Taiwanese device maker HTC is entering the wearables space with a fitness tracker called HTC Grip. Grip is targeted at the mid- to high-end fitness segment consisting of serious sports enthusiasts and athletes. While the fitness tracker space is crowded with companies like Fitbit, Misfit, Garmin, and Jawbone owning the market, HTC hopes to differentiate itself by avoiding the entry-level fitness segment.
The tracker is aimed at the advanced sports enthusiast and has the capability of tracking different types of workouts including running, cycling, and time spent in the gym. The Grip has a PMOLED screen, is waterproof, and its battery can last 2.5 days on a single charge. It doesn’t have a heart rate monitor but can sync with any Bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitor. The HTC tracker also has GPS embedded within the tracker itself, which means that users who want to track their location can leave their smartphone at home while going for a run. The Microsoft Band is the only other tracker currently in the market with GPS.
Possibly the biggest differentiator is HTC’s partnership with sports apparel maker Under Armour. The HTC Grip syncs performance data with Under Armour’s Connected Fitness Platform, UA Record. The Grip is the only tracker in the market with a deep and extended level of data integration with UA Record, although UA Record has the ability to sync with other trackers like Misfit, Fitbit, and Jawbone.
Under Armour has been ranked by Forbes as the third largest sports apparel brand in the world after Nike and Adidas. Under Armour recently spent more than $550 million to acquire two fitness app companies, Edmondo and MyFitnessPal. Under Armour has its sights set on Nike, using these new additions to expand its connected fitness platform offering a calorie counter, nutrition, and exercise tracker. In total, Under Armour now serves 130 million users on its fitness platform, which is smartphone-driven for the most part.
Although Under Armour sells Jawbone and Misfit trackers on its site, it doesn’t have its own fitness tracker yet, and is unlikely to get into the hardware business, possibly taking a cue from Nike who had to shut down its FuelBand tracker business. To Tractica’s knowledge, the HTC partnership is more than just providing the backend software and analytics platform, but also includes co-developing the device including the design, look, and feel. HTC has plans to launch other wearable devices with Under Armour in the future, although the company has not yet shared details.
HTC has taken its time to enter the wearables space. It has been struggling to sell its smartphones, with its market share declining from more than 10% in 2011 to less than 2% in 2014. HTC is possibly avoiding competing with Apple on the Apple Watch, and therefore has decided to target the mid- to high-end fitness tracker segment. This might work well for HTC as the advanced sports enthusiast will continue to use fitness trackers for workouts and sports activities in addition to smart watches.
Tractica’s latest Wearable Device Market Forecasts report had a similar conclusion, stating that while fitness trackers will see the entry-level sports user transitioning toward a smart watch, the mid- to high-end segment will continue to use fitness trackers because trackers are specialist niche use devices, with better battery life, and come with advanced fitness features.
HTC has chosen well to partner with a sports apparel brand that is growing its presence in the market, and is taking share away from the established brands like Nike and Adidas. Under Armour’s ambitions of becoming the leading connected fitness platform vendor in the world gives it added momentum, and its co-development around wearables is worth keeping an eye on.