Like the Oura Ring, Whoop is a buzzy fitness tracker worn by the rich and famous. LeBron James and Michael Phelps were among the first to get on the Whoop train. In 2020, the company was valued at $1.2 billion, thanks in part to celebrity investors like champion golfer Rory McIlroy, NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and NBA star Kevin Durant. But while it’s been around for years, this weird recovery-focused tracker got a lot more mainstream attention once the pandemic struck. Suddenly, it was in the news as one of the many devices researchers used to study whether trackers could predict infectious diseases like COVID-19.
That’s a lot of lore for such an unassuming tracker — especially one that charges you a $30 monthly membership to do exactly one thing.
That buzz has propelled this fitness tracker to its fourth generation. The Whoop 4.0 I tested is 33 percent smaller than its predecessor but still manages to cram in five LEDs, four photodiodes, and a body temperature sensor. It’s also got a new battery that uses a silicon anode that purportedly delivers 17 percent higher energy density than the previous generation. But these are internal upgrades. On the surface, not much has changed.
Whoop’s missing nearly all of the features you’d expect from a modern wearable. It doesn’t track steps, stairs climbed, or active minutes. It doesn’t do notifications either. There isn’t even a screen to view notifications on. It can’t tell you the time, so forget timers. Contactless payments and mindfulness reminders are also a no-go. Its “smartest” feature is the ability to set a single haptic alarm. The only things the Whoop tracks are cardiovascular strain, recovery, and sleep.
While it’s easy to poke fun at Whoop, there’s a reason it’s stuck around for so long. Sure, it doesn’t do much, but what it does do, it does well. That’s true for the data insights it provides, as well as its design.
The actual tracker is quite small, but that’s not the innovative part. What’s unique about Whoop is it can be worn in multiple ways. The default is either a wristband or bicep band. Both resemble a woven bracelet and are quite comfortable when you’re wearing it. You barely notice you’re wearing anything. Alongside the Whoop 4.0, the company also launched a line of athletic wear fitted with pods that you can slot the Whoop tracker into. That includes leggings, underwear, and sleeves for your arms and knees.
Whoop sent me one of their sports bras, which has a pod for the tracker sewn into the left side near the ribs. I’ll admit to being skeptical, but I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the experience was. While running, it didn’t feel like I was wearing a tracker at all — and I can’t say the same for other devices like chest straps or bulky fitness watches.