With Apple's decision to go fully wireless with its new AirPods earbuds, hearables has never been a hotter topic than right now. One of the first companies to take the plunge and turn the original wearable beyond audio was Jabra with its heart rate monitoring Sport Pulse wireless sports headphones.
Fast forward and Jabra has just upgraded its Sport Pulse and Coach headphones with new Special Edition models that add features like automatic VO2 Max testing and rep counting.
It has also just announced the Elite Sport, its first pair of truly wireless earbuds that bring you all the same fitness tracking features of the Sport Pulse, minus the flailing cables. That's heart rate sensing, VO2 Max and in-ear coaching as well as handling music, calls and being sweat and waterproof.
Read this: Jabra Sport Coach Special Edition review
"It's all gone very well," Jabra's CEO Ren√© Svendsen-Tune told us. "We are now two years down the road with the Pulse and since then many companies have moved into this space, which confirms that we made the right decision to do this. We have been very pleased with the reception for both the Pulse and the Coach."
Jabra's Elite Sport wireless earbuds offer real-time coaching
Unsurprisingly, Svendsen-Tune wasn't able to share figures with us to illustrate how well its biometric tracking headphones have sold. He was willing to share what the company learned about launching the first model and how that has helped shape what we are seeing in the new Special Edition version. "We know people have different needs, so with the Pulse and the Coach we are trying to respond to people who want something with different functionality and price points," he explained.
"We make something for those who really care about sports performance but also for those casual runners and people who go to the gym and still want to enjoy music while they are exercising."
Don't forget, Jabra was the first company to put a heart rate monitor inside a pair of sports headphones. With that comes a lot of responsibility to ensure that it delivers on the accuracy front especially when the likes of Fitbit continues to come under scrutiny for the reliability of its heart rate data. That is something Svendsen-Tune acknowledges is a vitally important and explains the process the Jabra team had to go through to get this right. "We have good a partner [Valencell] we are working with and we carefully chose that partner," Svendsen-Tune explained.
"We also used external parties to verify the accuracy for various different scenarios. We put a lot of work into the original Sport Pulse to ensure that we delivered on what we promised. We believe the heart rate accuracy is very high."
Jabra introduced automatic rep counting with the Coach Special Edition
But Jabra is no longer alone in this space. Apple and Samsung both want a piece of the hearable action now, and while it would be natural for a company to be fearful of the competition, Jabra's CEO sees it as validation of its decision to launch a pair of biometric tracking headphones before the major players decided to get involved.
"I see great companies moving into this space and that just confirms to me that it's an interesting place to be right now," he said. "We still consider ourselves as pioneers in the space. The competition increases with big competitors entering the space, but we feel good about what have in the market right now. There's benefits of being the first, but it also means there's pressure to keep on delivering."
Smartening up the ears
Svendsen-Tune also believes that there's so much more to hearables than fitness. It's already teamed up with TrainerMD, a software platform used by patients, physicians and trainers to use the Jabra Sport Pulse and the data it records to monitor patient recovery: "We have been very pleased to see how we can team up with organisations like this."
But whipping you into shape or improving running times will still be a big part of Jabra's immediate and long term plans. "We will stay there," he told us. "We are delivering headsets that are all about music. For us, it's music and something else. We see no reason or data to suggest that people will stop trying to take care of themselves. It's a very widely accepted thing that people want to listen to music when they exercise. If we can give them something on top, that's what we should do."