Whoop 4.0 has landed – and the new lineup does things very differently than other fitness trackers on the market.
Whoop's trackers are small, unobtrusive and don’t have a screen or any buttons: They're purely for data-gathering. They're currently targeted at people who are very serious about their fitness. And they offer unique features such as measuring how well you’re recovering from your activity and how much strain you can handle.
Also, you don’t actually buy the device, but get it free as part of a broader monthly subscription service.
You may never have heard of Whoop but rest assured: it’s big business, with billions of dollars of venture capital behind it – which means people at your gym or sports club will doubtless soon be talking about it, if they’re not already. And so the fact that Whoop's just had a big update, from 3.0 to 4.0, is worth paying attention to.
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Making Whoop invisible
Firstly, Whoop is offering a new range of wearable clothing. The new tracker (of which, more below) can be easily removed from its band and inserted neatly into specially made compression shirts, shorts, leggings, sports bras and boxer briefs, with built-in pockets.
It then captures data from your torso, waist, or calf. (Apparently, the device will know which body part it’s connected to at any time.) And this is no mere gimmick, but central to the way Whoop wants to develop its brand.
“We’ve long felt that wearable technology should be cool or invisible,” said Will Ahmed, Whoop’s chief executive. “Those are the only two paradigms we want to develop on. In terms of ‘cool,’ it’s an area we’ve focused on a lot historically, making it something that you can dress up or dress down. But ‘invisible’ is, ‘How do we make it disappear?’”
We reckon this could be a game-changer for Whoop. After all, the thing about tech is that once a product achieves a certain level of functionality, copyists rush into the market and steal your customers from under you. But if you can make your products "cool", that’s much harder to steal.
And bear in mind that if Whoop clothing is a hit, it’ll be worn by the most serious athletes at your club or gym, not to mention famous and influential stars on the world stage.
Appropriately enough, Whoop’s launch was packed with sporting celebrities singing its praises, including Olympians Michael Phelps, Nelly Korda, Gabby Thomas, and Tom Daley. And this could be key to expanding the brand beyond its current core audience.
In other words, for anyone wanting to keep up with their team-mates or friends at the gym, a time may well come when peer pressure becomes Whoop’s biggest marketing asset.
Whoop's new 4.0 fitness tracker
Before we can declare Whoop’s new clothing range a success, though, people must choose to buy it. That doesn’t apply, however, to the main attraction of their launch: the new Whoop 4.0 tracker, because anyone with six months or more left on their subscription is going to get one automatically.
When we reviewed the Whoop 3.0 back in May, we felt it did a great job of serving the fitness fanatic. But Whoop clearly hasn’t been resting on its laurels, as the improvements in 4.0 are numerous and significant.
Most notably, it’s 33% smaller in size than the 3.0. Its new battery pack is waterproof, and allows you to identify the existing charge with a double tap (while providing the same five days' charge as before). And there’s a new ‘fast link’ system that lets you change out your bands, quickly and easily.
Data gathering, the core of Whoop’s offering, has also got a major boost. Specifically, there’s a new sensor, which now gone from two LEDs to five in total (three green, one red, and one infared), which means it’s going to gather more accurate heart rate measurements.
There’s a new pulse oximeter, too, to calculate blood oxygen levels (SPO2), and a skin temperature sensor.
This increased and improved data is accompanied by more features to make practical use from it. So Whoop has introduced a new ‘Sleep coach’ with haptic alerts that wake you up through gentle vibrations at the optimal time, based on your sleep needs and cycles.
It's also added a new 'Health Monitor' dashboard, which compiles your live heart rate, skin temperature, blood oxygen, resting heart rate, and heart rate variability in one easy-to-read screen.
Where next for Whoop?
So what's the big picture behind all of this? Essentially, this brand is laser-focused on a core audience of sports obsessives, and pro and semi-pro athletes. And with the Whoop 4.0 tracker's new capabilities and features, it's basically doubling down on this strategy.
While there's plenty here to delight people who are serious about their sports and fitness, there's nothing really here for the casual crowd. So you might wonder, how it can grow as a company?
We'd suggest there are several avenues open to Whoop. Firstly, the world is a big place, and it's likely that there are many natural Whoop subscribers who just don't know about it yet, or haven't yet been tempted to subscribe.
Secondly, and more cynically, Whoop could just gradually raise its prices: once people have made Whoop part of their sports or fitness routine, they'll find it a tough habit to break.
Finally, there's the possibility that Whoop's smart clothing might become a high fashion item, favoured by celebrities of all stripes. That really would broaden Whoop's appeal, and potentially allow them to charge silly prices.
Far-fetched? Well, just think back to the time when only athletes spent big money on expensive trainers. Exactly.
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Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specialising in tech, design and sleep products. Over the years he's tested a number of mattresses, duvets and pillows, and as a back pain sufferer, has a keen interest in finding ones that offer maximum support. Plus, in running a successful Airbnb business, sleep hygiene and providing the right bedding for guests has become a big part of his day-to-day life. He is author of Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books.