Should I buy an Apple Watch or a WHOOP strap?

After answering the question of, "Should I get an Apple Watch or a WHOOP strap?" many times in my Instagram messages, I thought a post covering the pros and cons to both - and who would benefit from either - would be helpful and a quicker way to get that information answered completely. Additionally, if you're considering purchasing a fitness tracker of any style, I encourage you to read this post about my experience with my WHOOP and why I stopped using it for a period of time. As an update, I am back using my WHOOP and paying attention to the data.

Now, into the breakdown of WHOOP versus Apple.

Apple Watch Overview

It's important to note that an Apple Watch is first and foremost a smart watch. It can play music, answer text messages and calls, and do basically everything your iPhone can.

Its interface for health focuses on calories burned, steps completed, and time spent standing. Here are some pictures to help you see what the interface looks like and measures:

As one would expect, Apple has done an exceptional job with the user interface and overall experience on the Apple Watch. It's easy to look at and immediately understand, and many people I know with the watch mention the motivating factor of the three ring system.

Additionally, the Apple Watch can measure your workouts to help you gain a better understanding of the effort you've just put forward:

Finally, Apple has created a calendar view where you can see the days you've closed your rings and met your fitness goals for each day:

To summarize, the Apple Watch measures your calories, steps, and standing time each day and also can track individual workouts. Additionally, there are sleep apps you can download to measure your sleep and hopefully improve it.

WHOOP Overview

The WHOOP is definitively not a smart watch. In fact, it is a SaaS (software as a service) product more than anything else. It has no screen on the device, and you review the data in an application either on your phone, or online.

WHOOP measures a variety of health metrics including:

  • Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
  • Resting Heart Rate (RHR)
  • Respiratory Rate

The big breakthrough that WHOOP made in the fitness tracking industry is the ability to take HRV accurately from the wrist. In the past, the only device that could reliably measure HRV was an EKG machine. These are extremely expensive, very few people outside of professional athletes have access to them, and even fewer could use them with any reliability. HRV measurement is what made WHOOP a legitimate company and what has legitimatized their measurements in the fitness space.

Using these measurements, WHOOP gives you a daily Strain and Recovery score which are calculated using their proprietary algorithms. Here are what those scores can look like:

From December 7, 2020 following a morning workout at Summit

95%....ready to crush the day

Additionally, WHOOP measures sleep on a daily basis:

Additionally, WHOOP breaks down each workout you complete and gives you a strain score for that individual workout, as well as heart rate statistics and some coaching on what you improved in that session:

So. Many. Burpees.

The final core element of WHOOP's product is the machine coaching it gives you. Each day, you answer a few questions about the prior day's activities and the strap begins to make suggestions about how you can best recover and perform at your highest level - both in athletics and in life. This comes with a weekly and monthly performance assessment designed to support your continued improvement.

Who Should Buy Each?

While you may be struggling with this question yourself, the WHOOP strap and the Apple Watch could not be ideally suited for more different audiences. Let's break down pro's and con's of each:

Apple Watch - Pro's:

  • Extremely versatile - it can essentially take the place of your phone for many tasks
  • Very user friendly and easy to understand
  • Sends reminders to get up and move if you've been sitting for a long time
  • Has a store of supporting apps you can leverage for specific questions
  • Interchangeable bands to match outfits
  • Can play music directly to your headphones so you don't have to bring your phone with you in a workout

Apple Watch - Con's:

  • Steps, calories, and standing time are all relatively meaningless fitness statistics and don't play a central role in your results or health
  • You have to download additional apps for more insight
  • Must remove it to charge the battery so it does not measure 24/7
  • Measurement is not as accurate as other devices since it is a smart watch first, and a fitness tracker second

WHOOP - Pro's:

  • Highest accuracy of any device
  • Includes coaching and advice for improvement
  • No screen to cause further distraction during a workout
  • Highly meaningful data for performance review and improvement
  • Sleep recommendations and analysis built in

WHOOP - Con's:

  • No ability to play music or anything else from the app which means you need to keep your phone at all times
  • Similar to Apple, it does not measure caloric burn accurately
  • Monthly membership so you have to continually pay for it
  • Less stylish
  • Focused exclusively on performance, no cross functionality

Detailed breakdown of pro's/con's for each

At the end of the day both devices are excellent pieces of technology. But they are made for different audiences.

If you are interested in maximizing your performance, you should go with a WHOOP. Even if maximizing your performance means excelling at your job, or as a parent/friend/son/daughter - if your main goal from wearing a device is to perform better the WHOOP is hands down the best option. It doesn't distract you from your workouts, it provides feedback for when to really push yourself and when to hold back, and it actively identifies ways for you to continually improve your recovery, which is the name of this game called life. Recover so you can show up like a boss again the next day.

If you want a device to be multi-functional, you should buy an Apple Watch. The Apple Watch does so many things, and it does many of them quite well. As a fitness tracker, it is on par with a FitBit or another basic fitness tracker. It does not hold up to a WHOOP strap in this field. However, it has almost all the capabilities of a smart phone and there is a lot to be said for that. You can listen to music directly from your watch, you can quickly respond to calls and messages that pop up, and you can heighten your productivity directly from your wrist.

Why I wear a WHOOP - and don't want an Apple Watch

From the moment the Apple Watch came out, I've never wanted one. Frankly, I don't need another thing buzzing at me to respond. I get enough of that from my phone, computer, and tablet. Call me old-fashioned but there is enough outside distraction in my life already.

More importantly, I want my wearable technology to help me improve my performance in all areas of my life - so I use a WHOOP. As I'm writing this, I'm on a 95% recovery day. I feel like I can run through a brick wall. I've been almost perfectly productive from the moment I woke up and I'm accomplishing a ton. If I can string days like this together, I can move myself forward in fitness, business, and personal goals.

However, a WHOOP is not for everyone. If you want to use your device for more than just performance tracking, I strongly recommend buying an Apple Watch. It's a great piece of technology for exactly that goal.

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