Jawbone announced its latest fitness tracker, the Up 3, back in November, but the product didn’t start shipping until this month.
The company missed the crucial holiday season, while rivals like Fitbit had their new gadgets ready to go before the end of 2014.
The reason behind Jawbone’s delay, according to a new report from The Information’s Reed Albergotti, was the company’s obsession with keeping the device water-proof.
The company was insistent on making sure the device would be ideal for swimmers, The Information reports. It even internally nicknamed the device “Thorpe” after swimmer Ian Thorpe. But, the current version of the UP3 is water-resistant, which means it can be splashed, but you can’t really go swimming with it.
Rahman believed the company could make the device waterproof without increasing its size. And, while early tests showed that the device was in fact water-proof, later tests that took place in August showed that some “parts coming off the assembly line would likely leak water,” the report says. Even so, the company decided to push forward with the same design.
And then in October, just a month before the product was announced, the UP 3 was still performing inconsistently. Some units were water resistant up to 10 meters, but others weren’t.
Rahman took a trip to Jawbone’s factory in mainland China to check on how the device was being manufactured, and here’s how he described it to The Information:
“I said very directly that when I saw the way they were hacking the glue process, it reminded me of my six year old’s arts and craft projects at school and that we ought to up our game.”
The Up 3 is Jawbone’s most important product yet, mainly because the industry seems to care about wearable tech now more than ever. It’s also Jawbone’s flagship product at the moment — the last time it released a new fitness band, other than its entry-level Move, was in 2013 when the UP24 launched.
It’s coming at a time when players like Google and Apple are betting heavily on wrist-worn devices that track your health. And, on paper, Jawbone’s new wristband is much more advanced that competitors: it comes with more sensors than Fitbit’s band or the Apple Watch, including those that can measure your skin temperature and respiration.
Jawbone also prides itself on making the smallest, sleekest fitness band on the market, which is why it’s not necessarily surprising to hear that the company didn’t want to compromise the band’s design. And, it’s also not surprising to hear that Rahman wanted to up the quality of the manufacturing before the final band shipped. Jawbone’s fitness band had been criticised for breaking easily or failing to hold a charge in the past.