day, not one of its smart bands even has a digital display.

Since the April 2015 launch of a mobile payment-enabled version of the Jawbone UP3, called the UP4, and a major firmware update  in November 2015, the only updates have been a few bug fixes to the iPhone and Android apps.

Despite a blog post from June 1, 2016  saying “We’re still committed”, attributed to CEO Hosain Rahman, media reports in early February 2017 again suggest Jawbone is exiting the wearables market.

The company remains tight-lipped, but Jawbone does appear to be undergoing major transformation. The latest employee comments on salary comparison site Glassdoor include this gem: “If you can handle ambiguity, uncertainty, and excitement – Jawbone’s got it! If you need security, predictability, an easy ride, a secure future – keep looking.”

Meanwhile several former and current employees urge the company’s management to pay more attention to their future direction, with Glassdoor quotes offering insights such as “stop supporting the CEO’s daydreams and move on”, “do they admire you as a team? Not yet” and “be realistic”.

Despite all this, Jawbone is hiring: Recent posts include a Senior Document Control Specialist for its HQ in San Francisco, with requirements including fluency in English, and “working knowledge of Mandarin is a plus”.

Jawbone’s job ads provide an insight into the company’s future direction. A post for Senior DevOps Engineer outlines how with “millions of user devices streaming data into our systems in real time, we also run massive-scale expert systems used to deliver Jawbone UP’s unique insight system and power the machine learning and big data analytics used to develop Jawbone’s next generation of algorithms and devices”.

Let’s translate that. Jawbone is using “expert systems” to analyse the real-time data that gets sent back from devices worn by millions of customers. In addition, it is using machine learning and big data analytics to derive value from this data – which hints at the company’s future direction. Another job post seeks someone to “Build self-monitoring, robust, scalable interfaces and data pipelines for 24/7 operations” – further proving it’s all about the data.

All the signs are Jawbone really has changed its business model. Therefore, the UP3/UP4 looks likely to be the company’s last smart wristband. If you’re interested in a bargain tracker, then take a look at the Jawbone UP3 – if you can find one, of course. Most links to retailers we tried on Jawbone’s homepage led to “not found” errors or “out of stock” reports, although Amazon usually has stock.

/WTW

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: