A new market for Under Armour to push into, and a growing partnership with HTC is helping it come together.
Under Armour is immensely popular in the sportswear and sports equipment industry, but is now trying its hand at something new: connected fitness equipment. Going in blind is never a good idea, so Under Armour has chosen to partner with HTC for its technology, design and manufacturing prowess. The end result is a new slate of products: UA Band, UA Scale and UA Heart Rate — sold together in the HealthBox.
While the three products will be offered separately, they'll be marketed as being best-used together in a complete package. We've had the ability to use the trio for a little bit now leading up to the announcement, and while we'll have a full review in due time we wanted to share our initial impressions first. Here's a quick look at the UA Band, Scale and Heart Rate monitor.
The UA Band is likely to be the most popular of the three devices, but is also one that faces the most competition. It's not hard to name several popular fitness-tracking wearables, and the UA Band is jumping into the market a bit later in the game. The UA Band is meant to be worn 24 hours a day as a general health tracker, meaning it can follow your sleep (light/deep/awake), resting heart rate and daily steps, as well as actively track runs, bike rides, walks and other workouts when you enable it.
The UA Band is water resistant, so it's fine to wear in the shower, and also shows the time, notifications from the UA Record app (more on this below) and choice notifications from your phone. The Band has a rectangular 1.3-inch touch white-only P-OLED display, and has an extremely simple interface that just shows you the information you need with just a few taps or swipes, and no more. The flexible strap, light weight and rubber construction make it easy to wear on a daily basis, and never bothered my wrist even when wearing it nightly to track sleep. It's a pretty big departure (in a good way) from the design of its ill-fated and unreleased predecessor, the HTC Grip.
The information it gathers is accurate and useful, which is a minimum requirement of any fitness tracker but means the UA Band serves its purpose well. I quickly got into a routine of tracking and striving to meet my daily step goals, as well as reflecting on my sleep habits from what the UA Band offered me. What the UA Band offers from a fitness standpoint goes a few steps above your average smartwatch, all while keeping things simple — I never felt like I had to manage or maintain it like I do my Android Wear devices.
The market for connected scales isn't quite as saturated as the fitness band arena, and this is one heck of an entry. The UA Scale is a fantastic representation of HTC's design skill, and at the same time is highly functional. Following the deep red and black theme of the complete package, the UA Scale is a monolithic black disk with a translucent top and shiny sides, but when you catch it from an angle you see the deep red bottom peeking out. It's a sleek, modern and sophisticated look you won't mind having on the floor in any room of your house.
When you stand on the scale you'll find the a portion of the top is actually an LCD, which can display a good bit of information. Naturally, it'll display your weight when you stand on it, but it will also sense your body fat percentage through your feet as well. When the readings are done, the UA Scale will connect to your home Wi-Fi and report back UA Record app for long-term tracking. You can have multiple people use the same scale and it will intelligently track each one independently, so you won't have any issues sharing it.
Just as was the case with the UA Band, using the UA Scale every morning turned into a routine. Sure having a Wi-Fi connected scale is a luxury, but not having to manually record my weight into an app (and therefore forget to do it) was one less hurdle to get over when it came to proper record keeping. So too was the fact that the scale itself looks so great, meaning I had no issue leaving it out for everyone — including myself — to see.
UA Heart Rate
Last, and probably least appealing for most, is the UA Heart Rate monitor. It's really reserved for those who want the best monitoring and data from their workouts; the UA Heart Rate is a proper chest strap monitor that's meant to be worn for all of your runs and workouts. It connects to your phone over Bluetooth, just like the UA Band, and when used together these two devices provide highly accurate tracking of your workouts. Whereas the UA Band can come up short in tracking many types of workouts — like weightlifting, rowing, boxing, etc. — the Heart Rate will always give you the useful heart rate information you need. A graph of heart rate activity and peak heart rate are provided with your workout, which can be used to determine how effective your routine is.
The Heart Rate monitor consists of a simple black puck that connects to a neoprene strap with integrated sensors that are meant to sit tightly to your skin during a workout. It wraps around your chest securely and stays in place without issue, but those who haven't worn something like this (which is most people) may find it a bit cumbersome and annoying. But if you want to accurately track heart rate during these activities, this type of device is really the only way to go.
Bringing it all together
The hub of this whole experience is the new UA Record app, which is already available for aggregating data from other sources but is now updated to work deeply with Under Armour's own hardware. Each morning you can open the UA Record app to see stats on your sleep from the night before, your weight progress from the UA Scale, fitness data from your week's workouts and your nutrition information.
Not only does the app function as a manager for your devices, it also works to show trends and history for all of your data so you can look back and see how far things have come. It also works as a social platform where you can follow progress of your friends and keep up with group challenges to keep everyone going. And even with the new hardware from Under Armour, the platform remains open for the expansive number of third-party apps and hardware to integrate with it.
Our first impression is a positive one, with all three of the products having a place in the connected fitness space. The real question is how the community of fitness-focused individuals who are interested in these kinds of products will respond to the pricing. The UA Band is set to retail at $180, while the UA Scale is another $180 and the Heart Rate is $80 — if you choose to buy the HealthBox package, as UA hopes, you'll spend just $400 for all three.
After we spend a bit more time with the products, you can expect a full review of the HealthBox and each of the pieces that make it up right here on Android Central — stay tuned!