HTC has just announced it’s getting into wearables, with a fitness band, drawing on a strategic partnership it announced earlier this year with fitness gear maker Under Armour — who will be supplying the tracking software that the band hooks into.
It’s HTC’s first wearable. But not its first non-smartphone device. Last fall it outed a ‘GoPro style’ camera accessory targeting the mainstream consumer, called the RE. It’s now expanding that expansion with the forthcoming fitness wearable, Grip — which it says is the first of what will be a series of co-branded products with Under Armour.
“Today we are so excited expanding upon the partnership with Under Armour,” said HTC CEO Peter Chou. “Together we aim to deliver holistic health & fitness experience on a community platform of more than 130M users worldwide.”
The Grip wrist band, which will come in a range of bright colors including lime green, is being positioned as a ruggedized, water resistant wearable for athletes and sports oriented folk, rather than as a general step tracker to motivate people who don’t move very much (although it does do step tracking). Different types of activity will be trackable, from walking to cycling to gym sessions.
It’s evidently something of a test the waters approach to the wearables market for HTC at this nascent stage — with a U.S. launch confirmed but the company still evaluating whether other regions such as Europe will also get the band.
The Grip has a pedometer and GPS, the latter being relatively rare for fitness wristbands — although Microsoft’s fitness band includes GPS, as do more fully featured sports watches — along with Bluetooth Low Energy so it can hook into additional fitness devices, such as a heart rate monitor, for more granular tracking.
It can also be connected to a phone to get notifications. There are no buttons on the band but users have the ability to respond to notifications with pre-set gestures via the 1.8 curved monochrome touchscreen — such as sending a message saying they’re in the gym and will call later. The wearable can also be used as a remote control to change the music on a phone or other device it’s linked it.
The Grip wearable will support different workout modes, such as a gym mode, cycling, indoor and outdoor running. These will need to be manually switched in the initial release, but HTC tells TechCrunch there is scope for a firmware upgrade to support automatic switching based on contextual awareness in future, thanks to the built in GPS.
At this point battery life is rated at around 2.5 days when it’s being used as a step tracker, or five hours with the GPS fully engaged.
The wristband can be paired with iOS devices as well as Android. It will integrate with Under Armour’s tracking portal, Record — which can aggregate sleep, steps, active time, distance, workouts, calories burned and weight.
TechCrunch’s Jordan Crook contributed to this report