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Jawbone Wants You to Eat Your Cake and Track It, Too

Will new food-logging features give Jawbone Up the stickiness it desperately needs?

Consumer electronics maker Jawbone is throwing its weight behind food tracking and weight management in an effort to make its mobile app more compelling.

The maker of the activity-tracking Up wristband has redesigned its iPhone app so it now assigns a one-digit health score to foods; suggests commonly paired foods, like ketchup with a hamburger or cream with coffee, for fast food-logging; and allows users to set a weight goal, which they previously couldn’t do.

Jawbone has also made the app “smarter” about the time of day. When you open the app, it will suggest foods based on whether it’s morning, midday or dinner time. It will also send you insights or health tips.

And it has opened up its application to PlateJoy, HealthyOut, Munchery and other food delivery services to automatically log those calories based on your delivery order.

Jawbone has offered food-logging in its mobile app since the Up first launched in 2011, but like some other food-logging tools, it was a pain in the, er, app. This is supposed to make things easier and more informative. But taking a step back for a moment, the whole new focus on food and weight management is really part of a larger effort to make the Jawbone Up experience stickier.

While some insiders believe the wearable technology market is poised to grow rapidly over the next few years, reports also show that a relatively small percentage of consumers are actually wearing activity-trackers — and retention is a big issue, since many of the wristbands end up unused after a few months.

(I should note, I am one of those consumers whose Jawbone Up wristband has ended up in a drawer.)

But! I’m still somewhat active on the mobile app, whether I mean to be or not, because a) I have it tied to other apps, like running apps and b) it is, all in all, pretty user-friendly.

So, while some makers of activity-tracking wristbands add more bells and whistles to their wristbands or face potential hardware issues (which Jawbone has suffered from as well), Jawbone over the past year and a half has been doubling down on its software. Last year it acquired BodyMedia, as well as mobile health companies Massive Health and Nutrivise; hired more data scientists; and launched its first offshoot app, Up Coffee.

That said, there are plenty of other food-diary apps out there, like MyFitnessPal, Noom and LoseIt!, some of which Jawbone Up already works with. So without trying the new Jawbone Up — which launches today — it’s difficult to know how it stacks up.

Or if this is the (obviously, logged) special sauce that will keep Jawbone relevant in the activity-tracking race.

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