With HealthBox, Under Armour Wants To Wire Athletes Up From Head To Toe

With HealthBox, Under Armour Wants To Wire Athletes Up From Head To Toe

A digital double threat in hardware and software.

Under Armour, having spent hundreds of millions of dollars bulking up on software startups, is now showing its 2016 shape-up resolution: to turn itself from a fitness-apparel maker into a tech company.

“This is the year that this gets woven together,” Robin Thurston, Under Armour’s senior vice president of Connected Fitness, told me when we met last month in San Francisco.

The most visible example of this new tapestry is the UA HealthBox, a package of connected digital-fitness devices that Under Armour and HTC are unveiling at CES in Las Vegas Tuesday morning.

At the same time, Under Armour’s Connected Fitness division—the new home of MapMyFitness, MyFitnessPal, and Endomondo—is releasing a new version of UA Record, its fitness-dashboard app.

All Under Armour, All The Time?

If you spend enough time in the byways of Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, and follow the right fitness-minded accounts, you’ll encounter the hashtag #AllUnderArmourEverything. Some use it to dismiss overly enthusiastic fans of the brand, while others celebrate their shoes-to-headband embrace of Under Armour.

While Under Armour hasn’t officially embraced the hashtag, it neatly sums up the company’s new digital strategy. Under Armour wants you to connect with its hardware and software from head to toe. Start with the new UA/JBL Bluetooth headphones; add a UA HR Strap around your chest; strap a UA Band on your wrist; run UA Record on the smartphone in your pocket; and wear Under Armour Speedform Gemini 2 shoes with a UA sensor inside to track your runs. Ideally, you’d only take this gear off to step on a UA Scale that logs your weight wirelessly.

Under Armour gave me a HealthBox test set to evaluate over the holidays. While I’ll be writing a full review based on the final software release in a couple of weeks, I can share some general impressions.

In its race to stake out turf all over your body, Under Armour seems more concerned with executing a land grab than fully developing the terrain.  I can’t fault the company for pursuing this strategy: To do otherwise means ceding the wrist to Fitbit and Apple, the chest to the likes of Wahoo and Pear Sports, and the feet to Nike. Under Armour has a powerful arsenal of fitness apps, but they ultimately depend on devices to feed them data.

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