The name alone tells you much of what you need to know about the new Jawbone gadget: The Big Jambox is, quite simply, a really big version of their Jambox product. At $299, it aims to fill a niche that its $199 little brother did not: As a viable home music system capable of pumping out enough volume for a small crowd, rather than just personal listening. It’s still compact enough to carry around, but it’s not as light as the smaller version, so it’s meant for either home use or more mobile occasions, such as parties.
That idea of group listening led to an interesting UI detail: On the side, the pairing button makes for easy links to any Bluetooth device. Thus, if you’ve got this thing up and running at a barbecue, for example, anyone can connect. But what’s more interesting is that the Big Jambox will play music from whichever device last communicated with it. So if one person is playing a song, another person can jump right in simply by hitting play on their own phone, and after that, another person could skip that song and play another. This could potentially drive you crazy—depending on who is calling the shots. But also might be a godsend for people sick of the one guy at the party with the Jambox who keeps insisting on jock jams.
But taking a step back, it’s maybe more surprising that the opportunity to create a speaker even existed at all for Jawbone. As Travis Bogard, Jawbone’s VP of product and strategy, tells Co.Design, Jawbone has been taking advantage of the mobile technology wave, centered around our phones, which simply hasn’t been met by companies already making speakers. And all of these mobile technologies—from tablet computers to smartphones—have tended to get tinier and thinner over time, which means their audio output has been sacrificed. They’re fine to listen to with headphones, but otherwise, people have rapidly traded quality for convenience, with no audio products to support that shift. Note that at $299, the Big Jambox actually undercuts the price of almost all speakers by Bose, which has been a market leader.
Perhaps this will lead to disruption in the industry: While the market for larger systems still dominates, Jawbone cites NPD data showing that the first Jambox is already the largest selling speaker in the United States. All that despite the fact that the Jambox was never intended to be a primary home speaker—even though the company’s own anecdotal evidence shows that people use it just for that purpose, having found that portability around the home, from kitchen to living room to bedroom, trumps the greater sound you might get from stationary speakers. And another interesting development: The Big Jambox boasts an enterprise-class speakerphone, which might make a dent in the huge, largely stagnant market currently dominated by Cisco and Avaya.