Under Armour Wants to Rule the Wearables Market
They just launched a suite of fitness tracking products, including an inventive new running shoe
This month, Under Armour announced a full wearables portfolio to match its collection of fitness apps. The company's new hardgoods suite, called HealthBox, debuted at the Consumer Electronics show and includes a smart running shoe, and a heart-rate-monitor band, chest strap, and wireless headphones.
The running shoe is what caught most people’s attention. Dubbed the SpeedForm Gemini 2 Record Equipped, it costs $150 and can track run duration, splits, and distance—all without your smartphone (unlike Nike+, which is just an app since they discontinued the hardware). You run, come home, connect to the Under Armour Record app, and the data will upload automatically. There’s no GPS and Under Armour isn’t talking about measuring stride and gait, but we figure that’s coming in a version down the road.
The heart-rate-monitor chest strap ($80) is straight forward and resembles all the other chest straps on the market. But the band ($180) is intriguing: Under Armour is marketing its ability to accurately track resting heart rate instead of activity-based heart-rate (for the latter you’re supposed to pair it with the chest strap for better accuracy). Most fitness trackers measure resting heart rate because it's a good way to monitor stress, recovery, and general cardiac fitness, but few emphasize that ability. Focusing on the need for a chest strap during real exercise is a good move (chest straps are still generally more accurate than wrist-based monitors), but it might dissuade buyers who want the convenience of just the band. The wireless headphones ($250) also track heart rate: in my testing, I've found that heart-rate tracking headphones are almost as accurate as chest straps and much more accurate that watches.
Under Armour partnered with multi-billion dollar electronics giant Harman to build the headphones and cell maker HTC to build the band, which allowed the company to pump their trackers out quickly and ensure high-quality products right from the start.
The next logical step, of course, is for UA to start embedding fitness sensors in its clothing. No word on when that will happen, but we expect sometime soon.