Put that currypuff down - it’s almost time to hit the beach for summer, and that gut isn’t going to shift itself.
Good job Under Armour and HTC have teamed up for a big red box of kit that’ll get you in shape, then. Inside it you’ll find two wearables, a smart scale and download details for a host of smartphone apps, meaning there’s really no excuse for piling on the pounds any more.
With UA providing the fitness know-how and HTC handling the tech, it should be a potent combination. So I’ve been living the Under Armour lifestyle for the past month in order to see how it all stacks up against the fitness-tracking competition.
TUNE UP THE BAND
It’s only part of the healthbox package, but the Band is going to get all the attention - you’ll be wearing it every day, after all.
Forget chunky smartwatches and bling-tastic fitness trackers, because the UA Band is pure subtlety. It sits stealthily on your wrist, counting steps until you call it into action. It’s so comfy I quickly forgot I was wearing it; fortunately it’s waterproof down to 20m, otherwise my morning shower would have cut this review short.
Anyone with chunkier wrists can swap the band out for a longer one; it pops off with a pin or phone SIM tray tool, so isn’t going to fall apart when you’re pumping iron, or whatever else you’re doing to feel the burn.
It’s seriously thin and light, despite being packed with a screen and all manner of sensors. A pedometer counts steps, an accelerometer measures your tossing and turning at night to calculate sleep patterns, and the heart-rate sensor keeps an eye on your resting heart rate. There’s only one button, but press it and the monochrome OLED display blinks into life.
There’s still room for a battery that’ll keep you going for up to five days, too. It’ll charge from empty to full in about half an hour, so there’s really no excuse not to have it on your wrist 24/7.
OPEN THE TAP
Prodding the physical button might wake the display, but from then on it’s all taps and swipes. You’ve got five main screens: Clock, Activity, Heart-rate, Sleep tracker, and Fitness. Each one lets you dig down deeper, so tapping Activity will give you calories burned and kilometres walked as well as your step count.
Unlike with some of the competition you can perform functions on the band, rather than needing to head into the smartphone app. It’ll buzz whenever you get a call, text message or calendar appointment, but that’s it as far as notifications go; if you want more detail you’ll have to go for a smartwatch. But you can control music playback from it, which is a nice bonus.
Sleep tracking is completely automatic; head to bed and it’ll work out you’re trying to catch some Zs. The data collected includes how many hours of light and deep sleep you got, whether you woke up in the night, and what your resting heart rate was when you got up in the morning. Fancy a lie-in? Just give it a tap and it’ll leave you alone until the evening. Really, this is one of the better sleep trackers I’ve used.
The UA Band really kicks things up a gear when it comes to fitness. You can pick between running, cycling, a gym workout, and a fourth sport you set through the app. Yoga, golf, basketball, exercise classes and baseball are all up for grabs, which should help keep calorie counting accurate.
There’s no GPS built-in, so if you want route tracking you’ll need to bring your phone along, but heart-rate tracking is where things get interesting.
STRAP IT ON
By itself, the UA Band doesn’t really do a lot we’ve not seen from other fitness wearables before, but combine it with UA Heart Rate and you’ve got something much more interesting.
This chest-worn heart-rate monitor pairs with the band for much more accurate readings than you’ll get by strapping something on your wrist. It’s exactly what anyone spending about S$535 on fitness tech should be looking for.
It’s pretty much the same as any other HRM chest strap, with two contact pads for direct measurements, and a tiny puck that sends the data to the UA Band over Bluetooth. It’ll help track the calories you burn off with each workout, and tells the little LED on the band which colour to glow based on how hard you’re pushing yourself.
Still in the blue zone? You've barely moved! Get working, slacker. Green is a brisk walk - you can do better than that! Yellow and orange - now we're talking. You should be working up a real sweat. Hit Red and you're at your peak performance.
Once you've done the initial setup, which takes all of a few minutes, it'll turn on as soon as it detects a pulse and pair automatically to your band, so you just have to slip it on and start exercising.
Even if you're hitting the gym for at least an hour every single day, you should still see about a year of battery life - so no fussing with regular recharging, either. We're still talking about a chest strap though, which some people just won't get along with. For what it's worth, this is easily one of the more comfortable straps I've worn, even if the puck's flashing blue LED makes you look a bit like Iron Man when you're wearing it under a light training top.
WEIGH TO GO
The smart scales complete the Healthbox trifecta. It looks more like a Star Trek teleporter pad than something that tells you when you’ve been hitting the snacks too hard - that glossy black finish and white LED display are seriously smart.
Unless you’ve got space in the bathroom to leave it on display, the scale recalibrates every time you move it. That can mean you end up with some wacky results - no, you didn’t just lose three pounds by taking the bins out. It’s hardly ideal if you’re cutting a few grams to meet your boxing weight class, but a bit of deviance either way isn’t a deal-breaker for anyone looking to generally get healthier.
The whole house can get involved, too. The UA Scale stores up to eight profiles, syncing over Wi-Fi and to your phone over Bluetooth; hop on with a phone in your pocket and it’ll show your name, before it shows your weight (in pounds or kilos, whichever floats your boat) and your body fat percentage.
It works out how much of your body is the equivalent of a pork scratching by firing electrical pulses at you and measuring the resistance. Muscle conducts electricity better than fat, so the quicker the current shoots up one leg, across the pelvis and down the other leg, the less body fat you’ve got.
It’ll take about 45 seconds to sync your results to the app, but you don’t have to stand still like a lemon while it does it - once it gives the all clear you can step off and let it do its thing. It’ll power down once it’s finished, and should last about five months on four AA batteries.
Healthbox is the fitness tech version of a car; you've got the motor, the wheels and the gearbox, but without a driver, it's going nowhere. UA Record is that driver.
Under Armour's apps hold the whole package together, tracking all your data in one place. It syncs all your gear, tracks your sleep, counts your daily steps, and records your workouts. It can give you basic nutrition tips too, but you'll want to download UA's MyFitnessPal food diary for more accurate food tracking.
It's pretty cruel to show all that fitness data as four quarters of a circle - I kept getting visions of pizza or pie every time I opened the app. Still, it puts the more important numbers front-and-centre. You can dial down into each section to get more details, or scroll down to see your weight progress and resting heart rate.
The "How do you feel" questionnaire, which lets you rate your day from 1 to 10, doesn't really do anything right now, but Under Armour is promising that it will eventually help scientists and fitness pros spot patterns that could make all the difference to our health years down the line.
It'll track friends, let you make or join challenges and create a profile you can share online, in case you want to show off about all those squat thrusts you did before breakfast this morning. But please don’t do that.
The only downside is you have to do all this off your own back - there's no coaching features or workout programs to follow.
On the plus side, though, you don't even need the Healthbox to use the app; it'll play nicely with Fitbit, Garmin, Jawbone, Misfit, Polar and Withings wearables too. And you can also pull in data from other fitness apps such as Apple Health (if you're on an iPhone), Google Fit (for Android fans), or UA's own MapMyRun and Endomondo.
Under Armour Healthbox verdict
The big questions I ask about any fitness gadget that comes my way are "Did it actually make a difference?" and “Am I going to keep using it?”
Well, I've been using Healthbox religiously for the past four weeks, and I’ve managed to shift a healthy amount of weight. That’s a pretty good indication it’s doing something right. I’m only a third of the way to my goal, so yeah, the UA Band is staying firmly on my wrist and the app is still sat on my smartphone home screen.
As a package, Healthbox nails the basics and goes into detail when you need it. If you’re a regular runner, or a bit of a gym bunny, the HRM chest strap makes all the difference. Under Armour has a great app range too, so you’re covered for pretty much all sports.
On the other hand, it carries a hefty premium over your basic fitness wristband, so it’s not for you if you just want to count steps. Maybe take a look at the Garmin Vivomove in that case.
And indeed, even if you do want to take a more in-depth approach to fitness, you might well be better off buying a separate fitness band, chest strap and smart scales rather than getting them all in one place, because Healthbox isn’t perfect.
The scale can throw up some odd numbers, and the band by itself doesn’t bring a lot of new ideas - you don’t even need one to use the app, as it works with so many other wearables.
But in its defence, the Healthbox makes it all very easy. Everything syncs nicely together and there’s no need to do tons of research into which kit you need - it’s all here for you. All of which leaves you more energy to dedicate to actually doing the exercise bit.