Nov. 13, 2012 -- Jawbone is living by that old idiom: If you fall off the horse, you must get back on.
Almost a year after releasing its Up product, a wearable fitness tracker, which had widespread hardware issues, the company is re-releasing the product with a host of improvements and a message that it's learned from its errors.
"Last year we launched Up to great fanfare. We struck a chord with consumers and then, of course, we started seeing issues," Travis Bogard, VP product management & strategy, at Jawbone told ABC News. "At the core we realized that we pushed the hardware too far, further than we understood at the time."
Plugging the holes
The Up, which was and still is a flexible bracelet, had two distinct issues that led to the hardware failures and thus the returns, Bogard explains now. The first was that small amounts of water were able to get into the band, causing moisture and contaminants to break some of the internal technology. The second was that the bendable nature of the band caused some of the tech components to break; people were bending and playing with the bracelet more than Jawbone had anticipated.
"In the last year we have learned a ton and we learned a lot from what became this beta in the real world. We got a lot of rich data from our users," Bogard explained. And with that the company built the next version of the Up, which is launching today in eight colors for $129.99.
Jawbone says it has fixed the major hardware deficiencies. After 2.9 million hours of testing and 46 weeks of user trials, Jawbone now feels confident that the next version won't have the same water resistance and the flexibility issues. It has perfected the design it says and created 141 new parts.
"We had to create whole new tests for this. We even created our own shower called the Big Shower 2000 –- it would go through different heats of water, different containments of water, and then bend it thousands of times," Bogard said.
A tracker that blends
All that to create a flexible, sensor-equipped bracelet that can track your steps and sleep, but doesn't actually look like a piece of technology. The rubber bracelet looks just like a regular bracelet, until you take off the cap at the end and see the 3.5 mm headphone jack. The jack plugs into your phone and then syncs with an app. It only works with for the time being with the iPhone; Jawbone says it is working on Android compatibility now. There is also no website portal at the moment -- you are only able to check your stats through your phone.
Similar to a FitBit or the other fitness gadgets out there, it tracks your steps and your sleep and it then organizes that information by day in the attractive app. You can view your progress and set goals for yourself. In addition to the activity part, there is a place for tracking your calorie intake; you can even scan a bar code or nutritional information using the camera on your phone and it will input it in your daily summary. The sleep function tracks your hours of sleep and when you slept the best. You can also set an alarm in the bracelet, which will wake you by a light vibration.
But unlike those other fitness gadgets it doesn't pair with your phone via Bluetooth. You have to take the bracelet off every time and plug it into the phone when you want to pair it and see how many steps you've taken. It also doesn't have a display right on the device either, meaning there's no knowing how many steps you've taken unless you plug it in. The FitBit Zip and the Nike FuelBand, by comparison, pair with a phone wirelessly and have displays right on the device.
But according to Jawbone the whole purpose of the Up is to blend in – to not make it look like technology.
"We think it has to be something that passively disappears into your life. The design bar was that it had to be something you would wear anyway. We don't want people to know there is technology in it," Bogard said. "It ultimately becomes functional jewelry; that intersection between something you would wear but something that serves a purpose."
Ironically, the last time around the technology got right in the way of that goal. But this time Jawbone and Bogard are confident that it won't be falling off the horse.
"Knowing what we now know and what other products are out there, none are going to live quite the same way."