​Under Armour Band review

A fitness tracker where the software is the star of the show
​Under Armour Band

The Under Armour Band is the HTC Grip reborn. The US sports giant's first wearable was delayed from launch in 2015. But now it's back with a new look.

You can pick up the Band for $180, making it a more expensive purchase than the Fitbit Charge HR and our current fitness tracker fave, the Jawbone UP2. The Band will count steps, measure resting heart rate and deliver notifications from your phone. So far, it doesn't sound all that different from what you can already get your hands on.

What's special, for now, is that it also forms part of a new UA HealthBox platform, which includes a heart rate monitor chest strap, a smart scale and a pair of smart running shoes. The idea is that all the products will play nice with each other and pull all of your data into the UA Record app, delivering more more detailed insights into your health.

So was it worth the wait? Here's our verdict on HTC's and Under Armour's debut fitness tracker.

Under Armour Band: Design

Straight out of the box the Band has a simple, inoffensive charm about it. It's the Grip evolved but there are some clear changes here. Some good, some not so good. The clasp is now a more simple setup, as Under Armour and HTC decided to ditch the Nike Fuelband-style charging connector and clasp in one.

The smooth finish on the band has gone too, replaced with an attractive textured finish that feels more in keeping with rival sportier-looking fitness trackers. It's water resistant up to two metres, but before any swimmers get excited, we'll warn you that the UA Band isn't designed to be used in the pool.

Read this: Under Armour HealthBox review

There's a clear nod to the union of the two companies with the HTC logo located on the clasp and the Under Armour red button that simply turns the screen on and off. On the whole, it's a minimalist approach and one of the nicer of the plain-looking trackers I've had around my wrist. It's comfortable and sits securely too.

Open it out and you'll find a brighter red underside where the textured finish continues. This is where you'll find a small optical heart rate sensor and a set of gold charging pins, which signals another proprietary charging cradle to add to the collection. This is by far one of the worst though. It magnetically connects but the connection is so weak that if you don't carefully place it somewhere it's going to come loose.

That however is not the most disappointing aspect of the Band. That's reserved for the sub-par screen. It's a 1.3-inch POLED touchscreen display – although this appears as a mere sliver on the band – so it's the same as the one on the Grip. It's eaten up by the massive bezel surrounding it, making it a tiny display to look at.

The low resolution makes the screen's appearance murky and despite having three brightness levels, we found it difficult to quickly view progress in bright light and at night. It's a bit like the first generation Garmin Vivosmart tracker, but worse. On a positive note, it's nice and responsive when you swipe your fingers across. It's just a shame Under Armour and HTC didn't go with something more vibrant and cutting edge.

Under Armour Band: The app

The Under Armour Record app is the standout feature of the Band. If Under Armour and HTC decide to make another wearable (which I'm sure they will) then they'll have the software foundations to rival the Fitbits and the Jawbones of this world.

It's available on Android and iOS and there's plenty of third party app and device support. Head into the Manage App & Devices section of the app and you'll see a list that includes Jawbone, Fitbit, Misfit, Polar, Suunto and more. That's not forgetting that Under Armour now owns Endomondo, MapMyFitness and MyFitnessPal, the latter of which is deeply integrated into the Record app.

Read this: The best fitness trackers to buy

The idea is that all of the data can be shared between several apps with the Record app acting as the hub. I wouldn't say it works perfectly right now, but with some work, there's the makings of a great app here.

Day-to-day use is pretty straightforward too. At the heart is a big circle broken down into four quadrants. These represent activity, nutrition, fitness and sleep: the cornerstones of a healthy life. according to Under Armour. The nutrition section is powered by MyFitnessPal giving you the option for a more simplified breakdown of your calorie consumption or to download the MyFitnessPal app to be more precise about your intake.

Below that you've got a "How do you feel?" numbered scale, which supposedly filters into daily data insights and identifying trends. Then you can scroll down to see progress towards goals, resting heart rate data and weight data, if you've got the UA Scale synced.

There's a Facebook-style feed to see activity history and a challenges section to take on fellow Under Armour pals. Up top you will find shortcuts to your profile and the ability to share data via email, Twitter and plenty of other places. The Sync button will take you into a list of your supported devices. In the UA Band section, this is where you can set up preferences like turning on auto sleep tracking, setting up phone notifications and using the phone's GPS to track routes.

One aspect you should see pop up from time to time are the insights based on your logged data. This is powered by IBM Watson, which is basically similar in the end result to Jawbone's Smart Coach or Microsoft Health for the Band 2. It analyses data and makes suggestions on aspects like sleep or physical activity in comparison to similar aged users.

I didn't find the insights quite as useful as those offered by Jawbone, but Under Armour plans to improve this aspect by adding metrics such as weather and temperature insights to suggest ideal conditions for training outside. It's good to see some form of actionable data happening here and it's a solid starting point.

Overall, I got on well with the Record app. There definitely needs to be some work on how the data from different apps feeds into this central hub, but I've seen enough to say that Under Armour is onto something good here.

Under Armour Band: Tracking

In terms of 24/7 activity tracking the UA Band largely covers the basics. It'll count steps and measure distance, but there's no altimeter so you can't track elevation. Sleep monitoring is automatic (once you've turned this on in the app) and accelerometer based, so you're going to get as detailed tracking as a Fitbit Charge HR or a Jawbone UP3. You can also set up inactivity alarms, which will push out a message on the Band's screen when you haven't been moving for the past hour.

Wareable verdict: Under Armour Speedform Gemini 2 running shoes

I put it up against the Jawbone UP2 for step tracking and sleep monitoring and as the screenshots below illustrate, it delivered identical readings, which is encouraging. I will say though that the sleep tracking can be very temperamental. On several occasions it hadn't saved to the app or I'd woken up and accidentally paused or stopped the tracking.

Step tracking compared: UA Band (left) and Jawbone UP2 (right)

There's an optical heart rate monitor here but it's focused on measuring resting heart rate to help provide a more comprehensive record of your daily health. As a general rule 60-100bpm is good, any higher is not. I took a few on the spot heart readings against the TomTom Spark running watch and a Polar H7 heart rate monitor strap running through Polar Beat, and found the Band delivered some excessively high readings. At times there was a 20-30 bpm difference. That's huge.

Sleep tracking compared: UA Band (left) and Jawbone UP2 (right)

The heart rate monitor is not built for high intensity training, something that HTC's design boss explained to us in great detail, and this is a big reason why Under Armour also launched a heart rate monitor chest strap, to serve those who want to get serious.

I took the Band out for a few runs using the TomTom Spark and Under Armour's new chest strap. The external monitor is supposed to pair with the Band to deliver heart rate readings, but I simply never got it to work. That wasn't the biggest issue though. Midway during a couple of runs, I noticed that the Band had paused itself underneath my running jacket, so half of my session didn't get tracked.

In fitness mode you can log runs, cycling sessions, gym workouts and long walks, however, there's no GPS built into the band despite it having been included on the HTC Grip. Instead the Band relies on the accelerometer to measure distance, but you can choose to use your phone's GPS to track routes if you want. Based on my previous experience with trackers that use an accelerometer to track distance, I didn't have high hopes.

Distance tracking compared: UA Band (left), TomTom Spark (centre) and Runkeeper iOS (right)

When I did eventually get a full run without pausing, the UA Band was generally 400-500 metres short compared to the TomTom Spark and Runkeeper iPhone app. In other words, GPS is still king when it comes to accurately tracking distances.

If you're only going to use the Band for baseline activity tracking, then it's fine. But when it comes hardcore gym sessions or running, it's just not equipped for that yet.

Under Armour Band: Notifications

Fitness trackers are no longer just fitness trackers and that means playing a little nicer with your phone. We're talking about notifications; the kind that will stop you reaching into your pocket for your handset.

Under Armour's approach to letting you know when you have an appointment coming up or a text message waiting to be read is pretty basic. You need to customise it in the settings on the UA Record app first to decide what you'll see on the Band.

Once it's set up, there's very little delay between your phone registering something and seeing the notification pop up on that slither of an OLED screen. On the clock screen, a little box signifies that you've got notifications backed up. The screen is too small to ever show a notification in full so a swipe is required. You can snooze notifications and close them all down completely if you want.

Away from notifications, the Band does also have a dedicated calendar section and the ability to set up alarms. There's also a set of music controls, however I found to my disappointment that it doesn't appear to play nice with third party music apps like Spotify, opting to launch native music applications instead.

Under Armour Band: Battery life

In terms of battery life the UA doesn't break new ground. You can expect up to five days, but that can depend on a whole host of things. If you've got the screen brightness cranked up to the max or a full stream of notifications, it'll be less. Using the exercise tracking feature can also dent battery performance and that's exactly what I found.

I managed to get four days out of the Band, tracking a couple of runs and with full notifications switched on. After a full charge, which only takes about 30 minutes, I found myself charging again after about two and half days. But if you're willing to scale back on your use of some of the features, you can get five days.

Under Armour Band
By Under Armour
So, was Under Armour and HTC’s first fitness tracker worth the wait? Sadly not. On its own, the UA Band is a pretty average piece of hardware. Its simplistic looks are easy on the eye but that doesn’t make up for the truly terrible screen. Activity tracking is solid enough but sleep monitoring suffers temperamental moments, and worse, exercise tracking is not really up to scratch. The saving grace here is Under Armour’s software and the HealthBox integration. If the IBM-powered insights improve and feeding data into the app improves, there’s the foundations of a great device here. For the money though, you can definitely buy a better equipped standalone fitness tracker.

  • Comfortable and secure fit
  • Accurate step and sleep tracking
  • Slick companion app
  • Average screen
  • Sleep tracking doesn't always save
  • Inaccurate distance tracking


  • smileman says:

    This looks great, especially since Garmin doesn't appear to have a follow-on in the works to the original Vivosmart in the same form factor. The Vivosmart HR is a lot closer in look/feel to the larger/bulkier Vivofit.

    However, $180 is way too much for the UA Band. Resting heart rate is nice, but it otherwise offers almost identical form/functionality to the original Vivorsmart, which can still be found for as low as $70 right now. 

    Also, unlike the UA Band, the Vivosmart is fully waterproof.

    • beelzebomb says:

      agreed,  the failure of the original vivosmart screen culminating in it's withdrawal was a real blow to me. Currently on my third after screen failures but realising, with original vivosmarts running into short supply, I'll eventually have to get something else & really don't want something chunky. I also need compatibility with Bounts & want waterproof. Not sure why Garmin aren't openly pursuing this area anymore. This Under Armour device is one to watch. 

  • cmcastille says:

    just watch the new UA Healthbox commercial.  It promises a lot of things that are not mentioned in this article so I am wondering if the said promises are nothing more than what you get with the FitBit dashboard.  UA says its system evaluates food intake and workout and then provides suggestions for what to do next to meet your goals.  Fitbit does the same, but with human interpretation.  Don't burn enough calories - work out more or eat less.

  • Joeman says:

    Under Armour also owns My Fitness Pal and could potentially take over a lot of market if they make the right tech moves. The thing that annoys me the most about my Fit Bit HR is the heart rate is nowhere close to accurate, and I can never ever get it to sync with My Fitness Pal. If Under Armour invests in a good interface like Fit Bits app, and decides to develop the best HR sensor, they could have a complete package that most people would move too because it’s a complete system.

  • Nischit says:

    The Band has an simple, inoffensive charm about it. It's the Grip evolved but there are some clear changes here. Some good, some not so good. Is what I have to say.

  • peagreen says:

    The app might be great for the people who need to be motivated, who want to share and compete.

    The vast majority of people don't, but they might want to record stuff for themselves and find this kind of app way over the top in features and definitely in battery use.

  • abysan says:

    Need  some help!

    I would like to buy a heart rate monitor gadget for a 10 years old girl, formal athlete, she was diagnosed with serious heart arrhythmia. After 5 weeks in hospital, now her heart rate is stabilised, but she needs somehow continuous heart rate control.

    Is the Under Armour band recommended for this kind of things?  It is possible to be adjusted for a 30 kg girls wrist? 

    Thanx forward for any comments and advices!  

  • bigdmajor says:

    I’m not sure where to start. I did my homework and had certain expectations. Perhaps it’s my fault for building this system up in my mind, but I want to share my experience with anyone thinking about dropping $400 on this. I wanted to get a more in-depth picture of where my health is at.

    What I expected:

    I expected to have a seamlessly integrated system that used age, sex, weight, BMI, sleep, workout intensity, heartrate, daily activity and diet to create a one-stop source for my own personal biometric data. I don’t know why, perhaps I read it in a speculative review, but I expected some kind of analysis, and I remember reading somewhere that the software, UA record, would use integrated analysis to provide feedback, or at least suggestions. I expected to see my heart-rate over time for my workouts, such that long runs would show a steadily increasing heartbeat over the miles, or to be able to see heartrate versus geographical location or elevation, ect. For a workout at the gym I expected to be able to see my heart rate go up and down in short succession as I completed weight-lifting sets and moved between muscle groups. I expected to be able to glean some insight here. Would it be better to do more reps with less intensity, or do less reps with more intensity? What does my heartrate, BMI, diet, and age say on the subject? I had already been using MYfitnessPal, and so I was excited that the ap could syc with this software (that UA apparently just bought). For how much cardio I do, should I eat more carbs and less protein? For how much I lift weights, should I eat more protein and less carbs? We’ll let’s just fire up the old UA record ap and see what the biometrics say right?

    What I found:

    The scale is inaccurate and imprecise in regard to body fat percentage. Standing on it 5 time in five minutes produces five different readings that can vary as much as 2% in either direction. BMI as determined by bioelectrical impedance is notoriously inaccurate, but it should at least be consistent. It has the weight down OK, but that’s not why you spend this kind of money on a scale.

    The band functions really well, but it soon began to fail at logging workouts in the UA record ap. This is a deal breaker. If I can’t record my workouts then I can’t track or analyze my fitness. The band is synced mind you, sleep and pedometer readings are uploaded just fine. At first it was just sporadic; I would lose a few workouts here and there. However, when I went to manually log the missing workouts retrospectively, it would seemingly double count pedometer steps such that the ap and band no longer showed the same amount of steps. I contacted UA support and they said they were aware of the issue and that it would be addressed in a software update in March 2016. So, I waited because I really wanted this system to work. Finally, on March 7th, the ap updated the firmware in the UA band. But alas, it made the problem worse. All of my workouts were showing up in the feed (UA’s facebook-esc interface for sharing workout stuff), but none were now showing up in the main UA record interface, and they appeared incomplete as if the UA heartrate was not connected. In regard to the pedometer, it underestimates my steps during a run by about 40%, which is significant. During normal activity, it seems accurate.

    The UA heartrate seemed to perform adequately. It’s not as uncomfortable or awkward as you might expect. It syncs easily with the band. It is a little unexpected that it cannot sync with the UA record ap AND the band at the same time, or that you get different types of data in either case.

    The UA record ap is where the biggest disappointment is. I expected to see much greater detail about all of my data. The sleep monitor is the only thing I was truly impressed with, but looking around the internet, UA is not the only one to get this right. Let’s start with the nutrition. There is nothing here! You select light medium or heavy consumption. That’s it. Maybe some people don’t want to log every food item, but this should be made available. I don’t get it UA, why would you buy MyFitnessPal, the most in-depth nutrition tracking ap out there, then sync it to your UA record ap, and do NOTHING with it? Nothing you do in MYFitnessPal shows up in the UA record ap. What’s the point of syncing it? The pedometer is OK. It always matches with the band. The biggest problem is the workout log. This is just plain underdeveloped. There is no selection for weights, and there is no good way to look at the data. You can go onto the feed (again trying to be workout facebook) and see overly simplified metrics from a workout. You see the distance, time, max heartrate (that’s it just the one number; so much for the benefit of wearing a $100 heartrate monitor), and some arbitrary metric of “willpower” with no explanation of WTF it is. You cannot see your heartrate across your workout, and there is no integration of this data or analysis in any way. No suggestion, no feedback. There’s not even a “you’re in shap” or a “you’re fat” assessment. All you see is that you ran five miles. …I know, I was there! In short, this is $400 system to log data that you could do for free with two fingers and a clock.

    Look UA. I gave this a fair shot. I really wanted it to be worth it, but it is just not anywhere remotely close to developed let alone ready for release. I’ll consider a system like this in the future, but you better come correct if you want people to drop that kind of money. It’s not THAT you collect data, it’s what you DO with it once you have it. I think it’s more likely that a competitor will see what you could have done with this system and then execute more effectively.

    • armando says:

      I've been trying for 3 days to try and get the UA Record App to link with MapMyFitness and it just disconnects the band completely until I reset it again. I feel that this band doesn't offer much more than what my phone can do already by itself, just adds in extra steps and another app I have to use. Will most-likely send it back.

    • Zhou says:

      You have to sync the Fitnesspal app to the UA record app and confirm it in both apps. Then once you log your nutrition in fitnesspal it will show calories consumed for the day instead of just light, medium or heavy.

    • eazy says:

      Thank you for your review.  It was thorough and exactly what I needed to hear before dropping $400 on the UA product.  I had the EXACT same expectations of the product that you had.  Glad I read your post first.

  • Heathergale says:

    What exactly does water resistant mean? Can it be worn when you are swimming?

    • m.sawh says:

      Hi, unfortunately it can't be worn for swimming. I know, we were disappointed too...

  • Nathan says:

    I have used it for 2 day. Step tracking was too bad. I just stay in my bed and the band counted about 20 steps. And on the Sunday, I just stayed at home and walked around in my house and band counted about 2000 steps and 1.1km. So disappointed!!!

What do you think?

Connect with Facebook, Twitter, or just enter your email to sign in and comment.