Under Armour showed me the future of fitness tech

Under Armour Healthbox Release Date

Armed with little more than a fitness band, a well-made iPhone app, a pair of sneakers and some will power, I lost 50 lbs in three months last winter. I have gone on to lose even more weight since then, inching ever closer to my goal, though my approach changed a bit as I mentioned in my earlier article. While there is little doubt in my mind that Jawbone’s fitness tracker and app combo played a huge role in my success, in the back of my mind I knew that there had to be a better way.

Now I’ve experienced a better way and I’m not sure I can ever go back.

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Under Armour on Tuesday announced its entrance into the fitness tracking market in a big way. The relatively young company is among the biggest brands in sports, rivaling mainstays like Nike, Reebok and Adidas in many ways thanks to aggressive marketing and innovative products. It’s no accident that Under Armour has reported revenue growth of 20% or better in the past 20 quarters.

If Under Armour hoped to maintain its breakneck pace, however, it knew that it couldn’t stay away from connected fitness devices for too long. And now, with HTC’s help, the company is making a big splash in fitness tech from CES 2016 in Las Vegas.

With HTC as its hardware partner, Under Armour unveiled a slew of connected fitness devices in Las Vegas on Tuesday. The star of the show is a trio of devices that make up the Under Armour Healthbox, which is aimed at providing athletes with a more comprehensive experience than they would get from a simple fitness band like a FitBit.

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The Healthbox consists of three devices, the UA Band, UA Scale and UA Heart Rate chest strap. Together, these device provide all of the key ingredients to help athletes track their workouts, daily activity, sleep, weight, body fat percentage and nutrition. The devices were all designed and manufactured by HTC so they look fantastic and work together seamlessly, and they all communicate with a brand new version of Under Armour’s mobile fitness app, Record, which is a free download for the iPhone and for Android devices.

In addition to the Healthbox, Under Armour has unveiled a number of other devices as well. Included in the company’s connected device portfolio are new SpeedForm Gemini 2 smart sneakers that pack a sensor to track and store running data such as time and date, duration, distance and splits. They also sync with the Record app and, perhaps best of all, they never need to be charged — Under Armour says that the battery contained inside the shoes will outlast their treads.

Completing the first wave of Under Armour’s next-generation products are two pairs of wireless earbuds with a fantastic design and JBL sound. These sweat-proof buds connect to any iPhone or Android handset and feature a no-slip design that has performed as advertised in my testing so far. Two versions of the headphones will be released this year, a base model and an upgraded version that features in-ear heart rate monitoring.

Under Armour’s recent mobile software acquisitions including MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun have given it a leg up in the fitness app space, with about 160 million users currently on board. Now, Under Armour will look to attack the market on the hardware side as well. While the company is unquestionably a bit late to the game, it’s using a strategy that is similar to the one that made it so successful in the sports apparel market. In addition to the many big-name athletes who will be endorsing UA’s new connected fitness gear, Under Armour and HTC have created products with powerful designs and top-level performance that is as good or better than anything offered by market leaders.

I’ve been testing pre-release versions of each of Under Armour’s new products for weeks now, and I have no doubt that we can expect big things from Under Armour in this space. The key for me, and the reason I believe UA so so well positioned to succeed, is the very nature of the company’s approach. Under Armour has identified four key “pillars” for athletes — fitness, activity, nutrition and sleep — and it has created a multi-device solution that covers all the bases. Everything will work together seamlessly and feed data into a single app that makes a great hub. UA’s Record app also includes social features so you can compete in challenges against friends.

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The Under Armour Healthbox becomes available for preorder beginning today on Under Armour’s website and on HTC’s website. Preorders will be delivered on January 22nd, which is when the Healthbox will be made available for purchase in stores. The set costs $400 for all three devices, or the UA Band and UA Scale can be purchased separately for $180 each. The UA Heart Rate strap will cost $80 when purchased separately.

UA’s new Bluetooth headphones also cost $180, and the second version with built-in heart rate monitoring will cost $250 when they launch this spring. Finally, the SpeedForm Gemini 2 connected sneakers will be released in select sporting goods stores on February 29th for $150.

Under Armour’s VP Creative Design and Brand Brian Boring used a catchy tag line when introducing the press to the company’s new product line in meetings a few weeks ago: “In 1996 we changed the way athletes dress. In 2016 we will change the way athletes live.” As ambitious as it sounds, I think Under Armour’s goal is well within reach — I’ve been testing these products for just a couple of weeks now, and they have already changed the way I approach health and fitness.

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