Fitness bands have definitely gained in popularity over the past few years, and there are certainly plenty of options available. We take a look at one such band from HTC and Under Armour, a company known for its sports accessories and clothing, in our UA Band review.
The Under Armour UA Band has the following features and specifications:
- Water resistance of 2ATM (not waterproof)
- Step counter
- Heart rate monitor
- Sleep monitor
- Activity alert
- Phone notifications
- Easy syncing
- Workout log
- Music control
- Alarm clock
- Includes 2 adjustable straps to fit most wrist sizes
- Dimensions: 17.5 mm(W) x 11.2mm(T), Long strap: 244.1mm, Short strap: 204.1mm
- Bluetooth, BLE compatible & automatically syncs data to UA Record™
- Stores data up to 7 days if not connected to your phone
- Battery: 110 mAh (embedded) – lasts up to 5 days (charger included)
- Compatible with iOS8.4 or later; Android 4.4 or later
What’s in the Box
- 1x UA Band
- 1x charger
- 2x adjustable straps (long and short)
- 1x Quick Start Guide
- 1x Safety and Warranty Guide
- 3 month free membership to MyFitnessPal Premium and MapMyFitness MVP
The main component of the HTC/Under Armour UA Band is just over 5/8″ wide, 2 1/2″ long, and 1/2″ thick. It has a pretty rounded design with few hard angles, which makes it nice and comfortable to wear. Set into the underside is the heart rate monitor sensor. One end of the UA Band features an almost 3″ strap that is moulded right to the main unit. Two black metal band clasps are set into the end of the inside of this strap, and it’s what you use to fasten into the holes on the other strap for a secure fit. On the opposite side of the two black pieces (on the outside of the strap) is a round metal disc with the HTC logo in the middle of it.
The other strap is removable, and comes with a 4 1/2″ strap (for a total length of 9.6″) already attached. You can replace the longer strap with a shorter one (about 3 1/2″ long) using the included SIM card-like key. The shorter strap reduces the total length of the UA Band to just over 8 inches. Each strap has the Under Armour logo near the top, and have between 7 – 9 oval loops cut out which is where you fasten the double plastic pieces on the inside of the opposite strap. The moulded strap fits through a loop at the end of the removable strap, and the fasteners clip in pretty snug as they have a wider lip at the bottom so the hole in the strap is seated within the fastener instead of just attached to it.
The charging adapter consists of a 9″ USB cable with a proprietary cupped end with two charging pins and a third pin for alignment. The cupped end attaches on the underside of one end of the UA Band and is held in place by a magnet. Unfortunately, there are a couple of issues with this. First, the magnet isn’t the strongest and any small bump or tap can cause it to become slightly separated from the UA Band, which prevents it from continuing to charge. Second, the cable is pretty short and when trying to charge it using a USB charger plugged into a wall causes the charger and UA Band to dangle from the wall. Because the magnet isn’t that strong, again a slight bump from something can cause it to disconnect. Charging from a USB port on a laptop is a bit better as you can set the UA Band on the desk, and I ended up using a USB extension cable when charging it from a wall adapter after the first bit.
The UA Band is black on the outside and sides, and red on the underside. Overall, the UA Band is pretty nicely designed and comfortable to wear, but unfortunately the frustration often incurred while setting it up to charge overshadows it a bit.
The actual LCD display portion of the main unit is roughly 1 3/8″ long x 1/8″ wide. To the side of this is a single red home button which is used to activate the display. Once the display is activated, you can swipe between time, fitness, heart rate, sleep, and activity screens with your finger. Each of these have various sub-menus which we will get into shortly. The screen is simple, but effective, and responds well to touch. There’s also three brightness settings that you can cycle through depending on the brightness of your environment.
I found that in full sunlight, the UA Band was a bit hard to read even at maximum brightness, but it was nothing a cupping of the hand over the display didn’t fix.
The UA Band is very easy to use. Simply press and hold the home button for 3 seconds to power it on (or power it off). When you first power it up, you’ll want to pair it to your phone using the UA Record app. Pairing is done from within the app. After you’ve installed UA Record you can create a free (or paid) account, then select the UA Band from the list of devices to continue pairing it to your smartphone.
Once paired, the UA Band is very easy to use. Pressing the home button turns on the screen. The main screen displays the time, as well as access to music controls, settings, calendar, alarms, reminders, and a timer. The settings screen displays phone connectivity, adjusts brightness of the display on the UA Band (three levels of display), puts the band in airplane mode, and powers off the band.
Swiping to the fitness screen allows you to start tracking a run, cycling, workout, or walking session. The heart rate screen allows you to initiate a heart rate reading. I found this to be a bit hit and miss. The less you move the better, and moving the UA Band a bit further away from my wrist provided more consistent results. The next screen over is the sleep menu, which allows you to manually start tracking your sleep. The band can also automatically track your sleep as well and I’ll touch on that more in the software section. As far as the automatic sleep tracking goes, it didn’t always track my sleeping, especially when having a quick nap on the couch. During the evening it worked much better, but you’ll probably want to manually initiate it for morning/afternoon naps or other non-usual sleeping periods.
Finally, the last screen is your activity screen. It displays your steps for the day, and you can also check your distance walked, and calories burned.
As far as accuracy is concerned, that was a tough one to tell. I’d count my steps for short walks as a test and most times it came out pretty close. Daily step count averages also seemed in line with other fitness trackers and apps I’ve tried. Distances during fitness events seemed to track fine as well based on my knowledge of the routes I usually travel when walking or cycling. While the UA Band only lets you specify walking, running, cycling, or working out, the UA Record app has a few more options and even sub-options within those, and lets you replace walking with a number of other workout types. There is no GPS built into the UA Band, but you can use your phone to track your route through the UA app if you wish.
I already touched on the heart rate monitor. The steadier you stand or sit and moving the band a bit further away from your wrist will produce better results. Movement and having the band right on your wrist often doesn’t produce a result.
Sleep tracking, as mentioned, seemed hit and miss as well. The app will tell you if you were awake, or in light or deep sleep during your sleep cycle. There were a couple times where I woke up multiple times, got up out of bed, and noted the times, only to see the app say I was in deep sleep for the duration. As previously mentioned as well, the auto-sleep tracking didn’t always kick in, and there were a few afternoon hour long naps that didn’t get tracked as time spent sleeping.
The UA Band paired and synced data to the UA Record app without issue.
I’m just going to come out and say it: while the UA apps are great, the problem is there are too many of them. In order to sync with your phone, you need the UA Record app. To track your nutrition, which integrates with UA Record, you need the MyFitnessPal app. And finally, to track your workouts more accurately (including GPS tracking), you’ll need the MapMyFitness app. Under the apps and devices section in MapMyFitness, the UA Band is listed but when you select it, it tells you to sync it using the UA Record app. While each app has their distinct uses, I’m sure they could easily be combined into one, something akin to Samsung’s S Health, for a full one stop fitness app.
This is one of the two main apps you’ll want to use with the UA Band, if for nothing else but syncing. Once your band is paired through the app, you can change some settings here that you can’t change directly on the band. These include toggling the sleep auto-detect, screen timeout, and screen orientation options. The last flips the display so you can see it depending on which way you choose to wear the UA Band.
You can also manage workout settings, including whether you want to keep the screen on, receive notifications during workouts, show phone calls during workouts, track your route using your phone’s GPS, and customize workout types. The latter is a bit misleading as it only lets you replace walking with another workout type. It’d be better if you could use it to modify all four options on your UA Band.
Of course, you can set what type of phone, messenger, or UA Record notifications show up, as well as toggle goal details, goal achievement notifications, and the idle notifications — what I like to call the “you’ve been sitting on your lazy butt for an hour, get up and move!” notification. While you can receive notifications on the UA Band, you can’t respond to them in any way from it. Finally, you can also calibrate the UA Band for running (but not walking oddly enough).
Once you start using the UA Band, your steps, fitness, and sleep are automatically synced to your phone. The main screen displays Today, with four quadrants for activity, nutrition, fitness, and sleep. As previously mentioned, you’ll need to use the MyFitnessPal app for the nutrition tracking. Scrolling down on the main screen allows you to set a “how do you feel” rating for the day, as well as edit your weight, and see your progress towards your goals, as well as your resting heart rate averages for the week, month, and year.
Tapping on the quadrants will bring up a detailed screen for each of them, which will also allow you to see a breakdown for the day, and compare over weekly, monthly, and yearly time periods.
Finally, UA Record also has a social component where you can post your progress for feedback and encouragement from others.
You only really need MapMyFitness if you want to track your routes. I mentioned previously that the UA Band doesn’t have GPS built in, but it will automatically use the GPS of your phone if you allow it when you start a fitness activity from the UA Band. Once you’ve completed your workout, it will sync the time, distance, and calories burned to UA Record. If you have enabled phone GPS use, you can also then go into MapMyFitness and select that workout to get a map of your route.
As far as UA Record is concerned, you’ll want to use MyFitnessPal to fill up that nutrition quadrant on the home screen. Input is largely manual, although you can also scan barcodes for prepackaged food. Once you enter in what you ate or drank, the app will add the calorie count to the nutrition quadrant in UA Record.
The battery life on the UA Band is very good, and I was able to consistently get 5 full days of use out of it before having to recharge it.
As mentioned in the design section, charging the UA Band can be a bit of a pain, but when your band is connected properly to the charging cable, a red light will display next to the home button to indicate it is charging. This light will turn green once the UA Band is fully charged. Charging from empty takes roughly an hour, which is pretty decent.
With an MSRP of $180.00USD, the UA Band is about the middle of the road for fitness tracker pricing. It’s a bit of a mixed bag here. There are cheaper fitness trackers that do the same, as well as similarly priced ones that do more, but the UA Band is very easy to use and integrates well with UA Record and the other apps. The biggest thing missing from the UA Band I feel is GPS functionality, but if you’re exercising with your phone for music to keep you company then at least you’re covered that way. Overall, the UA Band is pretty well designed, and tracks the basic activities that most people are most likely looking for in a fitness tracker.
The UA Band is also sold as part of the larger UA Health Box package with the UA Heart Rate and UA Scale. While the UA Band does a decent enough job on its own, it’d be interesting to see how much better it performs when integrated with the other devices from the UA Health Box package. If you’re looking for a simple fitness tracker with basic features including notifications and music control, the UA Band just might suit your needs.