If you ask most people why they’re wearing the gadget on their wrist, they won’t have a solid answer for you beyond, “I think it looks cool.” Then, they’ll point out some low-level bells and whistles (that they can also do better, and easier, on the phone they’re holding).
Sure, they’ll probably tell you that their wearable can show them how many steps they’ve taken over a given day, monitor their heart rate, or track their activities. You’ll stump them with the next question, though: Why? Wearable companies don’t always make it clear for users, especially casual ones, what they can actually do with the data they collect—which is why the estimated abandonment rate for wearables was around 30 percent at one point a few years back. High level users and serious athletes can do a little more with their data, but without professional help, the question still remains.
Whoop, a brand that has put arguably the highest level of wearable tech smarts on the mass consumer market, has continually made it easier to answer that ‘why’ question. The company’s wrist strap is designed only to inform its wearer how close they are to peak performance, and how much rest and recovery is needed to get them there. There are no smart notifications or display; Whoop is only concerned about crunching the data. That has made the strap a tough sell to all but the most dedicated athletes training to achieve specific goals—until now. With the 3.0, Whoop is finally ready for the masses.
WHOOP has been in the game for a few years now, but the third version of the strap is its best. With an extended battery and new social features for sharing, the wearable is ready to appeal to more than just the most hardcore athletes.
I first encountered Whoop in 2017, when the wearable was only just starting to gain some traction beyond the world of professional sports and the highest level of performance coaching. I’ve had a few periods since then when I took my Whoop off after losing interest (and more importantly, the device’s charger), but for the most part, I’ve been using the tracker for the better part of two years.
When I started wearing the strap, I could tell it was totally different from the Apple Watches and Fitbits of the world—but as I’ve written before, that’s not necessarily a good thing for Whoop’s chance at appealing to a broad audience. For those uninitiated, the strap and connected app continuously monitor the wearer’s heart rate and heart-rate variability, which are used to record activities, calculate fatigue levels and track sleep. The app provides users calculated “Strain” and “Recovery” scores, which are meant to be used to pinpoint training plans.
If that sounds too specialized for your training, you’re not alone. But Whoop took steps that make me more confident to recommend its strap to a more general audience.
What Makes the 3.0 Better in Every Way
Whoop first had to knock down the prohibitive $500 starting price. The company took some of the sticker shock away when it introduced a subscription model last year. Now, you can buy in for $30 (and a six month commitment to pay that every month), or $288 up front for a year, along with a free device. But the latest version of the strap and new software capabilities are what really address many of Whoop’s other previous shortcomings.
While the plastic and metal clip apparatus of the strap largely looks the same as the 2.0, the 3.0 is a marked improvement. The new standard band material, which Whoop calls ProKnit, is a huge step up from the flimsy “nanostretch” material that used to come in the box, which did not feel worthy a $500 wearable.
The battery functions the same as the previous model, with a removable sheath that you can wear on your wrist on the go—and, unless you’re careful, is easily lost. The portable design is on one hand super convenient, which is essential for the always-on nature of the tracker, but the lack of a cord makes it tough to keep track of once it’s off the device. Maybe this is just a personal problem, but I’ve now lost two chargers.
Thankfully, you’ll need that charger less often. The strap’s battery has improved by leaps and bounds, going from around two days of juice at a time to, according to company materials, five days. During my testing, I found that I could even push that to nearly six days, even while logging multiple workouts. After I lost my charger, I hit up a friend to get a charge on a Friday morning. The next jolt I could get wasn’t until the following Thursday afternoon—and the strap nearly lasted the entire stretch. This is huge for users, who won’t have to constantly worry about their battery and keeping the small charger close at hand. I’m now leaving mine on my desk at work, and I’m less concerned about losing it and needing a replacement anytime soon.
Finding a Social Edge
Hardware improvements are great, but the new software wrinkles are what set this new era of Whoop apart. The most important of these is the new Whoop Live capability, a trio of features that finally gives users tools to use their trackers in real time.
The Strain Coach and HR Broadcast are both useful, as they provide live insights on the biometric measures that can help you to make adjustments to your workout in order to achieve your goals. But the real killer app here is Whoop Snap+, a built-in feature that finally gives you a way to share your stats on social media.
The tool accesses your phone’s camera, which is overlaid with a customizable set of Whoop measures. Just tap the camera icon in the app to take a video while you’re tracking a workout and boom, you have content to show off how hard you’re working—with hard data evidence to back up your humblebrag. Save the clip, share it on social media, and your typical #fitness post looks a whole lot smarter.
Snap+ is where Whoop will be able to lure in the casual crowd. I’ve already seen the stat-packed posts creeping into my Instagram feed from influencers and top trainers, and they’re far from the only people sharing their workouts online. Whether you’re training at a couch to 5K level or going for your fifth Ironman, people love sharing their exercise progress. Snap+ is one of the few innovations I’ve seen that doesn’t take a pro film crew or editing skills for next-level posts, so Whoop has a winner here.
All that said, Whoop still isn’t quite perfect. You can do a whole lot more with Whoop Live than before, but the stats are still largely non-actionable data to novice exercisers, especially if they’re not training for a specific goal. At times the strap and app disconnect, and there’s a lag in the data available. The subscription model is more accessible than a $500 entry, but it’s also much more of a commitment for people who aren’t totally sold on the tracker.
BUY IT HERE
But Whoop has now made itself into more than just a niche gadget for performance geeks. I’m seeing it more often on the wrists of people I respect in the fitness community—so you shouldn’t be surprised if you start seeing the straps in your local gym, too.
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