Jawbone UP: How to create an awesome product, screw it up and then fix it

The Jawbone UP is one of those products I waited for, and really really wanted to have. I’m kind of a gizmo’s junkie; so every new, shiny, data-collecting device released must be in near proximity of my working area field.

What’s UP?

The Jawbone UP is what they call a ‘fitness band’. It is a wristband (similar to the ‘Livestrong band’ but thicker) that will help you measure three things:

  • Steps taken during the day. Pretty much like a pedometer.
  • Distance ran while jogging. Similar to the Nike+ stuff.
  • Hours slept and quality of sleep. What you will get with Zeo.

Nothing new, uh? But what got me is the idea of having three things in just one simple object that you get to carry around all the time, so is difficult to forget. It is very discreet because it looks like a jewelry accessory, and best of all: its battery lasts for 10 days!

On top of that as the band tracks how much you move, you can program it to remind you to move if you’re inactive for a while. This is very good for people like me who have sedentary jobs.

Another feature I like is that you can program your band to wake you up by vibrating: the band will figure out when is the best moment to wake you up according to your sleep cycle that day.


Quantify Yourself

This kind of devices are part of an idea/movement called ‘Quantified Self’: a group of crazy people (in which I consider myself) collecting all sorts of data about their daily lives: anything from calories eaten and hours slept to steps taken or kms run. It started mainly as a way to measure fitness stuff but I’m sure it will evolve to measuring more mundane and more vain numbers. The basis of the quantified self is similar ‘Taylorism’ or ‘Scientific management’, the idea that you cannot improve things that you cannot measure. And being myself a Business Intelligence consultant, I know that is absolutely true!

Back to the UP band

I patiently waited for the UP band release date, November 6th 2011. Being in Canada doesn’t always make things easy, but this time I was happy: Jawbone said they were going to release it simultaneously with the States, and that you would be able to get it from your local Apple Store.

To make a long story short: I had to call 20 different Apple Stores, explain what an ‘Jawbone UP band’ is (and let me tell you that it is not easy!), and finally get one at the Eaton Centre’s Apple Store the very next day, Nov 7th. For this, of course I had to go to the store the very moment they told me over the phone that it was available and get the two sole bands they had for sale in my size. Basically, after just one customer they were left out of stock.

Good UP

And so I was very happy with my UP band! I registered it, used it with my iPhone, did my first work out and everything was fine in ‘up-band land’. The app still had its shortcomings: the food part is silly/useless and it only works on iPhone (I don’t care, I love my iPhone). You cannot get your data out of the phone (not even on a website) and there’s no way to post any of your information online. Seriously? We live in a social-media world, don’t you guys know that? If I run and post it on Facebook, is just to show it off to my friends!

I was so sold into the idea of “wearing it all times” that I showered with the band every morning. My fitness buddy (who is much more careful than I with tech stuff) took it off every time he showered and was also very attentive of not getting it wet. I laughed at his face: you luddite! Haven’t you see the ad where the guy emerges from a pool with the band on?

Bad, bad UP

Fate made me eat my own words: after five days of using my band and exposing it to the water in the shower, it was dead and my friend’s was alive and kicking. So I started googling and tweeting about this problem and found that I was not the only one with this problem. If you go to the Jawbone forums, you can read the horror stories of hundreds of people that were totally disappointed with the product. I tried to be a little more understanding because I really like the product, and so I asked for a replacement of my band. I called Jawbone on the phone, they were very nice to me and told me they were going to send me a replacement. After a couple of days waiting I got a new band that works fine!

Does it live UP to expectations?

I understand there are people still angry at Jawbone about the way they handled things. In Canada, we even had to even endure waiting more days to get bands and do the “Apple Store chase” to get one, so I totally understand that. Also, buying a half-baked product and paying full-baked price is not nice at all.

I’m most happy with the band: still think is a hell of an idea and a very good product. Maybe execution on the release could have been better (lot better) but I totally understand that sh*t happens.

After all the problems they had, I got a very nice email yesterday, pretty much admitting all of the issues they faced and saying they’re willing to fix them. So Jawbone is giving your money back for any of the bands you might already bought and stopping production until they sort their problems out. I think there is nothing else they can do to get you totally satisfied.

Their refund program is no-questions-asked. You can keep your band, return it, do whatever you like with it, they’re just giving your money back! You don’t even need a receipt so even if you got yours as a present, you can still get a refund if you’re not satisfied. That is what I call a very smart (as in intelligent and elegant) way of handling things.

Please, don’t go!

Its kind of sad to read they’re stopping their production and don’t even have a come-back date planned; that just gives me the idea that they’re probably not going to do the bands anymore. That would be really bad. Please Jawbone, do not do that. I respect that you need time to fix things up, but please do come back. I really think you have a great product and still want to recommend it to my friends and family!


I received and cashed my refund for the UP band. I also ran into troubles with the first replacement band I already had (the vibration motor suddenly stopped working) but I called Jawbone and they sent me another replacement in less than 5 days. I cannot say more than gratitude words for this company, they are really exceeding my expectations as a customer and I intend to keep using the band for as long as I can to track all of my workout and daily activities.

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