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Under Armour targets hardcore athletes with Armour 39

The newly unveiled system is less a lifestyle product and more a performance measurement tool for serious athletes. Unlike the FuelBand, it will come to Android.

Under Armour's Armour 39 system.
Roger Cheng/CNET

If you casually hit the gym on an occasional basis, Under Armour's new fitness-tracking system may not be for you.

Under Armour unveiled its Armour 39 system today, and at first glance it aims to be a direct shot at other fitness-trackers such as the Nike FuelBand. And while it may potentially take a chunk out of Nike's business, Armour 39 seems to be aiming to go after a more hardcore audience.

"This is a training product," Mark Oleson, director of innovation and research for Under Armour, said in an interview with CNET. "It sets itself apart by measuring athletic performance."

Oleson added that Armour 39 records all kinds of data and gives you a metric that easily lets you know how well you're progressing.

His talk of science, data, and sensing technology sounds a lot like the FuelBand, and Under Armour's new WILLpower metric even appears to mimic Nike's proprietary Nike Fuel score.

But a closer look shows a system that requires a bit more commitment from the user.

For one, this isn't a casual device that can be worn constantly like the FuelBand, Jawbone Up, or Fitbit. The Armour 39 strap goes around your chest (or slightly below) and only really should be used when exercising. The bug in the center of the strap acts like a computer and can store lots of exercise data, although Oleson declined to say how much memory was in it.

The data that it can capture seems a bit more comprehensive. In addition to calories and steps, Armour 39 measures intensity, steps, speed, and heart rate. Oleson said the WILLpower measurement is a culmination of all the different stats.

Because of how it's worn, there's also no fooling Armour 39. Because the FuelBand uses a sensitive motion sensor, little things such as drinking a mug of beer will give you points. Armour 39 only registers when a person is active.

Oleson said the system gives users more context around how they're exercising, saying it knows how hard a person exercises.

Like the other fitness-tracking gadgets out there, Armour 39 isn't cheap. The strap and bug costs $149.99, while the watch accessory costs another $199.99. Like other systems, the accompanying iOS app is free.

Under Armour is also setting the system apart by committing to Android, something Nike has said it wouldn't do. Oleson said the Android version of the app would come a little bit after the March 20 launch, but said it was a "no-brainer" to address that market. He added Armour 39 would be "platform agnostic" but didn't comment on whether BlackBerry 10 or Windows Phone would get it.

Oleson said that the company designed the Armour 39 strap, bug, and watch accessory to be future proof. While it does one set of tasks now, the devices can be used to monitor different things simply through a software update. The company wanted to avoid having a limited shelf life for the system.

"You'll find what we're launching is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what it can potentially do," he said.

The Armour 39 strap. Under Armour