It seems like every company out there has a smart band, fitness tracker, a wearable. And now HTC is coming to the table, but it says it doesn't want to be just another black band on a shelf, so instead it made the Grip -- a big ol' cuff that's equal parts unique and perplexing.
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Unlike anything HTC's ever made before, the Grip has a very specific target audience in mind: "serious athletes." The Grip was developed in partnership with Under Armour, the clothing and app platform that just made a massive purchase of two fitness apps, MyFitnessPal and Endomondo.
As such it has GPS built-in, making it one of only a few bands with that added benefit (Sony's SmartWatch 3 and the Microsoft Band being two others), and is compatible with both Android and iOS. But! It doesn't do heart rate. That makes the Grip a $US200 fitness wearable that comes out of the box recommending you buy another fitness wearable, a separate HR monitor, to get the full experience. Really?
When it comes to design, the Grip isn't particularly attractive. I only had hands-on time with a pre-production model, and HTC says they will be adding some spit shine to the final product, but it's just a dark grayish black band with an accent colour on the inside. But looks aren't too important. You'll probably be sweating all over this thing and not wearing it out on a date anyways.
It is unforgivably bulky, though. More of a fitness cuff than a fitness band. It comes in three different sizes -- small, medium, large -- and has two links so you can adjust the size even further. But the thing is if you are a "serious athlete" and you're running, jumping, skiing, cycling, snowshoeing, whatever, this thing will probably be banging around your arm, which is a big wearable pet peeve. The Grip also tracks sleep, but I'd imagine sleeping with this thing would be pretty uncomfortable.
The Grip has no buttons, but for a single capacitive one near the its low-res black-and-white PMOLED screen, which is all business and no pleasure. The upside is that the workmanlike screen should let the battery on this guy can stretch to about 2.5 days on a single charge, but that does dwindle down to 5 hours with GPS activated.
Flipping through the Grip's screen brings up different menus, like workout, data, other apps, calendar, and an option to fetch more apps. A presumably limited selection since the Grip runs HTC's own software and not Android Wear or anything. Like a Fitbit, you can set particular workouts so the tracker can more accurately record what your doing. Right now, Grip has running, cycling, gym, and "other," but will be adding more.
One the home screen, a small notification window keeps track of text messages and missed calls but it's the barest minimum of wrist notification. The Grip is definitely a fitness first device and is in no way nearly as capable of a wrist communicator than your average Pebble or Android Wear smartwatch.
As a $US200 bulky tracker targeted for the most serious of athletes, the Grip seems somewhat underwhelming. It really seems to only track steps, distances, pace, sleep, and calories burned. We'll know much more once we actually get one in for review come April, but at first glance, a Fitbit, Jawbone Up3, or Basis Peak, may be more worthy of your wrist.