When Jaha, Inc. launched its Kickstarter campaign in August of 2014, it set out to prove that activity trackers could be accessible to everyone.
The company touted a minimalistic band with flashing lights to monitor daily progress, not unlike the ubiquitous Fitbit Flex. Unlike the Flex, this fitness band aimed for a retail price point of $29, or roughly 65 percent less than the cost of its brand name competitor.
Both trackers pair with iOS devices and provide plenty of visual data. The apps share comparable design elements, goals and bits of information. Jaha’s app heads into uncharted territory by adding social features such as messaging, celebrity challenges, news feeds and locating nearby running partners through GPS to help motivate users.
The approach was too bold and overly optimistic. Throughout my time with the device, I was unable to locate a celebrity to challenge or anyone on their social network at all. Instead an empty screen greeted me with undertones of, “Don’t give up, slugger. Everything will work out!”
It was demotivating and the inaccuracies the device reported furthered this. At the end of my first full day of wearing the band, the app showed that I took zero steps and burned a whopping single calorie. On day three, I was active for two minutes but managed to sneak in over 396,828 hours of rest.
Software glitches are to be expected with new devices, but these were a bit extreme. The application has improved negligibly with recent updates and should continue to do so in the future.
Upon unboxing the device, it became apparent that the hardware also had its fair share of problems. The box included two bands, a poorly designed charger that clamped down onto the tracker and a tracker with more functionality than expected.
The heart of the device was a waterproof OLED display that could toggle screens to show a clock and a variety of other information. The display was so dimly lit, though, that it was illegible in daylight. The orientation of the display made it difficult to read without twisting your wrist and the button to toggle the screen was not very responsive.
Due to the addition of these new features, the price jumped from the original $29 point up to $59.99, which was reasonable for what it offered but far off from the initial intention.
The rebranded Soul Electronics Fitness Band Tracker + App By Jaha (really?) is searching for its identity. It is not a budget-friendly device and it poses no threat to the next tier of fitness trackers, like the Fitbit Charge. Currently, it is an example of a Kickstarter project gone wrong – but the potential still exists for that to change. If Jaha/Soul wants to make a dent in the market, the company needs to define the product and rewrite its software for that primary purpose. Until that process is complete, this device is not worth purchasing.