My Wrist is a Beautiful Robot: The Jawbone UP

Simplicity makes all of the difference. You can bet that is what the design team for the Jawbone UP were thinking.

Jawbone Up

I always am impressed by technology that doesn’t ‘look’ like technology. Some of you may glance at the above picture and admire a casual leather watch accompanied with a dark navy blue rubber strap with a zigzag wavy effect covering its outer layer… The band itself contrasts nicely with the red, green, and yellow plaid button-up. There’s a dangling white thread hanging from the unbuttoned cuffs above the wrist. All of these elements give off a sort-of relaxed and comforting visual aroma, yes, that’s well designed marketing. What’s being sold though? Take your guesses but my vote goes towards the 120 USD. rubber wrist band. The price is a shocker. To any sane person this should cause a major session of raising of the eyebrows. Rubber wrist band or twenty Chipotle burritos. The comparison is a joke, but we are forgetting something.

Hidden under this wonderfully quiet piece of navy plastic is a:

  • Computer
  • Precision motion detector
  • Vibrating motor
  • Dual LEDs
  • Lithium-ion polymer battery


Wonderful! But what for? 120 USD is still quite the cash. Well, lets continue… All of these features make for a wrist band that:

  • Tracks sleeping patterns
  • Vibrates to wake you up at a healthy time
  • Tracks calories burned
  • Tracks physical activity/idle times
  • Tracks activity intensity
  • Lasts on a single charge for 10 days
  • Is water resistant
  • Syncs with Android/iOS devices

Now that’s compelling. What we first thought was a crisp well designed wrist band turned out to be a full functioning smart device. And that’s how you win with consumer technology. The Jawbone UP is one of the best examples of hiding technology and eliminating all of the inessential features of a product. It is true that the majority of people really don’t want anything to do with technology. I want all to do with it, and you may too, but you and I are rare deformations. Something as simple as the presence of a exposed micro-USB can send people into their hiding holes. It is the output, and ONLY the output of technology that matters to normal people. If there are any signs of input functionality that are visible to the user, the device is ugly, its a wrap, its a vegetarian wrap drenched with salty soy sauce.

When an object is subtle and beautiful, we expect nothing from it beyond its continuing presence. Then when the object flexes its computational muscles, we are mesmerized by its magical functionality. How does it do that? Where is all of that information coming from? What am I on? That is a the effect of great design. Great design should be a very astonishing experience for the user. If a team manages to hide everything except a beautiful form factor, whatever functionality comes later is a simply a ‘nice surprise’.

I am still not sure, however, if the Jawbone UP is worth its net worth, but it is worth quite a bit of credit and admiration. What are your thoughts?

Check out this video of the design process


One thought on “My Wrist is a Beautiful Robot: The Jawbone UP

  1. I am not into technology, but I enjoyed reading this post. I also appreciate how well you have explained things. Keep it up. L. N. Scott, Virginia


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