Jawbone is opening its Up fitness tracking platform to third-party devices, and the Huawei Talkband B2 is the first dedicated fitness tracker not made by Jawbone to integrate with it. Available today from Amazon and Huawei direct, the $179 TalkBand B2 is the second generation of Huawei's fitness tracker, and it works with both iOS and Android devices.
Announced at Mobile World Congress in February, the TalkBand B2 is actually a Bluetooth headset that docks into a wrist-worn cradle and can track your activity or sleep patterns. It has a monochrome touchscreen OLED display that shows time, step count, and other information, and it pairs with Huawei's companion iOS and Android apps to analyze that data. Starting today, the B2 can also send its data to the Jawbone UP app, allowing it to take advantage of Jawbone's fitness coaching and app features that were previously restricted to Jawbone's own hardware.
The B2 will be able to take advantage of all the features available to Jawbone's hardware
Jawbone has had a rocky year, with its own hardware often at the center of its problems. The Up3 fitness band was delayed numerous times before it finally hit the market, and when it arrived, it turned out to be overpriced and not very competitive. The Up4, a band that offers mobile payments with American Express, but was otherwise functionally the same, was announced just as the Up3 started shipping, further confusing Jawbone's product line. By partnering with Huawei (and presumably, other hardware makers), Jawbone can offload the work of developing hardware to someone else and focus on making its already solid fitness platform better.
It's a smart move for Jawbone; it lets the company get out of the hyper-competitive fitness tracking hardware business that's quickly turning into a race to the bottom and focus its efforts where it already has a lead. Huawei is a massive company with deep pockets that can afford to push out new iterations of products on a rapid cycle or float ones that don't sell particularly well for quite a while, putting it in a better position to compete with Fitbit, Xiaomi, and all the others trying to eat Jawbone's lunch.
Getting out of the hardware business would be a smart move for Jawbone
The TalkBand B2 probably isn't the product that will put Huawei's logo on everyone's wrist, however. It's expensive and just plain weird — the number of people that actually want to use a Bluetooth headset at this point is shrinking rapidly, and there's no clear reason why you'd want a fitness tracker that doubles as one. It also lacks heart rate monitoring and smartphone notifications, two features that other devices in this price range offer.
It doesn't look like Jawbone is fully exiting the hardware market just yet — after all, it just launched three new products this month — but today's move is the first step in doing so. Will we see a new wave of Jawbone hardware come next year? Only Jawbone knows the answer to that, but I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't.