Jawbone UP4 Jumps Into the NFC Game
Payments from the Wrist
Owners of select smartphones have been able to make payments using NFC, or near field communication, for well over a year. The release of the Apple Watch earlier this year took NFC payments to a whole new level. Suddenly, users could easily make payments from the wrist, eliminating the need to carry a wallet, a credit card, or even a smartphone with you.
So, it was only a matter of time before NFC payment capability was put on fitness trackers. Jawbone has recently entered the NFC fray, and while owners of current Jawbone devices won’t be able to take part in the tap-to-pay fun, anyone considering a Jawbone purchase or upgrade may want to pay attention to this very interesting news.
The New Jawbone UP4
The latest addition to Jawbone’s UP lineup is the UP4. It’s essentially the same as the UP3, but with one major difference: wearers can link their UP4 with an eligible American Express card and make NFC payments.
In addition to tracking all your activity (and your sleep data), your Jawbone will now be able to handle payment detail for your post-workout smoothie or any other small purchase at a participating retailer.
Aside from this one big new capability, the Jawbone UP4 is about what you’d expect: a high end fitness tracker from one of the more well-known brands.
It does contain bioimpedance sensors to measure resting heart rate, offer advanced sleep tracking, and provide smart coaching (another desirable feature on many newer trackers). And it will be interesting to see if the NFC functionality is in demand enough for people to choose the UP4 over the slightly less expensive UP3.
The Limited (For Now) NFC Sphere
There aren’t a lot of wearables on the market right now that can do NFC payments, and Jawbone’s exclusive partnership with American Express means that its NFC feature is somewhat limited. However, tech analysts expect NFC payment ability to be a bit part of upgrades from all the major fitness tracker brands.
Still, the bitter and sceptical parts of our brains can’t help but wonder if coffee shops and other major retailers are in on the ruse.
Sure, NFC payments are a convenience for consumers, but the retailers are the real winners here, with impulse buys made easier and no cash changing hands (or credit cards swiping) to make the actual spending part of the transaction feel like it’s real.
Out in the US, Not Yet in the UK
The issue with an international Jawbone UP4 release is the American Express exclusivity, since it’s a card that’s not as widely held or accepted outside of the States. Still, Jawbone has said that consumers outside of the US (including the UK) should be able to get their hands on an UP4 later this year. Expect a price of around £150.
Will the UP4 be popular if consumers can link only American Express cards to it? It remains to be seen, and there’s no word on what other cards, if any, will be compatible. Still, it’s an exciting possibility for both consumers and retailers as NFC payments become a reality for more and more users.