Other wearable makers vie for spotlight in lead-up to expected Apple launch

By Jonah Comstock
07:27 am
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PhotoAs Apple gets ready for its long-awaited wearable device announcement later today, a couple of other wearables in the fitness tracking space are following the Apple model of vaguely hinting about upcoming releases. Intel teased the new Basis Band at the Intel Developer Forum this morning, Jawbone has been leaking hints to the press about a new, more open ecosystem, Misfit Wearables released a developer toolkit for its device, and Withings made a move beyond wearables into the environment sensing space.

Jawbone clarified the details of their upcoming announcement in a call with MobiHealthNews. In fact, what Jawbone is preparing to launch is a standalone UP app which will allow smartphone owners without Jawbone hardware to track their fitness, nutrition and sleep on Jawbone software. The app will track nutrition and sleep manually, while using technology like Apple's M7 motion co-processor to passively track movement.

The move is not unprecedented: Fitbit quietly launched a standalone app in January.

But HealthKit changes the game a little, allowing Jawbone's app to interact with competitor's hardware in a way that wasn't previously possible. If an iPhone user has a Fitbit that feeds data into Apple's Health app, the Jawbone UP app will be able to take that data and display it in the Jawbone app. This will allow users of other devices, like Fitbit, to interact with each other and with Jawbone UP users on Jawbone's social platform -- allowing them to participate in challenges and social sharing together.

In addition to HealthKit, the new app will be compatible with the Pebble smartwatch, AndroidWear, and Windows Phone, although the iOS version will likely launch first. That's due out later this month, according to Jawbone. 

A Jawbone spokesperson stressed to MobiHealthNews that this was not a move away from hardware for Jawbone, and that, in fact, there is a new wearable device in the company's product pipeline. The company sees the standalone app as a way for potential users to try Jawbone's offerings out before they buy one of their devices.

In addition to the app news, Jawbone released a firmware update yesterday that the company says will double the battery life of UP devices, from seven days to 14 days.

Intel, meanwhile, which acquired Basis Science in March, unveiled the above teaser photograph of its upcoming device in an email to journalists. The company plans to show off the device at Intel's Developer Forum keynote this morning, with more news to follow later this month. This would only be the second generation of the Basis Band, and the first since Intel acquired the startup. It seems likely we can expect processing upgrades to the $200 device, based on Intel's expertise.

As we reported previously, Misfit Wearables released its Misfit Developer Toolkit this week, timed very close to the Apple announcement. The toolkit offers Misfit’s cloud API, the device’s SDK, and the company’s scientific library, which includes Misfit’s sensor algorithms and software analytics.

Withings doesn't have any news about its wearable devices, but very recently announced a new product in a different space: Withings Home, a combination security camera and environmental sensor device. It's meant to alert users to unhealthy changes in temperature, humidity or air quality in their homes.

"All our devices so far have primarily served the body. They provide valuable information around blood pressure, activity levels, weight – all data that can inspire healthy choices in diet, exercise and sleep,” CEO Cedric Hutchings said in a statement. “With Withings Home, we’re addressing a very critical part of the health and well-being puzzle that has not yet been served by a single device. Home helps ensure your family is both safe and living in a healthy environment.”

Of course, one of the biggest names in the wearable tracker market, Fitbit, seems content to let Apple have the spotlight today -- almost. It may not be a coincidence that research firm Parks Associates published data last week re-affirming the company as the market leader, with nearly 40 percent of the market.

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