Under Armour and HTC built an entire fitness ecosystem

The new fitness band and Record app are just the tip of the iceberg.

Under Armour is a king in the realm of sport apparel. But it's been laying the ground work for sometime now to become a bonafide technology company. It started some years ago with the E39 and eventually the company moved on to the Armour39, but both had fairly limited use cases. In late 2013 though, it started stockpiling fitness apps. For 2016 its bringing all the pieces together, including a partnership with HTC which is helping to design its hardware. But this isn't just another wearable, Under Armour is going all in and launching an entire ecosystem of apps and gadgets at once.

The most immediately recognizable part of the package is the UA Band. It's a simple activity tracker that's not terribly different from most others on the scene. Though, HTC's design DNA (cough) is readily apparent. The underside is dimpled and bright red, while the outward facing part of the band is lightly textured soft black plastic. Like any respectable band it counts steps and tracks your sleep, but it also has a heart rate monitor and, like Microsoft's Band, can track several different types of exercises.

The screen is simple and monochrome, but information dense and touch sensitive. The red button on the side only serves to wakes it up -- you swipe and tap your way through your sleep records and step counts.

It's not the most unobtrusive of wearables. It's more like the Nike Fuelband than, say, a Fitbit Flex.

But Under Armour sees the wrist worn wearable as a gateway drug to a bigger ecosystem. At the heart of it is a completely redesigned Record app. It shows your weight, steps, workouts, and calories. But this isn't some isolated piece of software that Under Armour is building without good reason. It can stand on its own, but it also serves as a central hub for its other apps like MyFitnessPal, MapMyRun and Endomondo. If you track a meal in MyFitnessPal the calories show up in Record. Finish a run using Endomondo and, again, it'll be reflected in Record.

From there though, the ecosystem only gets bigger. For one, there's the UA Scale: sleek, glass-covered, WiFi enabled smart scale. Obviously, it tells you your weight, but it also can monitor body fat and even supports multiple users. So it'll know when you step on it, it'll greet you and deliver messages just for you through its white on black display. Set a goal weight for yourself, and it'll congratulate you when you reach the finish line. Though, it's clear there are still a few kinks to work out at this early stage. and the interface isn't super intuitive.

Like the band, it's decorated in black with red accents. It's another place where HTC's design experience shines through. Nobody is saying you have to love the decidedly masculine black and red scheme, but you have to acknowledge the craftsmanship that went into the device.

There's also a heart rate monitor. It's actually quite similar to the Armour39. A soft simple chest strap has a home for a "bug" that is all black, but, once you put it on a subtle Under Armour logo glows blue to indicate it's working. And, as your heart rate ramps up it changes colors to indicate your effort level -- red means you're really pushing it. And, since it's bluetooth, instead of ANT, it should connect to almost any smartphone and work with many different fitness apps.

The band ($180), scale ($180) and heart rate ($80) monitor will be sold separately, or you can buy them all together in the UA HealthBox for $400.


But wait, theres more! Under Armour also worked with JBL on two sets of wireless earbuds. The UA Headphones Wireless are pretty standard fitness headphone fare. They're designed to resist sweat, drops, and all manner of abuse while staying snug in your ears. Those are $180 as well... Under Armour seems to like that number. Later in 2016 though, the company will release the UA Headphones Wireless Heart Rate for $250. Those will be pretty pretty similar to the standard Headphones Wireless, but will also monitor your heart rate.

Lastly, there's the "Record Equipped" SpeedForm Gemini 2s. They're a spin on Under Armour's neutral Gemini running shoe, with a step counting pod embedded in them. They'll feed data about steps, distance, speed and cadence to the Record app, even if you don't have your phone with your on your run. And, Under Armour claims the battery inside has been designed to outlive the shoe, so you'll never have to charge them or anything. In fact, the electronics and battery are completely unaccessible to the user. They'll hit shelves on February 29th for $150.