After weeks of use, our fourth Jawbone UP replacement band, and fifth UP overall, has finally died. We only reported on the death of our last UP band a little over a month ago, so the trend of late seems to be about one month of life per band.
Battery life on our fifth band seemed reasonable, with no real indication anything bad was about to happen. It was a week at least since our last full charge, and when the band was at around 10%, we forgot to top it off and instead let the battery expire. At this point, we plugged the band into a power source, waited until the LED went from red to white, and tried to sync the UP with our iPhone. It wouldn’t.
We tried both a soft reset as well as a hard reset. Rebooting our iPhone, per the instructions at the UP support site, didn’t help either. Instead of writing in about our problem as we had in the past, instead we called Jawbone yesterday, and were greeted by a very cheerful support representative. She suggested we plug the UP into our iPhone after we launched the voice memos app, as an UP capable of syncing should move the volume needle because it’s transmitting data using audio. We tried this, yet the needle didn’t move. That confirmed our UP was toast.
A sixth band should be on its way soon. As we had a support representative on the phone already, we took the opportunity to ask about the status of a revised UP without these problems. We had wondered several times before whether the bands Jawbone was sending out as replacements were known to have problems, or if this was effectively an ongoing “beta” period where Jawbone was trying to it right by sending out bands with small changes. The support representative confirmed that the former was true: Jawbone’s replacement bands are all original bands with known problems, and in all likelihood, would also fail.
Basically, replacing dead bands with those prone to failure is a stop-gap measure. Eventually, Jawbone will “relaunch” the UP in a revised, working state. But the representative didn’t know when that relaunch would happen. In short, if the relaunch happens before November, and we have a dead band at that time, we can request a proper replacement. In the meantime, we either keep trading dead bands in about once-per-month, or give up until the relaunch.
The representative reminded us of Jawbone’s no-questions-asked-refund policy regarding the UP, which we’ve already taken advantage of. At this point, having received a refund for the UP, we’re basically paying to use the UP with whatever time we spend dealing with the replacement process once per month. Considering we do like the functionality of the UP, and haven’t found a suitable alternative, we’ll continue playing this replacement game for the forseeable future, hoping that the relaunch will put an end to this cycle soon.
It’s a frustrating experience, but we have no doubt that Jawbone is legitimately embarassed by their lack of testing before the UP was sold last year. That’s why they continue to replace these bands at what must be considerable cost, particularly when they’ve already refunded many of the original purchases. Jawbone could have simply provided refunds and not continued sending replacement bands to the respective customers, but they’ve instead taken the high road.1 If they can manage to relaunch the UP within the warranty period, they’ll manage to keep many of their customers, but if they don’t relaunch in time, we expect considerable outcry from their users.
What irks us most about this replacement business is that Jawbone wasn’t very open in the past about replacement bands being prone to the same problems. We would have prefered Jawbone make this clear from the get-go, telling customers that they’ll keep replacing the bands with the understanding that the replacements are not expected to last much longer than the original band. ↩