Spotlight on Whoop vs Apple Watch – Which is better?
Daniel Louwrens27 October 2023 | 18 min read
I recently flew to the US from Cape Town, South Africa, and I wanted to run an experiment – from the first step into the airport to the last step out, I wanted to see what watches I would see.
28 hours of flying across four cities (CPT, AMS, LDN, and NYC). The results were somewhat surprising.
The first one I saw was the Rolex Deepsea Challenge (wow, it is massive), and then I ended up seeing four Datejusts, two Seiko divers, two Cartier tanks, and one Royal Oak in steel.
Oh, I also saw 49 Apple Watches and 82 smartwatches (in total).
This should really come as no surprise, seeing as in 2022, the smartwatch market was estimated to be worth $27.2 billion.
But that begs the question, do you go for the big dog, the Apple Watch, or would something like the Whoop be a worthy competitor to look at?
Whoop (the company) has only been around for 11 years, whereas Apple has been around for 47 years.
Does time really mean more experience, better value, and a better wearing experience?
Or are you better off just betting on the new guy?
What or Who is Whoop?
Whoop is a company that finds its origin in Boston, Massachusetts, and they solely make wearable devices aimed at fitness tracking.
Currently, the Whoop is a watch you wear, but with their connections in the sports realm, this might branch out to other trackers as well.
Regardless, the company was actually founded in 2012 by a Harvard University student, Will Ahmed, who simply wanted to help athletes track their progress a bit better.
And since athletes are so incredibly busy, the easiest way of doing this was to design a smartwatch to do it all at the same time.
Activity tracking was certainly in its novice state back then, but along with two fellow students, John Capodilupo and Aurelian Nicolae, they made it happen.
As the story goes, they got some investment capital from SoftBank and were off to the races.
Fast forward to 2023, and Ahmed is now the company’s chief executive officer, and Nicolae is the director of mechanical engineering, Capodilupo resigned in 2022.
Since then, the company has made news headlines multiple times!
A recent article published on CNBN reads that “… Amazon ultimately chose not to invest in Whoop, and two years later, it unveiled the Halo band …” and recently, Amazon actually pulled the Halo from the market – a win in the eyes of Ahmed.
Whoop also acquired the ‘PUSH’ name brand in 2021. Wearable technology specifically focused on “… velocity-based training data with a sensor that can live in multiple locations on the body to help quantify weightlifting performance via metrics like speed, power, force, and acceleration“.
Then, in April of 2023, Whoop actually introduced a strength trainer feature, becoming the first fitness tracker with the ability to measure muscular load.
This is completely unseen in the fitness realm when looking at a simple fitness band and would typically require a lot of technical equipment – a giant leap for wearable health tech indeed.
“Strength Trainer represents a new frontier for WHOOP to measure muscular load. We are proud to be first to market and release a feature that helps coach our members while strength training” said Ahmed upon the release of this new feature.
Whoop has released four different iterations of their iconic band, with the Whoop 4.0 being the latest offering released in early 2023.
They do not make other products to wear (in this segment), but their shop has some other goodies such as blue light glasses, a sleep mask, and attire for you to move the Whoop to where it’ll be the least impactful on your activity.
See, if you’re doing BJJ then a wristband is a no-go, so they have special undies and shorts that have a wee little pocket for your Whoop.
This is such great thinking, something that they could have only learned from spending time with actual athletes on the field.
Next time you watch a field sport, spot the tracker on the middle upper back of most athletes, which probably played a huge inspirational role to Whoop designing this “where it’s safe” feature.
Quick Reminder on the Apple Watch
Now, I don’t want to spend too much time here as we probably all know the Apple watch.
First released by Apple in 2015, it soon became the best-selling product in the segment of smartwatches, with an estimated 100 million products sold worldwide at the end of 2020.
To date (September 2023), there have been 14 different models, ranging from the First Generation to the recently released Series 9 and Ultra 2.
As you might imagine, the Apple watch runs on a similar software to the iPhone, the watchOS as they call it.
Bottom line, most people buy these simply because they offer a petite version of their phone on their wrist – something that most people value incredibly highly!
Not only does this offer the wearer various useful tools on a daily basis, but also has a few overall health features as well…
With the new release of the Series 9, we saw the addition of a new chip, which is not only more powerful than the one before but also one of the strongest Apple has ever used, granting a 30% GPU boost.
It offers a brighter screen than the predecessor and offers something called ‘Double Tap’, which means the wearer can tap their index finger and thumb together twice, which the watch will recognize, allowing you to use it as it wakes up.
This is on the same pathway as gesture control tricks we see in modern vehicles, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple developed this even more – such as not physically having to swipe to skip a song.
Another nifty update is the always-on screen, meaning you hardly ever have to wait to see your metrics or screen – somewhat similar to what you would see with a real watch.
Not sure what this does to battery life……
The Matchup – Whoop vs Apple Watch
(For the matchup, we will be using the latest models and software of each of these.)
Right! So, we have the meat of the article – the Whoop vs the Apple Watch. We’ll be covering various different aspects of the watches, ranging from durability to usability.
With that said, in the end, it still depends on you – as you’ll come to learn as we go on, there are vast differences between these two products.
Firstly, we’re going to be comparing the basic features of each of these products. The Apple Watch is going to take the cake here, seeing as it’s not incredibly focused on one task but rather takes a broad approach to the smartwatch segment.
The new Series 9 release in September of 2023 is advertised to have their most ‘powerful chip ever’ with 5.6 billion transistors, 60% more than the S8.
Basic amenities are included, such as the ability to control your music, answering a call from your watch, using the watch as a watch (LOL), reply to messages, or check your sleep tracking, resting heart rate, and various other basics.
Another nifty feature is the ‘Find my iPhone’ feature, allowing you to play a little version of find the Dragon Balls as the watch literally tells you “, You are 5ft from your iPhone”.
The Apple Watch Series 9 is also advertised as the first Apple smartwatch that is ‘Carbon Neutral’, as they used 78% less aluminium than usual.
Also, with the new sports loop, you use even less! You can also use your watch as a payment tool! That’s right, you can use Apple Pay from the comfort of your little watch, a major win!
The Whoop is not actually just the Whoop – it’s a subscription. Since the Whoop doesn’t have a screen, you have to use the watch with your smartphone and the Whoop App, meaning you would need a subscription.
Another thing you’ll notice about the Whoop (when compared to the Apple Watch) is that the Whoop is solely focused on physical activity.
Unlike the Apple Watch, you cannot control your music. You cannot phone your nan. You cannot find the Dragon Balls.
The main focus of the Whoop includes Sleep, Training, Recovery, and Health – plus the recent addition of a ‘coaching AI’ feature. Since it doesn’t really have basic features, we’ll leave all of these for the physical segment.
Thus, for daily use, the Apple Watch wins. The Whoop is focused on athletes and designed for athletes.
It grants the wearer valuable insights into their activity and training, whereas the Apple Watch grants you insight into your life.
Two massively different approaches, one highly specific, and one trying to meet the needs of the many.
The Apple Watch does have a few physical features to throw in the ring when combatting the Whoop.
These include your basics like step tracking but also has some elevated features as well!
You can use the ‘ECG app;’ to generate a ‘ECG similar to a single‑lead electrocardiogram’. You can use the watch to measure your blood oxygen level (which is staggering), you can monitor your dream and sleep metrics, and track your menstrual cycle as well.
To round things off, the watch allows you to track your state of mind. Workout trackers, workout reviews, and live activity also come as standard, something that’s been around in most smartwatches for quite some time.
Now, the Whoop takes the sport and health aspect and goes full Sterling Moss, taking it up all the way to 11. As mentioned, Whoop isn’t just the watch but an entire monthly subscription that was specifically geared toward fitness enthusiasts.
Your membership includes the Whoop 4.0 Watch (with a lifetime warranty) and access to the WHOOP app, which includes personalized insights, built-in coaching features, and weekly and monthly performance reports.
So, what does the Whoop App actually grant you? Well, firstly, it grants you magnificent sleep metrics, such as monitoring your sleep cycles, debt, performance, and quality, and a built-in haptic alarm.
The strain sensor will help you monitor your training and grants you somewhat of a ‘recovery score’, making it far easier for you to manage training.
Whoop also monitors your HRV and resting heart rate, which also helps it create your recovery score.
Whoop also monitors your blood oxygen levels, skin temperature, and a whole lot more to determine your current health stats.
Lastly, Whoop also monitors your stress, something we know will have severe impacts on your actual fitness progression. The Whoop also features a coaching aspect, but we’ll cover that in the ‘Ace up the Sleeve’ segment.
This is a no-brainer: the Whoop wins by leaps and bounds. It was designed with athletes in mind, and when looking at activity levels and actual usage for those that live a physical lifestyle.
Branching out from sleep data and what fitness features these watches have, let’s chat a bit about wearability.
In case you do not know, in the world of luxury watches, size, case design, case material, and overall wearability are some of the highly contested factors you can think of.
The Apple Watch is certainly the one you’ll see more often, will be more readily available, and would probably be easier to get.
This latest release of Apple Watches has three different versions:
– Apple Watch SE: 44mm or 40mm aluminium case (silver, cream, and black), 10.7mm thick, 33 grams, 50m of waterproofness, available on a sport loop or rubber strap – Source
– Apple Watch 9: 45mm or 41mm aluminium/steel case (silver), 10.7mm thick, 38.7 grams, 50m of waterproofness, available on a sport loop or rubber strap – Source
– Apple Watch Ultra 2: 49mm titanium case, 14.4mm thick, 61.4 grams, 100m of waterproofness, available on a sport loop or rubber strap – Source
There are some significant differences between these models, enough to meet every personal preference you have. What’s more, almost all retail the Apple fitness abilities you know and love at no additional cost.
The additional cost we see with the Ultra 2 is simply due to the increased size, battery size, and screen. It has some extra goodies that some of the most popular smartwatches don’t, which also makes the price more appropriate.
Reviews of the new Apple Watch all say it wears rather well, like most of the other smartwatches also do.
Switching lanes to the Whoop, we have so much variability while also having zero movement room. What do I mean?
Well, the base watch is the same for everyone. No different sizes, no different dials (there is no dial), and you can really only alter the skeleton here.
There are about a dozen different options available, ranging from Onyx to Pride to Ivy with Rose Gold.
This not only changes the metal case but also changes the strap, allowing even the most serious athletes to introduce some colour into their lives (just in case the Rolex Rainbow Daytona wasn’t colourful enough for the athlete…).
It measures 7.1 x 1.1 x 0.4 inches and retains a similar size to the Whoop 3.0. It is big; there is no denying that the mechanical operations in the case certainly take up real estate, and as a result, the Whoop device sits very broadly on the wrist.
Unfortunately, the water resistance is only rated at 10m, which is a huge letdown if you ask me. Just like the Apple Watch, you can change the straps in case you get tired of yours, and you even have the ability to mount the Whoop on your bicep.
I would call this one a tie. I have not worn either, but I have spoken to peers who have, and they all say that both have benefits and drawbacks, and it really depends on why the individual bought the watch in the first place.
If you are a fitness enthusiast, then the Whoop is logically the better choice. Conversely, if you want that daily usability and a smaller case, then the Apple Watch takes the cake.
I will say that the Whoop’s water resistance is not only bad, it’s downright disappointing.
One thing that Whoop does amazingly is their “where it’s safe” feature, referring to the tools they grant you if you cannot wear the Whoop on your wrist, like specialized shorts so you can wear your Whoop while doing a contact sport.
This is a huge win and almost turns the tables in favour of Whoop alone…
No manual winding mechanisms here! We are talking rechargeable batteries, and in your busy life, the one that takes less time will always be the winner.
The Apple Watch 9 comes equipped with an 18-hour battery life, or up to 36 hours when in low power mode. It also features fast charging optionality as well.
While this is all good and all, and while the Apple Watch has the ability to track your sleep amongst a host of other complications, the battery life simply will not be able to withstand you using all of these features at the same time consistently – and this is where the Whoop swoops in.
The Whoop can last up to 5 days on a single charge!
You can even buy a second battery, granting you the freedom to always have a charged device on the ready-to-go.
What’s more, you can simply attach your charging device to your Whoop while it is on your wrist to charge it up – and in our experience, it can reach full charge in two hours!
Whoop wins – hands down. The Apple Watch has to do a lot more with its screen, meaning the battery life is going to be far less, and there isn’t a whole lot that Apple can do about that.
Whoop is the better option if battery life is extremely important to you – however, again, it grants you far less information than the Apple Watch does.
Ace Up the Sleeve
Finally, we can consider the ace up the sleeve from either product.
These are very different in their approach to helping the wearer, but doing a deep dive into what makes them different from one another might set them apart even more for you.
The Apple Watch has one particular ace when it comes to security – good news for those who are not comfortable wearing a watch worth that much.
Firstly, we have crash detection, and when the watch detects you’ve been in a crash, it’ll immediately make the informed decision to contact emergency services and direct them towards you.
It does the same through a fall detection system – which worries me in case I was doing burpees… It also has international SOS calling abilities.
The Whoop, on the other hand, is the coaching aspect. As part of the subscription model, you get a built-in coach AI system powered by OpenAI, which allows you to ask questions and converse with the AI about your fitness.
Would this be better than just asking your most jacked friend some advice? Well… I’m not too sure. I am actually an amateur bodybuilder, and what I have asked online AI about fitness has always given me terrible answers…
The biggest upset we didn’t even see coming was the fact that Whoop sends you the newest Whoop every time it’s released.
Apple would never do that, and this gives a huge edge to Whoop. You never have to buy the newest one because, well, they give it to you!
In this case, I think Apple wins if you’re someone who cares about safety. Safety and security are often forgotten, and this takes their health tracker to the next level, a welcome addition.
If you’re more worried about saving money, then Whoop wins – without a doubt. No need to buy the newest iteration every few months? WIN!
Another factor about buying a product is simply looking at what others are saying about the product. The Apple Watch recently won the “best smartwatch for most people” hosted by the New York Times, whereas Garage Gym Reviews rated the Whoop a whopping 4.5 out of 5 stars.
But let’s dig a bit deeper, looking at actual wearers. On the Apple Watch, Redditers had the following to say:
“I really want the temperature sensor on the front side to tell me the ambient room temp.” – Link
“I keep seeing rumours about being able to measure blood pressure or glucose levels being “The Thing” that Apple wants to get right in order to justify a major milestone upgrade” – Link
Overall, reviews are hard to find because it’s just so darn new! It might be a long time before we get real-life reviews.
However, most people seem to be somewhat lacklustre and somewhat disappointed in what has been brought to the front.
Yes, the new chip is fun, but people wanted more features and more tools, and Apple hasn’t provided them. Not sure if that’s a W or L for the Big Apple.
Conversely, Whoop seems to be loved on Reddit:
“I recently began using the Whoop coach, and after some initial disappointment, I’m starting to see its potential. I’ve been using it to determine the best wake-up times based on my recovery scores.” – Link
“I’ve had a whoop for almost 4 years. I like the way the data is presented. I like the simplicity of the band and the fact it’s not a smartwatch. I don’t want a distraction on my wrist. I also like the sleep tracking and how comfortable it is on my wrist. I use the haptic alarm function everyday I set an alarm and enjoy the way I can charge the device on my wrist.” – Link
I think the real difference is that Whoop designed a product that is very in and of itself, meaning the buyers know what they are buying.
You are buying this purely to help you reach your fitness goals, and that means making a few sacrifices when it comes to daily usability.
There are plenty of people saying it doesn’t have the cellular connectivity of a smartwatch or the timekeeping capabilities of a normal watch.
Well, it’s not a watch in any way, shape, or form. It’s a performance tracker. This is probably the best option for those who want to improve their own physical performance – hands down.
Firstly, we noticed there are a ton of discount codes available online, and each time you refer someone, you each get a month for free.
This system easily adds up, as you can imagine. Upon investigation, we also realized there was no need to purchase it from the get-go as there is a lovely one-month trial period for potential customers to make use of.
To our amazement, Whoop was way more than just a tracker.
The Whoop system requires a comprehensive 30-day calibration period to deeply personalize your metrics.
It boasts remarkable pattern recognition capabilities, enabling it to detect trends and pinpoint potential stress triggers.
Beyond this, Whoop comes equipped with a plethora of activities, tutorials, and life-enhancing tips. Renowned experts like Dr. Andrew Huberman and Kristin Holmes serve as your guides to a more fulfilling life, with activities like nasal breathing and stress management.
Additionally, they host a podcast channel on Spotify named “Whoop,” where they invite individuals at the pinnacle of their respective fields to discuss the transformative influence of Whoop on their lives.
By wearing the Whoop, we noticed a host of positive effects on our daily lives. Whoop has significantly improved our sleep quality and aided in recognizing patterns in our daily activities, encouraging a more accountable and optimized version of ourselves.
Once the Whoop device is acquired, the user gains a visual insight into the mind-body connection, allowing us to observe the impact of factors like gratitude and spirituality on our daily lives, serving as an educational tool, and facilitating a better understanding of individual behavioural drivers.
Thanks to the effective haptic alarm feature, which offers a gentler wake-up compared to the infamous default Apple alarm.
Whoop improves your life beyond belief. It can predict when you might be on the way to getting ill, aids in developing a proper rest day schedule, and sends you weekly and monthly reports on what is going well in your life and what is not, how to improve, and how every daily factor is affecting your life.
Pricing – Is It Worth It?
Lastly, well, are these products even worth the money? Are they really going to improve your life that much? Well, the pricing is as follows for the newest Apple Watch:
– Apple Watch SE: $399
– Apple Watch 9: $249
– Apple Watch Ultra 2: $799
The pricing structure for the Whoop will logically look a bit different:
– 24 Month Membership: €444 (Includes: Whoop 4.0 Device, Membership, and Warranty)
– Annual Membership: €264 (Includes: Whoop 4.0 Device, Membership, and Warranty)
– 1 Month Free Trial: €0 (Includes: A Used Whoop 4.0 Device, Membership, and Warranty)
It’s actually pretty nice to see a free trial option here! This allows you to use a used Whoop device and see what’s what before you make a call that’ll keep you tied down for at least 12 months.
The company is also adamant on consistently adding more and more features to the app and user experience, such as the ability to engrave your Whoop upon order – something Apple will never do…
So, Which should you Buy?
It’s pretty simple – do you still buy protein powder even at the recently inflated prices?
If yes, then Whoop. Jokes aside, there is a clear distinction between these two watches, if you could call them that.
Whereas the Apple is something that’ll improve every single part of your life somewhat, the Whoop is clearly focused on only improving one single part – fitness.
One has the capability to send text messages and answer phone calls; the other doesn’t even have a screen.
Apple did include a 50m water-resistant rating, crack-resistant glass, and even IP6X dust resistance as well.
Aesthetically, the new Apple Watch isn’t much of an improvement, and looking at the reviews online from avid Apple clients, people are not happy with the lacklustre update.
That said, for most people, this is still the go-to option for a smartwatch, seeing as Apple does not dominate this part of the industry but also dominates the smartphone industry as well.
When considering that these two work in tandem, it’s a no-brainer that most folks would buy one. And if you’re a loyal Apple fan (and not an athlete), you should go right ahead and buy one.
It’s the clear winner when taking daily life into consideration. However, if you are someone (like me) who prefers wearing a nice watch but still wants to track fitness, there is only one option – Whoop.
Whoop takes regular fitness measurements and dials it way past 11 – sorry, Stirling Moss. And I’m sure they’ll keep innovating and moving forward with more and more features.
This is so much more than what Apple has the ability to measure whilst on your wrist, which makes sense. The Apple Watch is a knife, something 99% of us will be using on a daily basis in the kitchen.
The Whoop is a highly specialized cleaving tool designed to be used by the best of chefs – in this analogy. It is slightly more expensive, and you sacrifice a lot, but as an athlete, you don’t really care that much about those things, do you?
I’m not saying it’s going to revolutionize your sleeping patterns or heart rate variability, but granting you insight into those factors will make you take note of them and make appropriate choices.
The recovery tracking is something that Apple can only dream of, and for athletes, this is a priceless asset.
It really comes down to your needs and wants. This isn’t really a great comparison, but some people will have to make the call. Let’s not beat around the bush – do you care about your fitness above all else?
Then buy the Whoop. It’ll pay itself back in no time. If you are more focused on everyday living and social engagement, then the Apple Watch is clearly the winner.