BARCELONA - You can officially add HTC to the list of companies that have jumped into the fitness tracker arena. At Mobile World Congress 2015, HTC revealed its first fitness tracker: the Grip. The wristband, part of the company's "Re" line of products, comes in three sizes and is meant for serious athletes who rely on GPS to track their progress wherever they go.
HTC told us that it believes the Grip could appeal to the most dedicated athletes that brands like Nike speak to, and, unsurprisingly, the Grip resembles Nike's extinct FuelBand. It's a oval wristband with a black matte top side, which holds the 1.8-inch PMOLEd display, and a ribbed lime green underbelly. The grip's textured side felt comfortable against my skin, though the clasp was clumsy, possibly due to the fact that the design isn't completely finalized yet. Each of the three sizes (small, medium and large) will come with extra extenders so you can customize the fit for your wrist.
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What stands out about the Grip is that it has GPS capabilities. While HTC says you can wear it all day long to track regular activity as well as sleep, the company is positioning this as an athlete's device. It's meant to be worn while running and exercising, indoors or outdoors, as it maps routes and tracks distance, pace and calories burned. It'll sync all your data to the Under Armour mobile app, and works with both Android and iOS devices.
While it has GPS functions, the HTC Grip doesn't have a built-in heart monitor like the $200 Microsoft Band or the $250 Fitbit Surge. I understand this as part of design: as of now, the Grip I went hands-on with touched my skin at times, however its rigid circular design didn't hug my wrist. In order to be accurate, wrist-based heart rate monitors have to have constant contact with your skin. However, HTC didn't forget about those who want to track pulse -- you'll be able to pair external heart rate monitors to the Grip via Bluetooth.
In addition to activity tracking, the HTC Grip will also deliver smartphone notifications to your wrist. You'll be able to glance down at the display and see who's contacting you, and you'll even be able to respond to texts with preloaded messages. That's a feature not many fitness trackers with smartphone notifications have, and it's super helpful when you don't want to pull out your phone during an intense workout.
Now for the biggest question facing GPS-centric devices: battery life. HTC claims the Grip's 100-mAh battery will last just over 2 days on a single charge in standby mode, and up to 5 hours in GPS mode. Similarly to the Garmin Forerunner 10, a 5-hour long GPS battery life is on the low side, but still acceptable for tracking long runs and hikes.
Priced at $199, the HTC Grip is poised to take on the Microsoft Band, the Fitbit Surge and the upcoming Garmin vivoactive when it comes out later this Spring. With an embedded GPS and a partner like Under Armour, the Grip looks promising, but we'll have to wait until we can fully review it to judge it against its competitors.