The Jawbone UP3 went on sale in November of 2014 and was a hit with consumers, but Jawbone has ramped up the features of its new model, the UP4, to allow it to compete in both the fitness tracker and wearables markets.
The new fitness band features an NFC chip that allows wearers to pay for goods and services contactlessly in shops and restaurants with NFC terminals. The Jawbone UP4 is the result of a partnership between Jawbone and American Express, which means that the new model only works for American Express cardholders and currently only in the US. Jawbone’s thinking behind the partnership is to make life easier and simpler for its wearers- many people use their credit card several times a day, so being able to do so via a band that they are wearing constantly anyway will allow for seamless and convenient transactions.
The UP4 syncs to the Jawbone app on iOS and Android devices, which stores and configures payment details. The new fitness band features the same sleep, activity and heart rate monitors but also now acts more like a smart watch with extra functions that do more than just measure health but without the watch face.
While some wearables and smart watches need to be recharged everyday, the UP4 will last for seven days between charges so wearers can use the band for contactless payments for a week without having to take it off. Smart watches have come under fire for their short battery life but fitness bands tend to have better efficiency in this department so Jawbone’s new model will likely be welcomed by fans of both.
The UP4 is the first wearable that isn’t a smart watch to support NFC payments but will have the same security as credit cards with the same contactless chips. Other contactless payment bands have become available, such as those created by Barclays, but these offer limited other functionality. The UP4 is also the first wearable that allows users to make contactless payments without requiring a phone or tablet to complete the transaction.
The Jawbone UP4 is not the first fitness band to go beyond just tracking activity, but it does offer a new feature that is likely to be well used by wearers. The Flash tracker by Misfit allows users to control other devices and smart home gadgets such as Nest thermostat, Spotify and smart locks. For the majority of fitness band users this may not be an incredibly useful feature, especially if they don’t already have the kit that the Misfit band can control. Contactless payments however are becoming accepted by more and more retailers and offer real convenience for the user.
The only downside to the UP4’s NCF abilities is that the band is currently only compatible with American Express cards. Wearers who use American Express currently won’t have a problem, but those who have accounts with other credit card providers will be given the option to apply for an AMEX card through Jawbone’s UP app.
The Jawbone UP4 will be available for $200 at its launch, $20 more than its $180 UP3 predecessor. It seems that the UP4 does not offer any increased functionality for activity and sleep tracking over the UP3, but the convenience of being able to use a fitness band for contactless payments may make the new model an easy choice for consumers. If you already own an UP3 then the choice will come down to how often you use your credit card- for example if you tend to mostly shop online then paying out again for an upgrade to the new band may not offer value for money to you. However, if you are concerned with being part of a new generation of gadgets that mixes wearables with fitness trackers and the functionality of smart watches then you will want to keep your eyes out for the launch of the UP4 which will happen within the next few months.