HTC launches Grip, a fitness band for Under Armour’s Record app

HTC announced its long-awaited wearable on Sunday at Mobile World Congress. It’s called the Grip, and it’s a joint effort with Under Armour, the sportswear and now-fitness software brand.

The Grip doesn’t run Android Wear or other any major smartwatch platform. It can serve phone or calendar notifications, but it’s not really a smartwatch: It’s a fitness-focused trackers for serious athletes who want something more involved than a Fitbit. Instead of the colorful screens seen on Android Wear devices, the Grip sports a black and white PMOLED with an unusual 32 x 160 pixel resolution, and it works with both iOS and Android.

The chunky bangle has four main sensors: A compass, accelerometer, light sensor, and GPS. Except for GPS, those are “table stakes” specs shared by most other fitness trackers, but GPS will be appreciated by runners and cyclists who can leave their phone at home. In fact, the Grip doesn’t need to be synced to a device, so when users go to the gym, they can leave thier smartphones in their lockers. There’s no optical heart rate sensor — HTC says they tend to be inaccurate  — but the Grip can be used with a chest-worn heart rate monitor, like Under Armour’s Armour39.

The lack of a heart rate monitor helps the Grip manage a two to three day battery life when simply step tracking, although that falls to 5 hours with GPS on, although that’s long enough for most people to run a marathon. The interface on the Grip is stripped down and simple, with a simple menu that give you options for step tracking, calories burned, sleep logged and other quick stats on the device. Otherwise, your step and location data are fed into the UA Record app. If your workout doesn’t include running or cycling, the Grip has a gym mode, too.HTC Grip and HTC One M9

In terms of looks, the Grip has much more in common with Under Armour’s aesthetic than the brushed metal look of HTC’s phones. The inside of the Grip is a bright green, which matches some of Under Armour’s sportswear. Where it touches your skin, it’s got an interesting nubby and rubbery texture to help ventilation and maybe prevent the rash problems other fitness trackers have faced. It will come in three sizes when it goes on sale this spring.

The Grip will only sync with Under Armour’s relatively new Record app. Think of it this way: HTC is handling the hardware, and Under Armour — which recently bought over $500 million of competing fitness apps including MyFitnessPal — is handling the software side.

The Grip is HTC’s second product in its Re line, following the confounding buttonless Re camera. In the coming year, HTC isn’t just going to be a smartphone manufacturer anymore — with a little bit of help from its friends like Under Armour, it’s transforming into a premium electronics maker, too.



Under Armour buys MyFitnessPal for $475M

Under Armour, a Baltimore-based performance apparel brand, has been making aggressive investments in mobile fitness technology recently, and its latest purchase is a big one: The sportswear company announced on Wednesday that it had purchased MyFitnessPal for $475 million.

MyFitnessPal is a popular free app for tracking food intake and calories, and is widely used by personal trainers and other fitness professionals. MyFitnessPal reportedly has 45 million active users. It works with a large number of the most popular health apps and trackers, including those from Fitbit, Jawbone and Garmin. In fact, its greatest strength as a service aside from its dedicated fans and users is that its API is so widely used that even minor health apps or accessories often have built a direct connection to pipe data into MyFitnessPal.

Under Armour also mentioned that it has purchased Endomondo, an older fitness app. It includes interval training for running and biking combined with social capabilities. Under Armour said it paid $85 million for Copenhagen-based Endomondo. Earlier, Under Armour acquired MapMyFitness in 2013 for $150 million.

Under Armour wants to compete with rival Nike to create a digital platform for serious athletes. It launched an app called UA Record for iOS and Android earlier this month, which tracks sleep, weight, as well as steps and workouts from fitness trackers. In 2013, Under Armour released the Armour39 fitness tracker, which was generally seen as inferior to Nike’s FuelBand.

The sportswear company also entered into an agreement earlier this month with smartphone maker HTC to “provide consumers with a range of connected health and fitness products,” although no products were announced. Still, expect HTC’s forthcoming smartwatch or wearable tracker to work with Under Armour’s software.

To date, MyFitnessPal had only publicly announced a single funding round, an $18 million round led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 2013.

This post was updated several times Wednesday afternoon as more information became available.