“Armour39 is unusual in the field of fitness technology for its laser focus on the quality of individual training, but that strength is also its greatest weakness.”
Simple, efficient data reading
Effectively encourages harder training
Low quality strap
Limited fitness data
No social sharing, ranking or peer comparison
There is no web interface for data analysis
Not compatible with Android
Have you ever seen those CrossFit fanatics sweating like Lawnbird sprinklers at your local park? They throw kettlebells in the air, then drop them and do wind sprints for 30 seconds, then whip high frequency sine waves into two really big ropes, then do 20 burpees? Have you ever wished you could do the same thing? Or maybe you’re that guy or gal and want to take your wicked workouts up a few notches. If so, sports super brand Under Armor has a new technology that could be just what you’re looking for. It’s an IOS app and heart rate monitor that costs $149 and is called Armour39.
Features and design
Armour39 is a gorgeously designed Apple IOS app and accompanying Bluetooth Smart heart monitor and movement module that resides in a nylon chest strap and work in tandem to provide real-time feedback during any type of workout. The app (which we tested on an iPhone 5) has great graphics, amazing video game sound effects, and an easy-to-follow interface that will have you working out harder than you ever thought possible.
The Armour39 app consists of four main sections: Settings, Training, Assessment and Calendar.
In Settings, you enter personal information like name and email (it’s a free app after all, and Under Armor needs something in return) along with age, weight, gender, and maximum heart rate.
Image used with permission of the copyright holder
The workout mode is the part you tap while you workout. It’s a workout dashboard that displays your real-time heart rate, intensity level, calories burned and the core of Armour39 – something Under Armor calls “WILLpower.”
WILLpower is a metric invented by Under Armor (and trademarked, thank you very much) that’s based on “an algorithm that combines how long you’ve been exercising, what you’ve been doing,” along with profile information entered in settings. It supposedly mixes age, weight and gender data with heart rate and movement measurements taken from the module and calculates a score on a scale of one to 10. The number is designed as an easy-to-understand metric that shows exactly how intense a particular workout was. WILLpower helps you compare previous recorded workouts and plan new ones that are either similar or more (or less) intense. Workout mode also lets you set WILLpower goals to keep you focused on getting your intensity up to a certain level.
In assessment mode, you put on your headphones and superstar NFL coach Todd Durkin talks you through a 10-minute fitness assessment. While you do the work, Durkin explains exactly what you need to do and for how long in the headset. Under Armor says the assessment is something that should be done once a month to track fitness improvement.
The calendar is a simple archive of completed workouts saved in a list by date along with individual screens showing heart rate, intensity, willpower and calories burned displayed over the last 30 workouts. It is the only way to review and analyze past training sessions.
In the top right corner of the app (on all screens) there is a music button that provides full control over the music during a workout or assessment without leaving the app.
Aside from a link to the Under Armor store on UA.com, that’s all there is to Armour39. Strangely, in this era of fitness over stakes and the “quantified self,” Armour39 has no social media functionality at all. There is no share button to post the WILLpower result to a social stream on Facebook or Twitter. There is no website that collects WILLpower data from the rest of the world so you can compare your workout to others. There’s no way you’re going to be humiliated or destroy someone else’s willpower with your mad workout skills. And, finally, there is no way to upload workout data to the web interface or any other service. Armour39 is a self-contained island of pain designed specifically for the individual to continue their own solitary training. He almost seems as selfish and narcissistic as some of the people we see practicing.
Performance and use
When we unpacked our Armour39 and strapped on the chest strap, it was right before going for a short run in the park to kick a soccer ball. The strap wasn’t as elastic as the heart rate monitors we’re used to, and it wasn’t easy to get into. It connects to a bra style hook on the right side and after trying to clip it into place we ended up realizing that you just need to clip it in the front and then slide it around until the strap is in place. If we had asked our wife, this would have taken much less time.
We read some documentation (there wasn’t much), turned on Bluetooth on our iPhone 5, hooked the module to the strap to power it up, and everything synced up nicely. Once it launched, we figured the Amour39 would be similar to other fitness trackers we’ve tried recently. We thought we’d put the phone in our pocket, go for a run, then come home and analyze the data later after transferring it to our computer. Not. After returning from the run, we realized a few things: first, there wasn’t much data to review, and second, there was no way to transfer the information to a computer. The only way we could interact with any of the saved metrics was on our iPhone.
The benefits are all in the workout, and if you’re that kind of training Spartan, maybe Armour39 is for you.
In terms of data, the Armour39 app only reports exercise duration, average heart rate (with max heart rate), average intensity, how many calories burned, and a willpower rating (ours was a whopping 1.96 out of 10). It was all great information to have, but not something to brag about for hours. That’s when we realized that in our rush to get out and run, we missed the point of Armour39: real-time exercise tracking.
While archiving workout data is important for planning future workouts, Armour39 highlights the live data transmitted via Bluetooth to the iPhone. Using the app as a workout dashboard starts to make sense. Seeing the numbers move encourages you to work harder, push longer and be tougher. That’s also why the extra watch that UnderArmour sells (but we haven’t tested) is probably a good idea for anyone looking to get the most out of this app. Running it in Google Glass would be even better.
On our second run we decided to do an assessment; this is where we started to see even greater potential for systems like Armour39. It is advised that the assessment be done on a treadmill or track, but all we had was our neighborhood and the beach dike so we went with it. We turned on our music and tapped the blue “Start Assessment” button. Coach Todd Durkin’s voice was heard telling us to start walking as a warm-up. His voice was perfectly synchronized with the timer that appeared on the screen letting us know how much more we had to walk. As the clock ticked down, the volume of the music dropped and Durkin’s calm, professional voice was heard to tell us to pick up the pace a little, but not to go so hard. The “coach in ear” scoring mode was amazing and made us wish there was audio commentary from the coach during the workout mode as well. Hearing Durkin tell us to give more would push us further. And hearing him say “Okay, done” after every workout would almost be worth the Armour39’s $149 price tag in and of itself.
Image used with permission of the copyright holder
In our third test, we ran with iPhone in hand, looking at our stats as we ran down stairs and along the beach. It was easy to see on the phone when we were falling behind, as our numbers started to drop. Heart rate would drop, intensity meter would plummet. We realized right away that if we really wanted to get our WILLpower ranking out of the 2.3 range, we were going to have to run all the gnarly beasts we see people do.
It’s also worth noting that the Armour30 chest strap is neither particularly comfortable nor of high quality. It became uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time and felt like it wasn’t going to wear very well
The Armour39 could be an excellent exercise monitor for people who visit gyms or do CrossFit-style programs where different types of equipment are used and the only way to evaluate exercise is by constantly reading heart rate and movement. While runners, cyclists, and swimmers would have no problem using the Armour39 during general fitness training, the Amour39 is not something that could be used while performing selected activities. This is especially true for swimmers, as Armour39 is not waterproof in any way.
The inability to transfer data to a computer was a big drawback, especially since the app will only store 120 workouts. Disappointment was being forced to view past workouts on an iPhone screen and only in pre-configured datasets, as well as the lack of social sharing and/or rankings.
Armour39 is a good tool for tracking your exercise intensity while you work out, but after that it’s a disappointment. What good is your fitness data if you can’t analyze it later and share and compare it with your friends. We’re pretty sure Under Armor will say the benefits are all in the workout, and if you’re that kind of workout Spartan, then Armour39 might be for you. As far as we’re concerned, $149.00 is a bit much for a Bluetooth heart rate monitor with WILLpower metrics that no one else will understand and a memory that will likely fill up in less than six months.
- Simple data readings
- The result of willpower
- Method of assessment coach in the ear
- The strap was not elastic enough and difficult to attach
- Limited fitness data
- No social sharing, ranking or comparison with other athletes
- Data is not transferable
- There is no web interface for further analysis