Earlier this year HTC announced plans for a GPS-equipped fitness tracker, made in collaboration with apparel company Under Armour, that would ship sometime this year. That product, called the Grip is no longer. HTC and Under Armour have decided to shelve the Grip in favor of another wristband, called the UA Band.
At first glance the UA Band looks a lot like the Nike+ FuelBand (so much that The Verge’s Nilay Patel asked me if I was wearing a FuelBand), with its curved design, smooth rubbery feel, and single physical button. But the endgame with this device is to get people using Under Armour’s health and fitness apps and, ultimately, buying into Under Armour’s whole suite of products and apparel. The hardware in many ways is secondary to this. Under Armour has spent the past couple of years building out and buying up popular software applications, including MyFitnessPal, MapMy Run, Endomondo and UA Record, and claims 157 million users across all of its apps now. Within those apps, the company advertises its other products.
So what does the UA Band activity-tracker do?
Unlike the HTC Grip, it doesn’t have built-in GPS. But it does have wrist-based heart rate sensors, for both all-day heart rate monitoring and recording during workout sessions. You can pair a heart rate strap with the Band, too. It tracks daily activity and sleep, as well as a variety of different workouts, including running, cycling, weight lifting and walking. More activities can be added to the Band through the UA Record app, which is where all of this data gets logged. It nudges you to move if you haven’t been active in over 60 minutes. Battery life lasts between five and seven days. I feel as though I may have just described a half dozen different activity-trackers, for what it’s worth.
The UA Band is pretty much like every other activity-tracker. The software is the draw.
I’ve actually been wearing the UA Band for several days, and it’s okay. It’s a slice of a much larger connected-health pie. If you use UA’s apps, you might like it, because it sends all that data directly to UA Record, along with your weight from the new UA connected scale, and you can log your calories in MyFitnessPal (one of my favorite apps) and that data will show up in your UA Record app too, and you can track your run using Under Armour’s new connected sneakers and those will show up in MapMyRun, and so on. But as a standalone band, it could easily get lost in a very crowded wristband market.
The UA Band is shipping as a part of Under Armour and HTC's new, $400 Healthbox, but will also be sold separately for $180. Under Armour and HTC haven't said when it will ship.
UA Band Packaged in the Healthbox