HTC Enters Wearable Market with the HTC GripÍµ Partners with Underarmour
HTC is finally making its entry into the burgeoning wearables market with a new device it's calling the "HTC Grip." The company has partnered with Under Armour to create a fitness-tracking smartwatch that will let serious athletes take their performance-tracking abilities to the next level.
The Grip was unveiled at the Mobile World Congress 2015 event in early March, alongside the introduction of the company's new flagship smartphone, the HTC One M9. While there have been a number of fitness band wearables released in the past decade, HTC's addition ushers in a few interesting and never-before-seen features, which we'll discuss below:
What Does the HTC Grip Do?
In basic terms, the Grip helps advanced athletes track their physical fitness and performance data across multiple kinds of sports and activities. The user can set goals and measure their progress along the way to achieving them.
The HTC Grip's fitness tracking capabilities will be powered by Under Armour's proprietary fitness-tracking app called UA Record, which is compatible with both iOS and Android.
According to Drew Bamford, Corporate Vice President at HTC's Creative Labs, the company's partnership with Under Armour and their Connected Fitness platform will allow the Grip to deliver a fitness-tracking experience that "will surpass the high standard of even professional athletes."
Drew's sentiments are in-line with the comments of Robin Thurston, the Senior Vice President of Under Armour's Connect Fitness department, who expressed the company's interest in advancing their partnership with HTC to "rewrite the rulebook of performance tracking, training and improvement."
Most Notable Specs and Features
HTC's new wearable has a lot of features to cover, so let's get started.
- Flexible PMOLED Display - A major highlight of the Grip is its large Plastic AMOLED (PMOLED) display that adheres to the shape of your wrist. The curved 1.8-inch display packs 90 pixels per inch at a resolution of 32 x 160. While that's not the best resolution in a wearable (Samsung's Gear Fit has a 1.84-inch screen with a 128 x 432 resolution), the Grip seems to serve better as a standalone fitness tracker, whereas the Gear Fit functions more as a wearable smartphone accessory. According to Graham Wheeler, Director of Product Commercialization at HTC, the company chose PMOLED over LED because the extra brightness will make it easier to view from odd angles, which is of course imperative for a wristband-mounted display.
- Built-in GPS - This is another unique feature of the Grip. Unlike most other fitness wearables, HTC's Grip will feature a built-in GPSÍµ giving the user a convenient navigational tool that beats looking down at a smartphone while you're jogging through a residential neighborhood. The inclusion of a GPS is what will separate the HTC Grip from most of the competition (although the Microsoft Band will include GPS as well). With the GPS enabled, athletes will be able to accurately keep track of their distance, route traveled, and much more. Best of all, this data can then be synced with their cloud account in real time.
- Powered By Under Armour's UA Record and the Connected Fitness Platform - One of the most exciting parts about the HTC grip is its built-in integration with UA's comprehensive fitness tracking app, which lets you set goals for distance ran, speed, calories burned and more. You can also use the platform to share your goals and accomplishments via social networks.
- Impressive Battery Life - Even with the GPS enabled the whole time, the HTC Grip will have a battery life over 5 hours, which is not bad when you consider how much fitness information the device has to keep track of. With the GPS disabled the 100mAh battery will last for two and a half days.
- A Variety of Sensors and Data Tracking Capabilities - In addition to the GPS, the Grip will also include four other sensors, including a light sensor, gryometer, G-sensor, compass, and a sensor hub.
- Compatible with Third-Party Heart Rate Monitors - Although the HTC Grip will not include a built-in heart monitor, it will be compatible with a number of third-party heart rate monitors. This may actually be a good thing though, as the integrated heart rate monitors in other wearables have been less-than-impressive, so allowing the grip to communicate with more reliable third-party monitors via Bluetooth may have been a wiser move than including a less powerful heart rate monitor on-board.
- Multi-sport Mode - The HTC Grip will also feature a multi-sport mode that will be able to automatically detect and track various kinds fitness activities from cycling to swimming to sprinting. In addition to simply tracking data and providing statistics, multi-sport mode will also provide tailored advice from fitness experts based on the athletes recent activities and achievements. According to HTC's CEO, Peter Chao, the group will train athletes "as if they have a team of professional experts coaching them the entire time.
- Tracks Sleep Patterns - HTC has even included a built-in sleep pattern monitor that tracks your sleeping habits, a critical component of a solid fitness regimen. The soft and bendable form factor of the Grip makes it easier to wear during sleep than most smartwatches and fitness bands.
- FuelBand-like Design - The two-tone Deep Teal/Lime color scheme has the HTC Grip looking a lot like the Nike FuelBand. HTC has stated that it is made of soft touch material that is geared towards comfort. Here's a screenshot of the Grip's exact design specs, courtesy of Android Central:
Is the Grip a Replacement for Nike's FuelBand Series?
The design of the HTC grip is strikingly similar to that of Nike's now-abandoned FuelBand series. With Nike stepping out of the genre temporarily to revisit the development phase, HTC and other companies now have the opportunity to jump in and capitalize on the available market share. However, Nike hasn't left the wearables market permanently, as the company made it clear last year that that would be partnering with Apple to create a new wearable. Still, the HTC Grip seems to have the old Fuelband beat in most areas, so this isn't really a relevant comparison anymore. Instead, the HTC Grip is expected to face tougher competition in 2015 from the Microsoft Band and FitBit Surge.
Release Date and Price
HTC is expected to release the Grip at some point in the spring of 2015 for a price tag of around $199. The device will initially be made available in North America at a select group of retailers, including Sports Authority, Walmart, HTC.com, AT&T, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Cabela's, DICK's Sporting Goods, and Under Armour stores. It will be launched in at least three different sizes, but there's only one color scheme so far - Deep Teal/Lime.
To see the HTC Grip closeup and in action, check out PocketNow's hands-on review of it on YouTube (embedded below):