This week I noticed something odd on Jawbone's website. The company's online storefront, which used to sell multiple versions of its Up fitness trackers, was nowhere to be found. A few of Jawbone's webpages still display a link to the company's store, but they all redirect to the main Up information page.
It's a rather peculiar time for the company's online store to be down, considering we're in throes of the holiday shopping season right now, so I reached out the company for a comment. Jawbone's international public relations manager, Patrick Sebastian Henkel, wrote in an email: "We manage our inventory positions according to internal business processes, and strategic product lifecycle objectives. Our products continue to sell well and they are still available in channel."
Henkel's reference to "in channel" means consumers can still buy Jawbone devices from retail stores and online retailers.
Jawbone's own online store disappearance comes just two months after the company's website said that all of its devices were sold out and -- more importantly -- as rumors have swelled that Jawbone is having problems paying some of its partners and is losing its litigation battles against Fitbit (NYSE:FIT).
Business Insider reported in September that Jawbone had failed to pay its customer service company, NexRep, and that Jawbone's device inventory was running out. NexRep said in an email that some of its past services for Jawbone hadn't been paid for and that the inventory it typically used to replace customer devices had nearly dried up.
After reports of Jawbone's possible financial troubles surfaced in an article published by The Information, Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahma wrote on the company's blog that it was not exiting the wearable tech business and called the reports that Jawbone may be going out of business "unequivocally false."
Whether Jawbone is truly in financial trouble or not, the company suffered a legal blow in September when the U.S. International Trade Commission found that a trade court's previous ruling that invalidated some of Fitbit's patents was wrong. This essentially means that Fitbit could use patent laws to stop Jawbone from importing devices from Asia (where most of its devices are made).
It's clear from all of this that Jawbone is facing some rough times. Dropping device sales from its website isn't the end of the world, but it certainly isn't a reassuring indicator that the company is doing well. Perhaps channel sales are still strong and Jawbone simply doesn't want the hassle of selling directly to customers.
I've mentioned in previous articles that Jawbone's wearable device sales don't make it on the top five wearable tech vendor list, and right now I can't imagine anything turning around the company's position. There were rumors earlier in the summer that Jawbone would release a new, clinical-grade device but nothing has surfaced so far. With the holiday season well under way and apparently no new products coming from the company, it appears consumers will be left buying up what's already available from Jawbone. Just don't look for the devices on the company's website.