Why Under Armour is now a fitness tech powerhouse

Buying Endomondo and MyFitnessPal puts it head-to-head with Apple and Google
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Under Armour has announced that it has snapped up behemoth fitness tracking app Endomondo and food tracking app MyFitnessPal, in a sweeping attempt to become a sports tech player.

With its heart rate monitoring Armour39 chest strap, Under Armour has already made a tentative play into wearable tech and health tracking. But now the sports clothing maker has chosen to open its cheque book, things aren't so tentative.

The verdict: Under Armour Band review

We examine why Under Armour's new purchases make it a fitness force to be reckoned with.

Data is everything


It's not that difficult to build a fitness band or watch that tracks steps, altitude, distance and heart rate. What's difficult is gathering all that fitness data and turning it into meaningful insights, communities that encourage fitness and health goals that work.

Essential reading: The best fitness trackers you can buy

MyFitnessPal is one of the best food tracking apps around because it gives you targets to work towards which can be easy and glanceable (your daily calories) or as detailed as you like when you dive into the graphs (daily fat consumption, vitamin consumption, calories over your target per week).

And Endomondo is big on the social sharing approach which it thinks is key to motivating users to get fit - support comes not just from IRL friends but all sorts of groups to join and share your progress. Mette Lykke, Endomondo's co-founder and CEO told Wareable: "We will continue working on our current roadmap which is focused on redefining how users are social around fitness."

"On top of this," she said, "we will look to leverage the combined platform, e.g., by integrating with UA Record so that users have the option of connecting the two apps."

What Under Armour is in a position to do is bring together these two featuresets and communities into one all-tracking, all-seeing, all-useful platform and eventually bring its own sportswear knowhow into the picture.

120 million users is huge


With Endomondo's 20 million users and MyFitnessPal's 80 million users to add to Under Armour's own 20 million users in its Connected Fitness community, we're talking big numbers. Big enough to worry Jawbone and Fitbit and even the big guns of Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Apple is probably the biggest threat to anyone looking to make a health tracking and wearable tech play in 2015 as the Apple Watch is due in just two months time. Not only that but iOS 8 is now on 72% of devices - Apple has now sold over 575 million iPhones so if we assume the percentage of users on the latest OS is about the same on iPhones and iPads, that's around 400 million people with access to the Apple Health app.

Read more: Apple Watch release date and all you need to know

Still, that's anyone with the app installed on their phone by default. What Under Armour has is a smaller group of users who have chosen to download a health and fitness tracking app - much more useful. Plus Endomondo has already announced Apple Health integration and keeping things open will be a smart move for its new owners.

Biometric sportswear would be a perfect fit


What we really want to see in the next twelve months from Under Armour is a range of Athos-style sportswear that sends your muscle, heart rate, breathing and other performance data straight to your smartphone and say, Endomondo.

This would be the missing piece of the puzzle if Under Armour really wants to dominate in serious health and fitness tracking. Apps like MyFitnessPal are mainstream enough to compete with the big players but Under Armour could really go after enthusiasts and win.

Read more: The best smart clothing

Robin Thurston, Under Armour's SVP for Connected Fitness told Wareable: "We intend to look to license the platform to key partners who want to integrate into our ecosystem. HTC is a strong example of a key partner."

One thing is for certain though, our fitness expert Kieran Alger wasn't all that enamoured by the Armour39 chest strap noting that it is "cumbersome and not comprehensive enough in data". So there's still plenty of work to do.

How we test


Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

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