HTC Grip first impressions: Elegant design and integrated GPS at a reasonable price

HTC continues to expand beyond smartphones. Matthew spent a bit of time handling the new HTC Grip fitness band and likes what he see so far.

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(Image: HTC)

One of my favorite wearables over the past few years was the Nike+ Fuelband, primarily due to the fit and finish. It turns out the screws rusted easily and there was limited functionality with a locked down ecosystem.

We already know HTC knows how to design fantastic products so I was excited to hear that one of its new connected products is focused on the athlete. The upcoming HTC Grip looks a bit like a Nike+ Fuelband with the closed loop band and soft touch finish, but the Grip also includes integrated GPS, some smartwatch functionality, and an interactive touchscreen display.

Hardware

The HTC Grip will launch in the US with a black outside color and lime green interior with dimpled texture. The large band I tried felt like an extra large and was way too big even for my 7+ inch wrist. I may have to go with a medium and an extender, but will have to see what the final sizing looks like. There will be small, medium, and large bands.

Specifications of the HTC Grip include:

  • Black outside color soft touch material with textured lime green inside
  • 1.8 inch, 32x160 pixels, OLED touchscreen display
  • Waterproof to IP57 standard, not designed for immersion or swimming
  • Bluetooth LE for smartphone syncing and heart rate monitor connections
  • Battery life of 5 hours with GPS on and 2.5 days tracking with no GPS
  • Available in small, medium, and large sizes with two spacers in each package

The HTC Grip charges up via a proprietary USB connector that fits into the same opening the clasp does, so you open it up and insert the charging connector. I only had the chance to use one for about an hour so can't comment on battery life. HTC states it will last five hours with GPS on, so slow runners like me can finish a marathon. Without GPS enabled, the Grip should last for about 2.5 days.

While there is no swim tracking and you should not fully submerge the HTC Grip, it is waterproof with an IP57 rating so you can sweat and run in the rain without worry.

There is a 32 x 160 pixels monochrome OLED touchscreen display on a small capacitive button to control the software on the Grip. I found this early unit to be quite responsive to touch and note that you can swipe up, down, left, and right to access different menus and tap on the display to make selections.

The HTC Grip does not have an integrated heart rate monitor or ANT+ support. If you want to use a heart rate monitor, you need to connect it via Bluetooth.

The HTC Grip also does not currently track sleep. You can enter sleep times manually, but the Grip will not use its sensors to track sleep.

Software

The HTC Grip will connect via Bluetooth to both Android and iOS devices when it hits the street sometime this Spring. Under Armour Record is the software you need installed on your smartphone as the HTC Grip was developed in partnership with Under Armour and is even branded as such.

The software on the Grip tracks steps taken and distance traveled with calculations for calories burned and Under Armour Willpower. Activity modes include walking, indoor walking, running, indoor running, cycling, weights, gym, and other. With the other category, you can setup custom activities to track.

Other apps included on the HTC Grip include music control, weather, alarm, stopwatch, timer, and calendar. You can access and control the settings from the Grip as well.

The HTC Grip connects and syncs to Under Armour. I'm not sure if you can export the data to other services, I use RunKeeper for my running activities, and will have to evaluate the full functionality after the Grip launches.

Final first impressions

The HTC Grip will launch first in the US for a MSRP of $199. This is a reasonable price for a fitness watch with integrated GPS, daily step tracking, and some smartwatch functionality. The closest competitor is the Microsoft Band, but the HTC Grip is at the complete opposite end when it comes to comfort.

HTC's goal with the Grip was to design a wearable that goes beyond active to truly athletic. The Grip is not designed as a simple pedometer or activity tracker. It is for those who want to track serious physical activity with daily step tracking and basic smartwatch functions as additional functions.

I found the clasp easily opens with a small amount of force so hope that final shipping versions require clasp activation to be removed. Otherwise it may pop off while doing pushups or lifting weights.

From what I have seen so far HTC did a nice job with the hardware and software. I look forward to hitting the road with one, but until then will continue to use my Sony SmartWatch 3 that provides integrated GPS and music without a smartphone.