For the past several weeks, Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman and product VP Travis Bogard have been wearing the next generation of the company’s popular UP wristband everywhere–at the office, at home, out in public. The pair was discreet, but never worried about the device falling into the wrong hands.
“That’s the nice thing about wearables,” Bogard laughs–the odds of forgetting them at a bar are very low.
Today, however, after much testing, Rahman and Bogard finally unveiled Jawbone’s newest product, the UP24. Along with an upgraded UP app, the UP24 fitness-tracking band improves on many features of its predecessor. But the larger promise of the device is what it signals for the future of wearable computing: seamless syncing and interactions, passive real-time updates, and a burgeoning ecosystem of connected devices.
Except for a subtle texture change, the $149 UP24 is similar to the original UP’s form factor. Like before, the band stretches around and clenches to your wrist, measuring everything from the steps you’ve taken to the calories you’ve burned to the hours you’ve slept. The major difference is that UP24 has Bluetooth, enabling users to track fitness metrics wirelessly in real time, without the hassle of plugging the device into your smartphone to sync your data.
To sync the original UP, users had to uncap the end of the bracelet and plug it into a smartphone via the headphone jack. It sounds like a minor inconvenience but it was a serious pain point. Jawbone recommended the device be synced two times per day, meaning users would have to remove the band from their wrists, plug it into their phone, and then put it back on, an annoying process that quickly caused fatigue. Worse, users were without access to instant feedback throughout the day: What distance have I traveled? How long have I been active? How well did I sleep? Unless you glued your phone and UP together multiple times each day, you would have no idea how well you were performing. After a while, I found myself forgetting to sync my data or simply giving up on the device altogether.
With UP24, though, the data is constantly fed to your device, allowing Jawbone to deliver updated metrics on your daily activity. The company smartly provides helpful notifications throughout the day to your phone. “When I wake up, my first question is, How did I sleep? Now, right there on my [smartphone] home screen is the summary of last night’s sleep–no need to plug UP in,” Bogard says. Throughout the day, Jawbone triggers notifications to keep you motivated and on track to meet your goals, whether that’s providing nudges to say you’re close to walking a certain number of steps or to suggest that you be in bed by a particular time to get eight hours of sleep.
It’s similar to what Nike has done with its new FuelBand SE, which likewise uses Bluetooth to automate syncing. (Before, users needed to manually press a button to sync the FuelBand with their iPhone.) It signals a future of seamless connections between smartphones and wearables, whether wristbands like UP and FuelBand or smartwatches from Samsung and Qualcomm.
The idea here is to remove the friction from the process. With the original UP, a user had to press a small button on the end of the band to tell it to begin tracking sleep. Now, thanks to a software update, both the UP and UP24 are now capable of recovering your sleep data, whether you told it you were taking a nap or not. With UP24, because the data syncs in real time, the company will begin to passively provide live feedback to improve your habits the more you use it. “It allows us to deliver smart and timely and actionable insights tailored to you,” Bogard says. Foursquare, for comparison, now can passively track your location to deliver venue tips and suggestions–what cocktail to order, what food item to purchase. Jawbone is now doing the same thing, only with fitness data. Expect more apps to follow suit.
Rahman and Bogard see it as part of a larger ecosystem of products all talking to one another, thanks in part to the UP platform, which roughly 100 developers are building on. The two envision the device being an integral part of the connected home. “With the real-time aspect of UP24, you start to see a glimpse of where the world can go,” Bogard says. “When I put the UP in sleep mode, my lights can shut off automatically. Or if I’ve been asleep for eight hours, my lights can come on automatically to smooth my wake up.”
He also imagines using the device to do everything from making sure your doors are locked at night to potentially turning on your coffee maker in the morning. “This ‘Internet of things’ trend starts to transition into the ‘Internet of me,'” Bogard adds.
The UP24 isn’t without issues. The new device gets just seven days of battery life instead of ten with the original UP. Moreover, because there’s no display on the device, a smartphone is still required to make its data accessible, meaning you won’t be able to view your progress on a run unless you bring your iPhone with you. That’s not the case with the FuelBand or FitBit’s Force, both of which provide real-time feedback right on the band’s display.
But Bogard says adding a screen was unnecessary because growing the form factor was a non-starter.
“We’ve done all this while maintaing the form factor and not growing it,” he says. “We think the size is inherently what makes this wearable.”