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Jawbone is giving up on one fad for another

Reuters/Rick Wilking
Those aren’t speakers.
  • Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

All the beautiful Yves Béhar designs in the world probably won’t be enough to save a company.

Jawbone, which popularized the unfortunate trend of wearing a bluetooth earpiece even when you’re not on a call, is apparently doubling down on its wearables business. According to a report from Fortune, the company is planning to sell its speaker business, which includes the once-popular Jambox line.

In 2010, Jawbone was one of the early entrants into the bluetooth speaker business. As Fortune notes, the company now has about 5% of the US speaker market. Jawbone wasn’t immediately available for comment.

What would be left of the company isn’t looking rosy either. Jawbone laid off 15% of its staff in November, and although it received a new round of funding in January, the company was valued at about half of what it was appraised to be worth by earlier backers, down from $3 billion to $1.5 billion. It also settled a $20 million lawsuit to one of its suppliers in 2014, which had claimed Jawbone was not able to pay due to a “perilous” lack of funds, though the two companies soon worked out a five-month payment plan.

The company’s wearable business isn’t exactly outstripping the competition. The company’s UP wearables have been plagued with quality issues over the years. And, according to The Verge, it was not one of the top five wearable manufacturers in 2015, meaning it likely had less than 3% of the wearable market share last year.

With players like Apple and Fitbit currently controlling the market, Jawbone faces a tough road. But it’s been here before, spending about 17 years trying to find, as Dan Lyons put it for Valleywag, “a sustainable business.” If the wearables fad doesn’t work out, and the money keeps flowing in, there will be more fads. But that’s assuming Jawbone doesn’t end up consigned to the junk drawer.

Update 4:53 pm: Tech Insider is reporting the company has also sold off its UP inventory and will focus on “clinical-grade” devices in the future, although a representative for Jawbone told Quartz that the company is “not in any way” leaving the wearables business.

Correction (May 31): An earlier version of this post said that Jawbone had lost a lawsuit against one of its suppliers, which it couldn’t pay. The two companies settled and worked out a payment plan.

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