If Jawbone UP is no more, someone needs to save the software from the scrapheap

The writing has been on the wall, but we hope it's not really over
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I wrote a piece back in April this year on how it'd all been very quiet on the Jawbone front. Just a month later it seemed as if my question had been answered. Rumours began to swirl that Jawbone had halted UP production, selling off the remaining fitness trackers to a third-party seller.

Unsurprisingly, Jawbone was quick to squash those rumours, but with no new devices in sight, there's now yet more evidence that the end is nigh with reports that it has been trying to sell UP to another hardware manufacturer. That's along with ongoing rumours that Jawbone is also in the process of selling off its speaker business.

If it is the end, then it will arguably be the first major wearable tech casualty and in many ways I'm not all that surprised. The emergence of Xiaomi and its bargain fitness trackers, Garmin's growing presence with a new VivoActive/Smart/Move wearable seemingly launching on a weekly basis and Fitbit's ability to stay on top of the pile once again has made life hard for Jawbone.

We've already spoken about the company's need to regain the trust of its users after a history of hardware problems, but that's not been the only issue it's had to face. There's also been the very messy and long-running patent lawsuit with Fitbit where the US International Trade Commission favoured Fitbit in the latest dispute.

At Wareable, we've always regarded Jawbone as one of the big names, but its presence has seemingly begun to shrink and there are the stats to prove it. The latest IDC figures on the worldwide wearables market in the first quarter of 2016 show Jawbone doesn't even feature in the top five wearable vendors.

The wearable tech vultures

Now if you were a rival circling the Jawbone carcass, you would surely be eyeing up the prized asset, the software. It would be the missing piece in Fitbit's puzzle that's for sure, bringing context to your data that no other fitness tracker maker has really been able to get close to emulating yet. It's the main reason I still put up with my UP3 falling off my wrist in bed. I actually pay attention to the data.

There's the suggestion that while the UP will be no more, Jawbone will not abandon wearables entirely instead turning its attention to building a medical grade wearable and that would make a whole lot of sense. Data from research firm Soreon Research estimated that the wearable healthcare market would be more than $41 billion by 2020 with diabetes, sleep disorders, obesity and cardiovascular disease representing the biggest growth segments.

For all of the issues it's experienced since the first Jawbone UP launched more than five years ago, it's more than played its part in the evolution of the fitness tracker

In an interview back in January, Jawbone's head of data science appeared to hint towards the company's potential medical grade future. "The holy grail is to one day predict and manage conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and mental issues, closing the loop between measurement and behaviour change," Wilt said. "And there's massive financial incentives: fitness and weight loss are billion dollar markets, health care is a trillion dollar opportunity."

If that's the move Jawbone decides to make next, then it'll be disappointing one in many respects. For all of the issues it's experienced since the first Jawbone UP launched more than five years ago, it's more than played its part in the evolution of the fitness tracker.

Jawbone proved that sensors and algorithms could live inside an elegantly designed body. More importantly, it showed us that hardware was nothing without the software to give it relevance and purpose. Maybe the balance wasn't quite right all the time, but the UP should be remembered fondly if it really is time to say goodbye.

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Michael Sawh


Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of T3.com.

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.

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