There's something quietly brilliant about HTC's name not being more prominent on the new fitness suite.
Something definitely stood out about the Under Armour HealthBox. Sure, it was the size and scope of the thing — a large, connected UA Scale, the UA Band for fitness tracking or the UA Heart Rate dedicated heart-rate sensor. Sure, it was the price — $400. That's not an insignificant sum. It's not even the color or design — if you had any doubt that this is an HTC-produced product, the stark (and nearly blood) red box might have tipped you off.
No, despite all those conspicuous items, what really stands out about the UA HealthBox — "Designed and manufactured by HTC and powered by UA Record" — is restraint.
This is Under Armour's product to sell — HTC just designed and manufactured it.
For the past couple of years HTC has shed its "Quietly Brilliant" attitude and worked to extend itself from the comfort of the mobile device manufacturer and into other areas like active photography (with the HTC RE camera) and virtual reality with the HTC Vive. And while those two products each bear HTC's name (with the Vive — and now the new Vive Pre — both powered by Valve and Steam VR), the script has flipped with HealthBox.
And before both of those things was the HTC Grip, a fitness band announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in late February 2015. I was one of a handful of journalists to get a brief look at the band before it was teased at HTC's press conference. And the general consensus was, "OK, it's another fitness tracker. That's it, though?" And this had come a little more than a month after HTC and Under Armour had first announced a partnership at CES. We knew they were working together on things, but that really was it?
It seems that we weren't the only ones who came to that conclusion, and the HTC Grip was delayed and then shelved toward the end of the year, with a promise of a full suite of products to come. The result of that is HealthBox.
That's the context. Where the restraint comes in is in the branding.
This is the "Under Armour HealthBox." Not the "UnderArmour HealthBox by HTC." Not the "HTC/Under Armour HealthBox," or any other permutation. Sure, lower on the box you'll see "Powered by Under Armour | Designed with HTC," and there's a small HTC logo on the UA Band — but that's the way this needs to be. HTC isn't a known name in fitness or health tracking, or online services and fitness apps. (And the harsh truth is that it's not the known name it used to be in smartphones, either.) But this is the right way to go about this partnership with UA, and the right way to present this product to the public. It's UA's court. Or ballpark. Or racetrack. Pick your sports metaphor. HTC's the one lacing up its shoes for the first time here. It needs to have second billing on this product.
Maybe that was always in the cards. (Though the Grip, at least in those early days, was presented to us more as an HTC product. Maybe that would have changed by launch.) Maybe someone flipped a coin. Who knows.
HealthBox looks to be a promising fitness suite — a full mini-ecosystem, really — that's going to be more properly positioned as such, and not as a gadgety fitness thing made by a phone manufacturer. It's the "Under Armour HealthBox." But it's made by a company that still excels at product design.
And that, kids, is quietly brilliant.
Oh, and a little early celebrity endorsement doesn't hurt.