Jawbone has announced two new fitness trackers to go alongside its existing flagship UP3 band, which is finally shipping this week after a production delay of several months. With more advanced sensor technology and a fledgling mobile payments system, they represent the next generation of fitness trackers at a time when many are wondering if they have a future at all.
As far as wearables go, so far 2015 has been the year of the smartwatch—the Apple Watch, Pebble Time and numerous other devices are testament to that. With all these intelligent timepieces featuring multiple sensors and smartphone notifications kicking around, the question is whether there’s still room for devices that focus solely on activity tracking.
Jawbone certainly thinks so. The company’s new line-up offers three devices that are similar in appearance but different in functionality: the UP2 (announced today, on sale now), the UP3 (announced in November, on sale this week), and the UP4 (announced today, on sale later in the summer).
Up, Up, Up And Away
The UP2 is Jawbone’s old UP24 tracker shrunk down and wrapped in a new UP3-style suit of clothes. It doesn’t have the advanced heart rate and extra sleep tracking capabilities of the UP3 or UP4, but it only costs $100. Like the UP24, it measures steps, activity, calories and sleep.
Then there’s the $180 UP3, announced last year and finally shipping this week after a delay in production. Jawbone promises it’s the company’s most accurate fitness tracker yet, thanks to a bioimpedance heart rate monitor and sensors for skin conductivity, temperature and sweat. Wearers can get more detailed information about their cardiovascular health and individual sleep stages than they could with previous Jawbone kit.
These advanced electronics also make their way into the newly unveiled UP4, coming this summer for a $20 premium over the UP3 price. That extra markup gets you an NFC-powered mobile payment feature that for the moment only works with American Express cards—users link a card via a smartphone app and can then pay for items with a tap of their fitness band.
In the design of all three new bands, watch faces and flashing lights are most definitely out. “Too many bright displays, techy beeps and LEDs have invaded our lives,” writes Jawbone’s Yves Behar. “Health and lifestyle data is of greatest value if people track their progress continuously all day and night. A small and lightweight device on the wrist makes it something we forget we are wearing, in a good way.”
All the bands come with Jawbone’s colorful app for analyzing statistics and a Smart Coach utility that takes collected data and makes exercise, diet and sleep recommendations based on it.
Fitness Tracker 2.0
Jawbone isn’t the only manufacturer rolling out extra goodies for users. Misfit this week announced an upgrade to its mobile app that lets users interact with Yo, Spotify and other services from their wearables—music playback can be started or stopped with a double tap, for example.
Like Jawbone’s line-up, Misfit’s range of products focus on fitness tracking with a minimal and discreet aesthetic. With almost every other firm—including Microsoft, Fitbit and HTC—producing chunkier smartband/smartwatch hybrids that tell the time and display smartphone notifications, it will be interesting to see which strategy pays off.
After all, aren’t wearables supposed to be near-invisible extensions to our bodies rather than cut-down mini-smartphones? Jawbone and Misfit will be hoping there’s still a market for devices that maximize functionality while minimizing bulk.
Images courtesy of Jawbone and HTC