Last night, Recode reported that Apple had removed Nike's Fuelband and Jawbone's Up24 fitness trackers from retail — both online and in stores. And since the timing coincides with the impending launch of Apple Watch, some are floating the idea that Apple might've made this move in an attempt to rid its retail shelves of other wearable competition. This morning I walked over to Apple's store in Grand Central Terminal and can confirm that yes, both the Fuelband and Up24 are history. If they're gone from one flagship store, you can bet the same products aren't in any other Apple location; the company is meticulous about consistent presentation across its retail chain.
These are old products we're talking about
But one fitness tracker from Jawbone does remain: the $49.95 Up Move that's a better fit for your pocket than your wrist. And in keeping that product on its shelves, Apple is perhaps sending a message that it's not trying to stomp out third-party products (which, if we're being honest, it would have every right to do at the Apple Store.) Instead, the reason that the Fuelband SE and Up24 are no longer sold by Apple is probably because they're both really old. And one of them's a dead-end product that Apple should've halted sales of long ago.
After the Fuelband SE's release in October 2013, Nike officially bowed out of making fitness-oriented hardware. And sure, that still bums me out since I think the Fuelband came closest to hitting the right formula because of its simplicity. But the Fuelband exiting Apple's retail stores was inevitable. If anything, Cupertino did its longtime friend a favor by keeping it around so long. Too long. Apple's not alone in stepping away from the Fuelband, either. If you want one from Best Buy, you've got to buy it online — and color / sizing options are nonexistent.
A really great and cheap fitness tracker is still on Apple Store shelves
The Jawbone decision is a bit more questionable. You can still find the Up24 on Best Buy and Walmart shelves, and Jawbone has continued to deliver updates to its Up fitness apps. The company was also quick to embrace Apple's Healthkit platform. We're also fans of the thing; in the middle of last year, we named the Up24 as the best fitness tracker you could buy. But like the Fuelband, the Up24 is aging. It was announced in November 2013, and Jawbone has pushed back the launch of its successor, the Up3, leaving customers in the dark on a ship date. For all we know, the retail agreement between Jawbone and Apple on the Up24 might've just expired.
A customer at Apple's Grand Central Terminal store grabs Jawbone's Up Move fitness tracker.
And again, the Up Move remains at Apple retail stores — for now. If the Up24 or Fuelband were seen as undesirable threats to the Apple Watch's fitness features, why not the Up Move? It offers much of the same functionality as Up24: step counting, calories burned, sleep quality, and so on. And it does that stuff for 50 bucks. If anything could give fitness-minded customers pause in buying the $350 Apple Watch Sport, it's probably the tiny little health tracker that's priced $300 cheaper. Keep in mind that none of these products can monitor your heart rate, which is a cornerstone feature of Apple Watch. Maybe Apple is holding onto the Move for the simple reason that it's a semi-recent product announced in November. And maybe it's selling better than the more expensive trackers ever did.
if Apple removed the trackers because of the Watch's coming release, it's probably because the luxurious Apple Watch buying experience Tim Cook outlined during Monday's event calls for plenty of space. And before it pulls Apple-branded HDMI cables and (soon) USB-C adapters from its shelves, you can bet that Apple will cut third-party accessories first. Obviously this isn't great news for Jawbone, but it — like Fitbit — still has Walmart and Best Buy to fall back on. Those aren't small stores. Is Apple afraid of Fitbit, Jawbone, or other competition? Likely not. If the Up3 were on the market right now, maybe you'd be able to pick between it and the Apple Watch come April 24th. But that's not the case. Oh, and Apple, you'll probably want to change this icon on your store pretty soon.