The unhealthy Jawbone UP has a 60 day life

SUMMARY:

Jawbone UP’s lack of reliability is leading to many hundreds of complaint. Jawbone’s response is admirable on the surface but the issues are much deeper. It shows no sign of resolving them.

den healthBarely a week goes by since I was musing on the benefits of the ‘healthy enterprise‘ and one of my favorite devices – the Jawbone UP – has died. You can see it on my wrist in this image.

Failure seems to becoming a boring regularity. Maybe I am unlucky but many of the consumer electronics I live with either die or develop serious faults in short order. OK – so things go wrong – but it is the frequency with which things go wrong that worries me. And the customer service problems that go alongside.

Long story short, I went to synch my Jawbone UP and nada…dead. It turns out the symptoms are well documented by other users in the Jawbone UP forums.

Amazon shows 344 out of 1,236 reviews giving the product a one star rating. Of those reviews, the vast majority are complaining about product quality issues of the kind I am describing. That’s a full 27.8 percent of all reviews.

Of the most helpful one star reviews, I see the top of that list is rated as ‘helpful’ by 496 out of 580 raters. That’s 85.5 percent. If I extrapolate that to assumed lost sales then Jawbone is likely a minimum of $63,064 in the hole right there and that’s without extrapolating the impact of all the other reviews and the cost of replacement.

The scenario plays out like this:

  1. Jawbone UP develops a fault
  2. Customer contacts Jawbone – goes through a replacement process
  3. Second and subsequent devices die
  4. Customer gives up

Scanning through the customer stories it seems that the typical or average elapsed time between new/working and dead is around 60 days. There are variations around this but that’s what I am roughly estimating from having spent several hours scanning various message boards.

Customer service fail

Jawbone seems to do a pretty good job of providing replacements but its warranty and returns policy suck.

It offers a one year warranty but that seems to work out at 60 days in reality. That prevents many customers getting a refund. It is not clear whether  Jawbone is operating under the letter of the law in non-US geographies. But when a device costs €129, how far will most consumers go to enforce their rights under what is already a complex minefield of consumer law?

My guess is that Jawbone has undertaken a a risk analysis and calculates that even though some may well complain, replacement is enough to get them by. I believe that’s foolish in light of what else we know.

Jawbone very helpfully offers support forums that run on Lithium technology. The tech works well and the search is as accurate as you’re likely to get given the possible variations in search terms. But Jawbone is making a real mess of managing the forums.

It replies occasionally to questions but it seems to have given up on this one. I have seen some complainants reporting that Jawbone has acknowledged identical problems with the Gen 1 device but is doing nothing to communicate the current status. This would not be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact this sudden is a recurrent problem stretching back well over a year.

In essence, Jawbone seems to be accepting a disproportionately high failure rate as the cost of offering a solution for which it can charge a premium in the market when compared with FitBit products. Here’s an example of how this manifests in the consumer’s mind:

Most frustrating-Jawbone won’t acknowledge that there is anything wrong with this product, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that these are not isolated product failures.

What’s more, and as another commenter on Amazon pointed out, Jawbone is using social channels to provide little more than canned platitudes. Here’s a good example: 

Hi Larry,
We are really sorry to hear that your support experience was anything less than amazing. We’d like to make this right for you. Please contact us at socialsupport@jawbone.com so that we can take a look at your case.

–Jawbone Support

Finally under this head, the standard response to the claimed 24 hour response time for emailed questions is the claim they have an unusually high number of service requests, will get to it as soon as possible – hopefully in 48 hours. OK – but that’s also been a long running problem. This further adds to my assessment that there are serious and persistent process problems inside Jawbone.

Verdict

We are seeing more and more examples where retail brands are not getting to grips with what technology can offer them. The answers are almost always relatively simple and often center around poor communication processes. It is not the technology.

  1. What customers want is a reliable product and assurances that the company is doing something about defects. That’s not happening. As a result, the complaints pile up.
  2. The use of social channels is recognized as a net good for communication but when it is not used effectively then it is a serious failure to understand how a company can both remedy problems and improve its service quality. It’s about winning back hearts and minds. It’s not that hard.
  3. The market for health related gadgets is highly competitive. Those vendors that distinguish themselves by solving the customer service angle will win.
  4. Amazon represents an important retail outlet for any brand. Sooner or later, it will have to bow to the calls for such defective products to be withdrawn from its catalog. If nothing else, the knock on impact to its own business model will weigh into those decisions. I wonder if Amazon has undertaken a global impact analysis on defective product returns? It has the technology.
  5. Complexity in distribution channels means that brands have to figure out how they will mediate all channels. For example, if an item is bought in one geography and used in another then how will it offer fair warranty terms? Apple has pretty much figured this out. Nike does a good job as well.

Endnote: I’ve filed a complaint with Jawbone and we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I’ve lost faith in an otherwise great idea and will be acquiring a FitBit.

    Comments are closed.

    1. pgreenbe says:

      This comment is simple and more add to the complaints, than to comment on your lessons, which are spot on.. Mine died about a week ago. I’m using the Fitbit 1 which seemed to be better for steps than the Jawbone in any case.

    2. says:

      Mine lasted almost 5 months and my wife’s lasted about 3. I thought it interesting that two devices bought at the same time both died within months of each other. 
      I’m worried about what will happen when these die…

    3. MrNesjo says:

      Almost exactly the same story as me … reblogged.

    4. mckytm says:

      Bought my Jawbone Up in Singapore in April 2013. Have loved using it, until the problems started. It’s been wonky for the past month (red and yellow lights), which I found out was due to an internal clock problem (?). Contacted Jawbone, and all my responses were answered promptly within 24 hours… until I told them I had repatriated back to the Philippines (my home country), where they don’t have any authorized channels. Since then, they haven’t gotten back to me in a week. I followed up 2 days ago, and no response either. :/

    5. Gavin Albright says:

      This is an extcilent article. I am on my 3rd band and it broke today. To get the 3rd I had to turn them in to the BBB.
      I would like to encourage everyone reading this to do the same.

    6. bigdogbay says:

      Same as mine.  I have bought the Up band from ebay and was shipped to Thailand.  It worked for 3 months then died.  The Up customer service told me that they couldn’t do anything but asked me to contact the retailer in my country.  So, I need to trow the band away after paid more than 100 USD and used it for 3 months?

    7. Arthur Camel says:

      This is why Apple will wipe the floor with these jokers when they finally release their tracking device. Companies like Jawbone are so badly managed and incompetent that they cut corners on their products and expect consumers to just put up with it. I have had two Jawbone Ups now — a first generation and a second generation. Both have stopped charging and then stopped working altogether in around 6 months. Of course the bonehead management at Jawbone don’t care, as they already have my money! The level of product development incompetence at Jawbone is heroic. They would rather cut corners (and, I presume, costs) to deliver a substandard product and user experience, than focus on developing a long-term customer base. This is product development culture from the early 1990s, and not suited to the market of 2014! It is simply unacceptable, and I know I will never buy another Jawbone product again, on principle.
      So well done to the idiots at Jawbone. Just glad I don’t hold any of their shares!

    8. jacqueline2 says:

      On my third jawbone here and now I realize t here is a serious problem over at Jawbone. Thanks for posting.

    9. kreativmind9 says:

      Same here…I am also on my third Up band. I first purchased last year in March. July it crapped out…got a replacement (also bought a FitBit Flex). Second Up Band started having issues around mid-September. I gave up because my Flex was working just fine. I tried my Up again in January and it worked for a few days only to fully crap out later. 

      By this time I got a Fit Bit One for when I don’t feel like wearing a band. Decided to give Up one last try now (Jawbone sent a 3rd replacement even though I was out of warranty because I sent a serious this is crazy letter). 

      FitBit Flex and One still going strong. I’m expect my Up to crap out within a month or so. I already started hearing loose pieces inside the band and it was just mailed to me last week. **Sigh**

    10. shadimirza says:

      I just received my replacement Jawbone UP24 after the first one died in 45 days. This one is dead out of the envelope. They can’t even issue replacements that work. If you see a single positive review for this company, it is a paid shill, plain and simple. Do not under any circumstances buy a Jawbone product.

    11. shadimirza says:

      Gavin Albright Thanks for the tip. My first replacement band was dead right out of the envelope. I’m not dealing with Jawbone anymore. I immediately filed a complaint with the BBB.

    12. says:

      Same here… 50 days and broken. I was enthusiastic, now worried, after reading your comment.
      Also band is damaged.. Still small, but for sure after a year it wil be torn. This is done by the relatively sharp ending of the band.

      Waiting now on my new version. #fail

    13. RobMills1 says:

      I have had four Jawbone UP’s replaced in one year the months that was a initially a gift. I’m over dealing with with their unprofessional customer service department as they could care less if the customer is satisfied or not…they get their money up front. Too much competition out there to have to deal with a company that could care less if I’m satisfied and too many problems with the band itself to constantly have monitor whether it will with it not day to day.

    14. Dreamer1167 says:

      I just spent 45 minutes on the phone with Alicia at Jawbone. She…and presumably Jawbone were absolutely NO HELP! My first UP band was possessed. Started vibrating and wouldn’t stop until it ran out of power. Jawbone replaced that band. I’ve worn the replacement band since May…well, actually stopped wearing it about a month ago when I had a reaction to the nickel in the button on the band. Alicia/Jawbone were willing to replace the band or give me a Jawbone store credit. Since I’m not interested in any of their other products, I asked for a refund. Alicia/Jawbone said I couldn’t have one since I had bought it through Apple. Said they had no way to issue a refund. So my options were to 1) wear a sweatband under my UP band, 2) get another replacement band (which would just give me another rash) 3) put nail polish on the button (which, I don’t know about you, but that wears off and could potentially damage the band) or 4) be held hostage by Jawbone and be forced to buy one of their other products with the Jawbone “store credit.” I asked multiple times to speak to a supervisor and was denied that request. Jawbone KNOWS that the nickel in their product is causing issues, but won’t stand by their product to refund…REFUND…those of us impacted. Thanks for the rash Jawbone! I’ll be sure to warn everyone about the nickel and your unwillingness to stand by your product…regardless as to whether you buy it directly from them or someone like Apple.