Fitbit Pay Launches in U.K. for Starling Bank Customers

Fitbit Pay officially launched in the U.K. on Tuesday, but with only one bank currently supporting the mobile payment platform, access to it remains severely restricted for users of the company's latest wearables.

The Fitbit Pay payment system was introduced as an exclusive feature of the Fitbit Ionic, the activity tracker firm's first attempt at a smartwatch, released on October 1. The digital wallet works in a similar way to Apple Pay on the Apple Watch, but up until now it wasn't available outside of the U.S., Canada, and Australia.


Fitbit Pay users in the United Kingdom need to hold an account with Starling Bank, a newcomer and relative minnow on the financial banking scene, which will undoubtedly leave the majority of Ionic owners unable to take advantage of the payment system, at least for now.

Fitbit has confirmed the company is in talks with other U.K. banking services for future support, but with rivals like Apple Pay, which lists over 25 supporting banks on its official website, as well as Android Pay (over 20 banks) and Samsung Pay all jostling for contention, Fitbit will have a job gaining a foothold in the emerging mobile payment industry.

You can check out our in-depth review of the Fitbit Ionic here. Fitbit Pay is expected to land in other European countries sometime next year.

Related Roundup: Apple Pay

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Fitbit Announces October 1 Launch Date for New Ionic Smartwatch and Flyer Headphones

It's been almost one month since Fitbit unveiled the new "Ionic" smartwatch and "Flyer" Bluetooth headphones, which at the time were given an unspecific October launch window. Today, the wearables company announced that both devices will be available in retail stores across North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America on October 1.

The Fitbit Ionic is the company's first smartwatch and includes improved GPS, heart rate tracking, water resistance up to 50 meters, contactless payments with "Fitbit Pay," on-board music storage, and more. The smartwatch syncs with the new Fitbit Coach personal training app coming later in October and featuring 90 video and audio workouts, priced at $7.99/month or $39.99/year.


Starting on Sunday, October 1, users will be able to purchase the Fitbit Ionic at Best Buy, Dick's Sporting Goods, Kohl's, Macy's, REI, Target, Verizon, and Amazon for $299.95. Fitbit said that retailers will also have a variety of accessory bands in Classic and Sport ($29.95) and a perforated Horween leather band ($59.95).
“We defined the fitness tracker market 10 years ago and look forward to doing the same with the smartwatch category, delivering what consumers want most and have not yet seen in a smartwatch. Ionic offers up to 5 days battery life for 24/7 health tracking and insights, advanced health and fitness features, enhanced heart rate and dynamic sleep tools paired with the smart functionality consumers need on the go to stay in touch and simplify their life,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit. “These features, coupled with Ionic’s broad compatibility across Android, iOS and Windows platforms, means consumers around the globe never need to choose between their watch and their phone.”
The company's first wireless headphones are also going on sale this Sunday. Called the Fitbit Flyer headphones, the device features a sweatproof design, customizable ear tips, six hours of battery life, and is meant to sync with the new Ionic smartwatch to enable truly wireless workout sessions. The company said that users will be able to buy the headphones at "major global retailers" including Best Buy, Brookstone, Nordstrom, Target, and Amazon for $129.95.


A specific launch date for the new Fitbit Aria 2 Wi-Fi Smart Scale wasn't confirmed, but users can pre-order now on Fitbit.com for $129.95, with retailer availability "beginning Fall 2017."

To prepare developers for the launch of the Fitbit Ionic, the company is debuting the new Fitbit SDK tomorrow, September 26, as a developer preview. The SDK will include resources that developers need to "quickly and easily" design and share apps and clock faces to Fitbit users.

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Fitbit Announces Deal to Bring Glucose Monitoring Data to its Ionic Smartwatch

Fitbit has announced a new partnership with glucose monitoring device company Dexcom that is set to bring diabetes monitoring capabilities to the fitness tracker company's new Ionic smartwatch.

The deal initially means Ionic users will be able to connect a Dexcom device to the Fitbit app and seamlessly transfer up-to-date glucose level data to the smartwatch, making the information more easily accessible on their wrist.

"The collaboration between Dexcom and Fitbit is an important step in providing useful information to people with diabetes that is both convenient and discreet," said Kevin Sayer, President and CEO, Dexcom. "We believe that providing Dexcom CGM data on Fitbit Ionic, and making that experience available to users of both Android and iOS devices, will have a positive impact on the way people manage their diabetes."
There's nothing in the partnership to suggest the Ionic smartwatch will be able to give continuous glucose monitoring readouts on its own when it's released next month – current continuous glucose monitoring systems require a small sensor that's worn under the skin to monitor glucose levels – but Fitbit shares jumped 13 percent on the news, a high for the company since January, when it laid off some of its employees and announced its smartwatch plans.

Dexcom also has a deal with Apple to bring its features to the Apple Watch this year, while owners of Dexcom monitors can already view their glucose data on an Apple Watch – advanced devices by Dexcom include a transmitter, which can display glucose information directly to an iPhone app.

Apple is thought to be working on a non-invasive real-time glucose monitor for a future version of Apple Watch. In April, a CNBC report suggested Apple had a team of biomedical engineers working to develop sensors for non-invasively monitoring blood glucose, with work on the sensors far enough along that the company had started conducting feasibility trials.

Apple CEO Tim Cook was reportedly spotted in May testing a prototype glucose monitor that's connected to his Apple Watch. Cook, who is said to be aiming to understand how his blood sugar is affected by food and exercise, has been seen wearing the device around the Apple Campus.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 3, watchOS 4
Tags: Fitbit, Dexcom
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Caution)

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Fitbit Announces $300 ‘Ionic’ Smartwatch, ‘Flyer’ Bluetooth Headphones, and Subscription Coach App

Fitbit today announced a collection of all-new products and services, centering upon the company's first smartwatch, the Fitbit Ionic, along with a new subscription coaching service, Fitbit Coach. The Fitbit Ionic includes improved GPS and heart rate tracking, is water resistant up to 50 meters, supports contactless payments, smartphone notifications, on-board music, and more.

Like past Fitbit devices, the Fitbit Ionic includes a variety of fitness-focused features for users to take advantage of, including a "Run Detect" mode that starts workout tracking when the smartwatch notices the user is running. When exercising outside, users can also leave their smartphone behind and track their running data solely using the Fitbit Ionic. In terms of the new water resistance, there's also a swim workout to track laps and calories burned in a pool.


All of the Fitbit Ionic's enhanced sensor-tracking features are fueled by the new relative SpO2 sensor, which can estimate blood oxygen levels and "opens the potential" for tracking even more health metrics. Fitbit said that, in the future, this will include sleep apnea. The smartwatch's new display provides up to 1,000 nits of brightness and is protected by a scratch proof Corning Gorilla Glass 3 touchscreen.
“Ten years ago, Fitbit pioneered the wearables category with the introduction of its first health and fitness tracker. Since then, we have become the leading global wearables brand, setting the pace of innovation in the category and establishing the largest social fitness network that helps millions of people around the world be healthier,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit.

“With Ionic, we will deliver what consumers have not yet seen in a smartwatch – a health and fitness first platform that combines the power of personalization and deeper insights with our most advanced technology to date, unlocking opportunities for unprecedented health tracking capabilities in the future.”
Fitbit Ionic users will be able to pay at any retail store that supports contactless payments thanks to a new "Fitbit Pay" feature. The company said that over the coming months it will introduce support for American Express cards, as well as Mastercard and Visa credit/debit cards that have been issued from ANZ, Banco Santander, Bank of America, Capital One, HSBC, KBC Bank Ireland, OCBC Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, UOB and US Bank. Fitbit Pay will be supported in ten markets globally, with more countries and banks rolling out in the future.

Users will be able to get four full days of charge on their Fitbit Ionic, but GPS or music listening will limit the smartwatch's charge to just about ten hours. When using the device, users will also be able to access the new App Gallery, allowing them to select apps and watch faces to customize their Fitbit Ionic. Major partner apps available at launch include Pandora, Starbucks, Strava, and AccuWeather, and app support will be continuously expanded thanks to a new Fitbit Studio SDK launching for developers in September.


The on-board music storage can hold up to 300 songs on 2.5 GB, and Fitbit has simultaneously announced a new pair of Bluetooth headphones so users can take advantage of music listening on the new smartwatch. Called the Fitbit Flyer Wireless Fitness Headphones, the sweatproof headphones have in-line controls for playback and smartphone interactions, customizable ear tips, multiple sound settings, and six hours of playback. The Fitbit Flyer Headphones can be pre-ordered today for $129.95.

The new Fitbit Coach iOS app will connect with the Fitbit Ionic to provide premium workout training at $7.99/month or $39.99/year. The company said that this training includes personalized workout videos, which adapt to each user's activity data gathered from the Fitbit Ionic's various sensors. Guided Health Programs include a six-week beginner's running course and a four-week crash course on reducing sugar in food consumption, with more fitness, wellness, and even sleep-focused programs launching soon.


The Fitbit Ionic is available for pre-order today on Fitbit.com for $299.95, and will launch for pre-order on select online retailers tomorrow and in stores this October. The device will debut in three color combinations: silver gray tracker and clasp with blue gray band, smoke gray tracker and clasp with charcoal band, and burnt orange tracker and clasp with slate blue band. Optional accessories will be available, including a Sport Band ($29.95), Classic Band ($29.95), and Perforated Leather Band ($59.95).

In addition to all of these announcements, Fitbit also unveiled a new smart scale called the Fitbit Aria 2. Within the Fitbit ecosystem, the Aria 2 talks with the company's other devices to provide a holistic view of a user's health, and Fitbit noted that the scale includes improved accuracy and design, easier set-up, and support for multiple users. The Fitbit Aria 2 is also available for pre-order today at a price of $129.95, and will launch alongside the other products this fall.

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Alleged Leaked Fitbit Photos Show Upcoming Smartwatch Looks Like a Blaze

Photos emerged online overnight that allegedly reveal the design of Fitbit's first "true" smartwatch, rumors of which we covered last month. The images were originally published by Yahoo Finance and appear to show that the company's upcoming Apple Watch rival looks very similar to the $150 Fitbit Blaze fitness watch, which has been on sale since early 2016.


The watch's square face, physical buttons, and flexible elastomer wristband closely resemble the company's Blaze. Several Fitbit employees who saw the design are said to have complained about it, according to previous reports.

Specifications of the smartwatch, which is said to be codenamed "Higgs" internally, include a color display with 1,000 nits of brightness similar to the Apple Watch Series 2, built-in GPS, heart-rate monitoring, a full-fledged app store, contactless payments, storage for music, Pandora support, and four days of battery life. The $300 watch was previously thought to have an aluminum unibody design that supports swappable watch bands.

The smartwatch was initially said to be launching this spring, but technical problems have reportedly plagued the product and the company is now thought to be aiming for a fall release.

Fitbit is also rumored to be releasing a pair of Bluetooth earbuds similar in design to Apple's BeatsX buds. Codenamed "Parkside" internally, the $150 wireless earbuds will hang around the neck and be marketed as an accessory for the forthcoming smartwatch.

A lot is riding on the success of Fitbit's upcoming products, after the company faced one of its "largest declines ever" in the fourth quarter of 2016, which resulted in layoffs of about 6 percent of its staff. Although the company remained above Apple Watch in the number of units shipped, it has gradually been losing market share to rivals Apple and Xiaomi.

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Alleged Leaked Fitbit Photos Show Upcoming Smartwatch Looks Like a Blaze

Photos emerged online overnight that allegedly reveal the design of Fitbit's first "true" smartwatch, rumors of which we covered last month. The images were originally published by Yahoo Finance and appear to show that the company's upcoming Apple Watch rival looks very similar to the $150 Fitbit Blaze fitness watch, which has been on sale since early 2016.


The watch's square face, physical buttons, and flexible elastomer wristband closely resemble the company's Blaze. Several Fitbit employees who saw the design are said to have complained about it, according to previous reports.

Specifications of the smartwatch, which is said to be codenamed "Higgs" internally, include a color display with 1,000 nits of brightness similar to the Apple Watch Series 2, built-in GPS, heart-rate monitoring, a full-fledged app store, contactless payments, storage for music, Pandora support, and four days of battery life. The $300 watch was previously thought to have an aluminum unibody design that supports swappable watch bands.

The smartwatch was initially said to be launching this spring, but technical problems have reportedly plagued the product and the company is now thought to be aiming for a fall release.

Fitbit is also rumored to be releasing a pair of Bluetooth earbuds similar in design to Apple's BeatsX buds. Codenamed "Parkside" internally, the $150 wireless earbuds will hang around the neck and be marketed as an accessory for the forthcoming smartwatch.

A lot is riding on the success of Fitbit's upcoming products, after the company faced one of its "largest declines ever" in the fourth quarter of 2016, which resulted in layoffs of about 6 percent of its staff. Although the company remained above Apple Watch in the number of units shipped, it has gradually been losing market share to rivals Apple and Xiaomi.

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Fitbit Working On BeatsX-Like Bluetooth Earphones as ‘Proper’ Smartwatch Faces Production Mishaps

Fitbit is gearing up to launch a "proper" smartwatch as a competitor to the Apple Watch, which will include mobile payments features, a full app store, and more, in addition to Fitbit's usual health and fitness features. While that product is predicted to launch sometime this fall -- likely going head-to-head with Apple Watch Series 3 -- a new report from Yahoo Finance today has depicted a troubled road to launch for Fitbit's smartwatch, as well as revealing the company's potential emergence in the Bluetooth earphone market.

Yahoo Finance's report states that Fitbit intends to launch its own pair of fitness-focused Bluetooth earphones, which is believed to help the company expand beyond the wrist and diversify its product lineup. Fitbit's device is said to be "similar in design" to the BeatsX Earphones that Apple launched earlier this year. The Fitbit earphones "will hang around your neck" and launch alongside the new smartwatch in two colors called "Nightfall Blue" and "Lunar Gray."

Apple's BeatsX Earphones

According to sources speaking with Yahoo Finance, Fitbit's smartwatch was initially launching this spring, but GPS problems due to antenna positioning in a few prototypes delayed production to the fall. Additionally, waterproofing became an issue in production, and today's report even noted that "it’s still unclear as of the publication of this article whether the device will launch with the waterproof feature."
If it isn’t waterproof, critics may perceive it to be an inferior product to Apple’s — especially given that the device will launch roughly a year after the Apple Watch Series 2.

“Regardless of whether Fitbit manages to make it waterproof, I think they have to release the watch later this year,” one of our sources familiar with the matter told Yahoo Finance. “It’s literally sink or swim time for them.”
Fitbit's smartwatch is said to include a color display with peak brightness of 1,000 nits, which would make it comparable to Apple Watch Series 2. Similar features that will make it a competitor to Apple and other Android Wear watches are heart-rate monitoring, NFC payments, and on-board music storage (using Pandora on Fitbit). Fitbit could see a slight edge over Apple in the battery life department, with a reported four full days of charge capable on the smartwatch.

Fitbit's device is predicted to cost around $300 and will be housed in an aluminum unibody design that allows users to swap out bands of different styles and colors. Those who have seen a glimpse of the Fitbit smartwatch prototype compare it to the company's current product, the Fitbit Blaze.

The Fitbit Blaze
Yahoo Finance viewed the presentation deck Fitbit showed retail partners like Best Buy (BBY) and Target (TGT) behind closed doors. That deck revealed a general design aesthetic that resembles a product in the company’s current product line: the Blaze.

“It was very retro-looking with the lines and stuff — definitely not sexy,” one source told Yahoo Finance. Several employees who saw the design complained about it, the source said.
To help enter the crowded smartwatch field, Fitbit recently acquired luxury smartwatch maker Vector Watch, as well as popular wearable company Pebble. Fitbit noted that the company is aware there is "a lot of interest in our entry into the smartwatch category," but gave no comments regarding today's news.

Fitbit has had a rough couple of months, ranging from being accused of stealing trade secrets, to facing one of its "largest declines ever" in the fourth quarter of 2016, which resulted in layoffs of about 6 percent of its staff. Although the company remained above Apple Watch in sheer number of units shipped, it has slowly begun losing market share to rivals Apple and Xiaomi.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch Series 2, watchOS 3
Tag: Fitbit
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

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Fitbit Announces ‘Fitbit Alta HR’ Wearable With Continuous Heart Rate Tracking in Slim Band

Fitbit today announced the Fitbit Alta HR, which the company is calling the "world's slimmest fitness wristband" that has a continuous heart rate monitor. The Alta HR launches just over a year after Fitbit debuted the original Fitbit Alta, which included new "Reminders to Move" to tell users to stand up and move around a bit, like Apple Watch stand notifications.

The main upgrade for the Fitbit Alta HR revolves around its ability to detect the user's heart rate throughout the day, thanks to the company's PurePulse technology. Additionally, the Alta HR will include all of the usual Fitbit benefits, like automatic exercise recognition, sleep tracking, a seven day battery life, smart notifications, and more.

Thanks to the bolstered heart rate technology, the Fitbit Alta HR also has a few improved sleep tracking features. "Sleep Stages" can detect how long each user spends in light, deep, and REM sleep, as well as detect how many times the user wakes up. "Sleep Insights" accumulates the large picture of each user's Fitbit data and actively tries to help "improve your sleep for better overall health."


Sleep Stages will be available on Alta HR, Blaze and Charge 2 Fitbit devices, while Sleep Insights will be available on any Fitbit "that tracks sleep via the Fitbit app."
“Alta HR and these powerful new sleep features demonstrate our continued focus on evolving our innovative technology to deliver deeper, more actionable insights to help our users improve their health,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit. “The miniaturization of our PurePulse heart rate technology opens up exciting opportunities for future generations of devices and new form factors. Our advances in sleep will provide millions of users around the globe accessibility to invaluable insights that previously could be obtained only through expensive lab tests.”
The company said that the Fitbit Alta HR is 25 percent slimmer than the Fitbit Charge 2, which is Fitbit's other heart rate-compatible wearable. The addition of heart rate monitoring will bolster the Alta HR's ability to better measure calorie burn all day, and subsequently help users stay on track for their fitness goals, according to Fitbit.


Like other Fitbit devices, the Alta HR will also be available in a variety of colors and bands. The basic models come in black, blue gray, fuchsia or coral with a matching aluminum tracker for $149.95. Two special editions include a soft pink classic band with 22k rose gold plated tracker and black classic band with matte gunmetal tracker for $179.95. The Fitbit Alta HR can be pre-ordered today and will launch online and in stores this April.

Although Fitbit remains the leader in the wearable field, the Apple Watch has proven to be a major contender in the market with a strong holiday 2016 boosting consumer knowledge of the Watch, most likely thanks to Apple's marketing pivot from presenting it as a fashion accessory to a workout/fitness companion. The numbers come from research firm IDC, which simultaneously marked the same quarter as one of Fitbit's "largest declines ever," although it still remains atop the market in terms of units shipped and market share.


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Apple Watch’s Record-Breaking Quarter Was Opposite One of Fitbit’s ‘Largest Declines Ever’

Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2 have proven to be a "magnificent success" for Apple, which recorded its "best quarter ever" in the wearables market, according to the latest data from research firm IDC.

Fourth quarter shipments reflected in millions (Source: IDC)

Apple shipped an estimated 4.6 million Apple Watch units in the fourth quarter of 2016, up from an estimated 4.1 million in the year-ago quarter, according to IDC. Its share of the wearables market, which includes basic fitness trackers, was an estimated 13.6%, down slightly from 14.1% in the year-ago quarter.

Apple closed the gap with wearables market leader Fitbit, which experienced one of its "largest declines ever" in the fourth quarter. Fitbit shipped an estimated 6.5 million fitness trackers in the quarter, down from 8.4 million in the year-ago quarter. Fitbit's market share dropped from 29% to 19.2%, said IDC.

Apple has been heavily marketing the Apple Watch's fitness capabilities as of late, rather than positioning it as a fashion accessory, and this shift in focus has allowed it to grow its presence in the wearables market, according to IDC:
Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2 proved to be a magnificent success for the company as it was the company's best quarter ever in the wearables market. The lower entry price point and the inclusion of GPS on the Series 2 along with a completely revamped user interface have helped the company grow its presence. Apple is one of the few companies that has been able to quickly refocus its watch to gain traction in the consumer market and has also been leading the charge on introducing the smartwatch category to the commercial segment.
Xiaomi finished second, between Fitbit and Apple, as its Mi Bands are priced well below most competing wearables, allowing the Chinese company to capture 15.2% market share based on an estimated 5.2 million shipments in the quarter. Xiaomi's market share rose considerably from 9.1% in the year-ago quarter.

Annual shipments reflected in millions (Source: IDC)

Samsung was the fifth largest wearables vendor in the fourth quarter with an estimated 1.9 million shipments and 5.6% market share.

IDC estimates that Apple Watch shipments totaled 10.7 million in 2016 for an estimated 10.5% market share, down from an estimated 11.6 million shipments and 14.2% market share in 2015. The annual data has the same top five rankings as the quarterly data: Fitbit, Xiaomi, Apple, Garmin, and Samsung.

It is important to acknowledge that these are estimated figures, and that shipments do not necessarily reflect sales.

Apple does not officially disclose Apple Watch sales, instead grouping the device under its "Other Products" category in earnings results.

Apple only elected to share that the Apple Watch set all time sales records during the first quarter of its 2017 fiscal year, with CEO Tim Cook noting holiday demand was "so strong" that Apple "couldn't make enough."

Related Roundups: Apple Watch Series 2, watchOS 3
Tags: IDC, Fitbit
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

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Fitbit Again Accused of Stealing Trade Secrets From Jawbone

Even though Jawbone has confirmed that it's leaving the consumer wearables market to focus on clinical health products, the company has doubled down on its legal battle with former rival Fitbit, concerning the latter company's alleged theft of trade secrets (via TechCrunch).

The U.S. International Trade Commission has already let Fitbit off the hook for the original claims, but Jawbone is now arguing that the agency only looked at a "limited number of allegations against Fitbit." To back up its argument that the issue remains unresolved, Jawbone referenced in a court filing this month that Fitbit is under investigation by a criminal grand jury concerning the trade secret theft, believing "the issue of what was stolen and by whom remains unresolved."


As of this week, the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security have been conducting a grand jury probe into Fitbit for five months. Fitbit said that it's cooperating with the investigation "to demonstrate, once again, that these allegations are without merit," with a hearing set for February 15 amid the hopes that the case will finally be dismissed.

The battle between the two companies goes back to 2015, when Jawbone claimed that Fitbit hired five Jawbone employees, who in turn brought with them more than 350,000 secret Jawbone files. According to the original lawsuit, Jawbone said "the files included information about materials, sensors and detailed breakdowns of its costs and profit margins."

Fitbit said that once the files were discovered on a cloud-based backup service of a former Jawbone employee, they were immediately turned over to Jawbone. Ultimately, Fitbit argued that Jawbone's new investigation is built on the exact same "fictional allegations" already cleared by the ITC.
The criminal investigation “is based on the almost identical fictional allegations that were fully rejected by the International Trade Commission after a nine-day trial on the merits and that Jawbone falsely asserted on the eve of Fitbit’s IPO,” Fitbit said in Monday’s statement. “Jawbone is now attempting to exert leverage against Fitbit in civil litigation pending in the California state court.”
Fitbit had a case against Jawbone of its own that it dropped last December because "there was no need to pursue the case" when Jawbone was no longer making and selling the products at issue in the lawsuit. Fitbit also cited Jawbone's financial trouble as a reason to end the lengthy court battle. Jawbone said Fitbit's decision to back out was a "misdirection" on Fitbit's part.

Tags: Fitbit, Jawbone

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