Talking tech since 2003

Jumping on the bandwagon for payments through near field communications, or NFC, Jawbone announced the new UP4 fitness tracker on Wednesday. The device will be capable of letting wearers pay for junk through a partnership with American Express. The only downside: you won’t burn as many calories, since you won’t have to reach into your pocket to grab your wallet.

Just slap your arm on a pay terminal and you’re good to go.

The device will cost $199, and will be available this summer. Apparently it’s got all the same fitness tracking capabilities of the $179 UP3, which includes “advanced activity, sleep and heart health tracking.” The addition of wearable, AmEx-powered payments seems to be about the only change from UP3 to UP4, despite the $20 difference between the two.

The product announcement talks about security—saying that paying with the UP4 is just as safe and secure as using an actual American Express card. It doesn’t tackle whether or not there’s any other kind of authentication process beyond being connected to your smartphone. As such, if you get your phone and UP4 stolen, make sure to call your American Express representative ASAP to make sure you get that stuff canceled.

Moreover, the press release doesn’t mention much about adding other kinds of payment options. Will the UP4 eventually work with non-American Express payments? Like with Visa or MasterCard, for instance? Or with your bank for debit payments?

Clearly this is a nice feature, but it seems like a strange direction for a device that’s mostly focused on providing fitness tracking. Obviously wearable devices need to stay competitive, and the ability of the Apple Watch to take advantage of Apple Pay is a big plus in that device’s column. But it seems like mobile payments are going to be relatively low on the list of features that prompt a consumer to eschew the Jawbone ecosystem for the Apple Watch, or some other wearable.

In short, this is probably nice—but it seems like an incongruous feature considering Jawbone’s specialties.

[Jawbone: Introducing UP4]

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