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HTC Grip Hands-on impressions

HTC's first wearable is for fitness freaks, but you may like it too

Withonboard GPS and a robust app, hardcore fitness folks may find a lot to love in the HTC Grip fitness band.

HTC’s making a further effort to diversify from only making smartphones, and the occasional tablet, with the launch of the HTC Grip, its first smart wearable device. The Grip is a high-end fitness band aimed at serious fitness fans, not a smartwatch. It’s less Nike FuelBand and more Adidas Fit Smart in its approach to monitoring activity, but its design is more influenced by Nike’s entry into the genre.

It does the usual step and sleep tracking, but the individual workout plans that gears the Grip towards athletes.

It’s also the first product to come out of HTC and sports brand Under Armour’s new partnership. The Grip makes use of UA Record, a cloud based network where all the band’s data is stored and collated. Under Armour is as motivated as HTC when it comes to getting into fitness tech, and has recently acquired the MyFitnessPal and Endomondo health apps.

The Grip is a single, moulded band made from a waterproof, tough material, It’s not solid like the FuelBand, but not as pliant as the Jawbone Up24. It clips together like a bracelet, and comes in three sizes, although HTC appreciates now everyone’s wrists are so easily classified, and includes a pair of spacers to further tailor the fit. We had an easy enough time clasping it together, but if you choose to buy it, make sure you get the right size, because there isn’t a lot of give to these. It’s better for it to be too small than too big, is what we’re trying to say. You can add spacers to make a small band fit, but a big band will always be too big.

HTC-Grip-16

On the top of the bracelet is a 1.8-inch curved PMOLED screen, which is slim like Samsung’s Gear Fit, only monochrome instead of color. It’s touch controlled, and you swipe through a series of menus to access individual functions. It’s a “four-way” swipe system, where an up or down gesture digs deeper into the band’s functionality. It’s a little awkward to use on the wrist, but the information is clear, and the e-paper style screen is easy to read in sunlight.

Onboard GPS functionality lets you track your location without the help of a phone.

What can it track? It does the usual step and sleep tracking, but it’s the individual workout plans that gears the Grip towards athletes. Workout, cycling, walking, and running programs can all be tracked separately, and are accessed on the band itself, rather than a smartphone. Onboard GPS functionality lets you track your location without the help of a phone, either. Sadly, there’s no heart rate monitor — neatly avoiding a product clash with Under Armour’s own chest wearable heart rate monitor, with which it will integrate — and although you can select a weights-based workout program, it doesn’t count repetitions.

The focus is on the UA Record website, an online health and fitness community, where the Grip’s data is recorded. This is where everything gets collated, challenges made, stats shared, and performance analyzed. You’ll need to buy into Under Armour’s community to get the most out of the Grip, just like with Adidas Fit Smart, and associated MiCoach apps and products.

The band’s waterproof body is light and comfortable, and the cool teal and lime color scheme really stands out. Other colors will be produced in the future, but this is all that will be available at launch. It’s compatible with both Android and iOS devices, and HTC’s going to charge $200 for the Grip, with sales expected to begin in the U.S. during the spring.