The Mysterious Case Of The Missing Jawbone Up

It seems a week doesn’t go by without finding out about a malfunctioning Jawbone Up band. The wearable step tracking bracelet measures how much you move each day and how well you sleep.

It was relaunched late last year in the US, and came to Asia in March.

I have five people on my Up friends list (all with new bands less than two months old), and already four of them are facing issues. Some are saying their LED lights have stopped working, and one of their bands is not being able to track sleep anymore.

My own band coughed and died just two weeks after I purchased it from an Apple store in Hong Kong. It stopped being able to retain a charge, and its purported ten-day battery would go flat within half a day.

A Japanese user I met this week saw I was wearing one, and informed me that his stopped working as well after about a month.

This is not good.

The Up is currently in its second generation. The first was a fiasco. Shortly after a triumphant launch in 2011, users complained that the band wasn’t holding a charge, and the company was forced to issue a global refund.

It came back a year later, full of promise, but these anecdotal stories of woe keep popping up.

When I went to return my band, one of the sales staff at the International Finance Centre (IFC) Apple store in Hong Kong informed me that the store was running dry on supplies because it had sent back a large batch of devices back to Jawbone. This was prompted by numerous customer returns, she said.

A user in Singapore, Kimberly Mah, had a band that had battery issues as well. She wrote to Jawbone, but was informed that the company would not ship a replacement “due to international shipping regulations”. Jawbone said she should check with the retailer she bought the band from.

But when she went to the Challenger outlet at Funan Centre, the retailer was completely out of stock, saying new bands wouldn’t come in for at least another month. Could this be signs of technical issues with production at Jawbone?

A survey of the numerous PC stores at Funan Centre also showed that each had just one or two bands on the shelf, potentially indicating a supply issue. The Apple Singapore online store lists an 8- to 10-week wait for new bands, as well. Jawbone has a lot resting on this new product — it’s raised about $210 million so far from venture firms, and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer joined its board a little over a month ago.

At the top of the supply chain, the company who brings in the bands to Singapore, Digital Hub, couldn’t help with a replacement either, because they too were out of stock.

Jawbone’s response to all of this is that it’s a supply problem due to the bands selling like hotcakes. “It’s one of our fastest-selling products in Jawbone history… we are working to keep up with the incredible demand,” said a spokesperson.

On any new technical issues, she simply said that the band is “entirely new, inside and out” with regard to its redesign after the first generation, and pointed me to the testing processes they put the bands through before they’re sent out of the warehouse.

One can only hope these claims hold true.