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Whoop vs. Apple Watch: Why serious athletes may want to use them together

While the two have vastly different form factors, both record key health and wellness data. Is one better than the other for you or can both be used together for the ultimate health tracking system?
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Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer on
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Maria Diaz

Thanks to its vast app ecosystem and refined user experience, the Apple Watch is arguably the best smartwatch available today. However, being the premier smartwatch doesn't make it the best for 24/7 health and wellness tracking, although Apple continues to make advancements in this area so it may eventually excel in all areas.

The Whoop 4.0 is focused on sleep tracking and heart rate tracking with measures for sleep, strain, and recovery that inform you of your readiness for the next day. It does not have a display, but lasts about a week between charges and can be worn seamlessly in several areas on your body.

There are significant differences between the two devices, but with a recent update to enable Apple Health integration the two can work together for an optimal experience for iPhone owners. You can wear an Apple Watch for all of the advanced apps and smartwatch functions while sleep, strain, and recovery can be collected by the Whoop and synced to Apple Health.

See our full reviews:  Apple Watch | Whoop 4.0 

Hardware

The Whoop device is a basic black rectangle with sensors on the back and an unremarkable basic design. There is only one color available, although there are extensive options for bands and other body apparel.

There is no display on the Whoop so while it collects an extensive amount of data, your smartphone is required to view any of the data and results. It doesn't show you the time or date either so it cannot even serve as a basic watch on your wrist.

Charging is carried out through a unique battery pack, priced at $49 for additional battery packs, that slides over the Whoop 4.0 and charges it up wirelessly. The benefit is that you can keep wearing the Whoop while it charges so you never have to remove it if you don't want to take it off.

On the other hand, the Apple Watch Series 7 is the best Apple Watch to date with a large, brilliant touchscreen display, rotating digital crown, side button, speaker, microphone, and sensors on the back. It is available in various colors, aluminum or stainless steel materials, and also with either Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity.

The Apple Watch is available in two sizes with an Apple Watch SE model that offers an Apple Watch experience at a reduced price. Thousands of band options are available and the Apple Watch is clearly designed to be worn as a watch on your wrist.

Health features

Whoop 4.0's advanced sensors measure and calculate heart rate, blood oxygen levels, skin temperature, sleep and sleep stages, respiratory rate, heart rate variability, daily effort, and recovery. It does not track steps, floors climbed, calories burned, or other typical measurements often seen being collected on activity trackers.

One of Whoop's strengths is in educating athletes on their daily strain and level of recovery so they can make more informed training decisions. Performance assessments and reports can easily be created and shared with your coach or doctor as well.

Apple spent the last few years improving the health and wellness capabilities of the Apple Watch while the design has remained mostly the same since the Apple Watch was launched. Current health features include heart rate tracking, step tracking, blood oxygen measurements, ECG capture capability, daily activity monitoring, basic sleep tracking, GPS for outdoor activity tracking, menstrual cycle tracking, decibel meter for loud noise measurements, and support for Apple Fitness Plus.

The next version of WatchOS, version 9, will bring sleep stages, heart rate zones, running power, elevation, custom workout displays, running form metrics, medication reminders, and more. With improvements like this, Garmin, Polar, and others will be challenged in the advanced wearable market.

iPhone software

Given that there is no display on the Whoop 4.0, the smartphone application is a key component to the full user experience. The application launches with the Overview display with swipes from right to left showing details for strain, recovery, and sleep. Swipe up to view this same data for the past week with plots showing the trends in the data.

A coaching tab presents strain coaching information, sleep coaching guidance, health monitor status, and performance assessments. One area where Whoop excels is in helping you understand and use the data captured by the Whoop for practical usage. Apple collects a considerable amount of data, but there is work to be done in how users can apply and understand that data.

The Whoop iPhone app is also used for monitoring the battery life, performing firmware updates, setting alarms, and all of the other settings needed to customize the Whoop for your usage.

When looking at the Apple Watch, there are three applications on your iPhone that are part of the Apple Watch experience. The Watch app is used to manage watch faces, find/install/uninstall applications, change settings, and perform functions to set up your Apple Watch for an optimal experience.

Inside the Fitness application, the status of your move, exercise, and stand rings can be viewed. The workouts you complete are also shown on the summary page, along with mindfulness, trends, and awards that you have earned. The activity of your friends can also be viewed in the Fitness application. Lastly, Apple's Fitness Plus service is embedded in the Fitness application so you can use your Apple Watch for various workouts.

The Apple Health app brings in data collected by your Apple Watch and data captured by various other devices, services, and applications. Data in Apple Health includes fitness stats, health stats, health records, sleep details, and much more. It is a very comprehensive application and Apple is starting to roll out more instructive information here so you can understand why the data is important and what you can do to improve your life.

Pricing

The Whoop 4.0 is free and this includes a standard wrist band, but a monthly membership fee is charged to use the Whoop. A monthly membership with a 12-month minimum contract is $30 per month, an annual membership works out to $25 per month, and a 24-month membership is $20 per month. Given that you need to have a 12-month minimum to use the Whoop, the annual membership makes the most sense to start with and results in an equivalent one year cost of $300.

The Apple Watch SE starts at $279 and the Apple Watch Series 7 at $399. A titanium Apple Watch with cellular connectivity and a link bracelet band is priced at $1,249 so there is a huge range in pricing for the Apple Watch that is heavily dependent on case materials and band options.

Accessories

The standard Whoop purchase provides a wrist band to wear the Whoop 4.0 on your wrist just like you would with a watch. Since I need to wear a watch with the time and date, I purchased a bicep band so I can wear the Whoop on my upper arm under shirts. It turns out that heart rate tracking also seems to be a bit more accurate in this location.

In addition to a large assortment of bands to match your style, Whoop Body accessories includes sports bras, athletic boxers, performance thong, leggings, sleeves, and more to mount the Whoop in your workout clothes so you don't need a wrist or arm band to have the Whoop measure your health and wellness data.

Apple also offers a vast assortment of watch bands and thankfully these bands have worked on all Apple Watch models since the first generation so an investment in Apple Watch bands is one that you can take advantage of for years. In addition to bands, there are a plethora of charging docks, cases, screen protectors, and even a camera to outfit your Apple Watch for your lifestyle.

Which one should you buy?

For most people, the Apple Watch is the better option for health and fitness tracking because of its versatility and advanced functionality. Apple continues to improve the WatchOS experience and it may soon surpass most other wearables on the market.

The Whoop doesn't offer much for the casual athlete that doesn't find value in daily strain and recovery metrics. Casual athletes aren't usually pushing their bodies to the limits so could end up with plenty of margins available in their daily strain and recovery metrics. Sleep tracking may be valuable, but the Apple Watch does a good job in this regard too.

For serious athletes, using both may offer the best experience with the Whoop 4.0 tracking all of their particulars 24/7 in a subtle manner while the Apple Watch is used for focused activities and other smartwatch functions.

Alternatives worth considering

The Apple Watch Series 7 is the best Apple Watch available, but for most people the Watch SE is perfectly capable of serving as their primary smartwatch and fitness tracker. The Watch SE includes GPS, sleep tracking, Apple Fitness Plus, and much more. You will not get blood oxygen or ECG support, but with a savings of $120 these metrics may not be worth the cost.

Similar to the Whoop 4.0, the Oura Ring does not have a display and is a wearable designed to last for a week between charges. It captures much of the same type of information as the Whoop and other trackers with a unique ring form factor. The smartphone app is key to the experience and is better on an iPhone than on an Android smartphone. For those who don't like to wear a watch to track their sleep, the Oura Ring may be the perfect option or used in addition to an Apple Watch.

The Fitbit Sense is a smartwatch that competes with the Apple Watch, but has a heavy focus on health and wellness. Fitbit has mastered the art of providing you with actionable steps to take after the data is collected, but there is a monthly subscription fee to see those insights. It is not as advanced as the Apple Watch as a smartwatch, but it is affordable and does a good job with health and wellness tracking.

FAQs

Does the Whoop 4.0 track my workouts?

The Whoop 4.0 is designed to determine automatically when you start and end a workout, but you can also start this tracking manually in the smartphone app or edit the session after you are done if the start and end time aren't correct. The Whoop uses the workout results to calculate strain figures that it uses for calculating your recovery status. GPS tracks and other specifics are not captured by the Whoop.

Can I use either of these wearables without an iPhone?

Whoop offers an Android application so it is fully supported on Android smartphones. While you do need an iPhone to set up an Apple Watch, Apple's Family Setup lets you set up an Apple Watch for someone that doesn't have an iPhone, so you could use an Apple Watch as a stand alone wearable with lots of limitations on its functionality. 

Does the Apple Watch also measure HRV?

Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure of the variation in the time interval between heat beats and a higher value indicates you are healthier, happier, and less stressed. It is often used as the key metric in recovery calculations. To view the HRV values measured by your Apple Watch, open the Apple Health app, tap the Browse tab, select Heart, and then select Heart Rate Variability. You can view the HRV data by day, week, month, six months, and one year. Whoop provides you with recommendations and insights about HRV, but Apple does not yet provide any further useful information. There are third party apps, such as Training Today, that pick up where Apple left off and provide recovery and other recommendation to help you avoid injury and maintain peak performance.

How does battery life compare between the two?

The Whoop 4.0 typically lasts about five days between charges while the Apple Watch needs to be charged every other day. With the wireless charging battery pack, you can wear the Whoop on your wrist or arm and charge it without removing it so you never have gaps in data. The Apple Watch also charges wirelessly via Apple pucks, but it must be removed from your wrist to charge.

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