September 22, 2020

You Don’t Own What You’ve Bought: Under Armour Smart Hardware Gets Lobotomized

Time and time again we’ve highlighted how in the modern era, you don’t really own the hardware you buy. In the broadband-connected era, firmware updates can often eliminate functionality promised to you at launch, as we saw with the Sony Playstation 3. And with everything now relying on internet-connectivity, companies can often give up on supporting devices entirely, often leaving users with very expensive paperweights as we saw after Google acquired Revolv, then bricked users’ $300 smart home hub.

The latest chapter in this ongoing saga comes courtesy of Under Armour, which in 2016 launched a $400 bundle of smart devices it dubbed the “Healthbox,” which included a “smart scale,” a wrist-worn health tracker, and chest-wrap heart monitor. All of these devices were tied together via the company’s Under Armour Record app, which bundled all of your health data and presented it to you in an easily-digestible way.

But by 2017 Under Armour had given up on the project, and began pulling the Health Box from store shelves. Users that had spent hundreds of dollars on the products could still use them — until now. Last week, the company stated the Record app would no longer work, urging customers to head to the company’s MapMyFitness platform, which the company insists provides “an even better tracking experience.” Users say that’s not actually the case, and the new platform only does a fraction of the overall data collection the original offering did.

Because actually treating these customers well would cost Under Armour extra, it not only didn’t give users a heads up that the app would stop working last week, it didn’t provide users any effective way to export their data:

“Current device owners also can’t export all their data. While workout data can be exported and transferred to some other tracking app, Record users cannot capture weight or other historical data to carry forward with them. A reader tells Ars that Under Armour did not provide any notification of Record’s demise to customers who were using the app, basically springing the sunset date on them as a silent surprise.”

Cool. Things you own that suddenly either stop working or getting updates is par for the course in the internet of things era, something owners of older Sonos platforms are also learning the hard way after the company first stopped supporting older hardware, then launched a program that effectively bricks perfectly usable gear. Not only is such behavior a great way to sour your brand in the eyes of users, it creates oceans of waste thanks to pricey hardware that no longer does what the manufacturer once promised.
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