Apple Watch Series 7 v Whoop 4.0: How to make the right choice

How Apple's smartwatch matches up to the wearable loved by the sporting elite
Apple Watch Series 7 v Whoop
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The Apple Watch is the most popular smartwatch on the planet while the Whoop can be spotted on the wrists of a lot of high profile sports stars. But these two wearables do things in totally different ways.

The Apple Watch is a powerful health and fitness smartwatch. And while Whoop has found a home among elite athletes, its focused on recovery, readiness and health monitoring – not the tracking and performance of your runs and workouts.

We've tested both the Apple Watch Series 7 and the Whoop 4.0 and both scored well in our reviews.

So if you're trying to get your head around why you might go for the Whoop over the Apple Watch and vice versa, here's our take on how the two wearables match up.

Apple Watch Series 7 v Whoop 4.0: Pricing

Both the Apple Watch Series 7 and Whoop 4.0 will put a sizeable dent in your bank balance.

The cheapest Apple Watch Series 7 costs $399/£369 if you opt for the smaller 41mm option and $429/£399 for the larger 45mm case size.

With the Whoop, you need to sign up to a subscription to get the hardware and access to the Whoop companion app. That will cost you $18/£18 a month if you make a down payment of $324/£324.

To avoid the down payment, you'll need to pay $30/£30 a month or grab a 12-month subscription at $24/£24.

Apple Watch Series 7 v Whoop 4.0: Design

Apple Watch Series 7 Design

The design of these two devices couldn't be any different. We think both look great, and while Apple's square look isn't universally loved, it's become iconic. It benefits from decent materials (especially if you pay more for stainless steel), screen quality and a great collection of first and third party watch bands to pick from.

Apple now does also offer two new case sizes (now 41mm and 45mm) and offers up more screen to show off your data and to support new features like Apple's new virtual keyboard.

Away from using the touchscreen, you're getting a physical button and Apple's Digital Crown to interact with the watch software and as a package, it's waterproof up to 50 metres depth.

Whoop 4.0 on wrist

The Whoop 4.0 doesn't have a screen at all – which makes it fairly unique in the world of wearables.

It does all of its tracking in the background, without a live readout of data, or even show the time. For many this will be off-putting, but it does blend in on the wrist without looking "techy", and you can wear it with a different wearable, smartwatch or sports watch without looking like a dork.

It's defined by the attractive knitted band, and you can pick from a nice range of different colors. There is a small set of lights to indicate pairing and battery status, but that's your lot in terms of what you can see on the device itself.

Like the Apple Watch, it's waterproof up to 50 metres depth and the battery charging pack is waterproof too, so you can keep it on when you're showering and swimming.

Unlike Apple, Whoop can be worn on different parts of the body. Primarily, it lives on the wrist, but you can move it further up the arm. Whoop also sells a range of garments so you can wear the sensor inside of shorts and sports kit once you've established your 30-day baseline, to get reliable tracking data.

We think both are great-looking, comfortable devices to wear, so it really boils down to whether you can live with or without that screen.

Apple Watch Series 7 v Whoop 4.0: Smartwatch features

Apple Watch Series 7 smartwatch

If you want a smartwatch or smartwatch features, there's only one you can go for here. That's the Apple Watch Series 7. Yes, you need to have an iPhone to use it, but if you do, you'll get the best smartwatch experience available.

You've got notifications, music controls and a music player, Apple Pay, LTE connectivity and a watchOS platform that continues to add new features to improve that smartwatch experience.

The Whoop does work with both iOS and Android devices but has zero smartwatch features. If you want them, you'll have to wear an additional device to get them. You could feasibly where a smartwatch on one wrist and the Whoop on the other, but that means things start to get pricey again.

The only real extra feature on top of tracking is the addition of an alarm, which can be set with the Sleep Coach feature.

Apple Watch Series 7 v Whoop 4.0: Workout and fitness tracking

Apple Watch Series 7 fitness

In smartwatch terms, the Apple Watch offers some of the best fitness and sports tracking features you can get right now. Whether it's counting steps to close rings or tracking runs and swims reliably and even dishing out reliable heart rate data with support for external sensors, it does a lot.

You've also got great integration with Apple's Fitness+ platform and an App Store with a wealth of apps that can really elevate what this smartwatch is capable of as a sports and fitness tracker.

Whoop 4.0 heart rate monitor

Flipping over to the Whoop and its sports tracking features don't really match – and it may surprise many to know that its focus is the effect of sport and workouts on the body, not the performance of the actual session.

There's no GPS, though you can use connected GPS via your phone to track runs and cycles, although we had some accuracy issues in our testing. It can automatically recognise exercise and do a good job or recognising those activities, though you will miss out on activity-specific metrics.

Updates to Whoop 4.0 have added Strava integration and Apple Health compatibility.

Heart rate and heart rate variability measurements are at the core of how Whoop works and Whoop has sought to improve things on the sensor front to improve accuracy. It's this data that drives Whoop's Strain metric to better understand what you have in the locker to take on a tough day of training and to influence your sleep and recovery recommendations.

Heart rate day-to-day was reliable though for exercise, but moving the sensor away from the wrist for certain workouts will get you more accurate data.

If you want a device that can track workouts reliably, we'd say the Apple Watch gets our vote. Whoop's workout features still feel like they need to become more comprehensive to really match what Apple offers.

Apple Watch Series 7 v Whoop 4.0: Health tracking

Apple Watch Series 7 rings

If you want a wearable that looks beyond steps and tracking pool lengths, both the Apple Watch and the Whoop offer features that help them to act as health monitoring devices too.

The Series 7 has an FDA cleared ECG sensor to help detect signs of atrial fibrillation. The onboard optical heart rate monitor can deliver high and lower heart rate alerts and irregular heart rate rhythm notifications. While not considered health tracking features, Apple does also let you track respiration rate during sleep and offers blood oxygen monitoring to offer an insight into your general wellness.

You can pair it up with dedicated consumer health devices and again, you have Apple's App Store to make use of those sensors to offer more health insights.

The Apple Watch is a powerful health tracking watch, although you will have to dive into Apple Health and manually track many of its deepest insights to make sense of them.

On the other hand, Whoop is more laser focused on your health, daily stats and metrics – and puts them front-and-center.

The main thing Whoop tracks is sleep, strain and recovery. It measures how much toll the day has taken on your body, how well you slept vs your sleep need, and then spits out a recovery score on how rested and ready you are for your next workout. This is its entire feature set, so it's quite limited and focused compared to general smartwatches and fitness trackers.

Whoop has some big sensors too and they can dish out data like heart rate, blood oxygen and skin temperature. Crucially though, none have any form of regulatory approval, though Whoop conducts its own studies to prove the insights they offer can be valuable.

Whoop strap color

These metrics and sensors form Whoop's Health Monitor. It uses a traffic light system to keep tabs on respiratory rate, blood oxygen, resting heart rate, heart rate variability and skin temperature. It will warn you when you're out of your typical range (Whoop takes two weeks to establish your baselines), because thiscould be a sign something isn't quite right and that you should lay off training and exercise until things get back to normal.

In spite of that lack of regulatory approval, we did find those metrics and that health monitor useful. Particularly when we were struck down with Covid-19 – Whoop was sensitive enough to show signs of the on-going infection, and the road to recovery.

We should also reserve some time here to talk about sleep as well. Sleep is key to Whoop's platform and we've found the level of data and accuracy up there with some of the best sleep trackers from the likes of Fitbit, Oura and Polar.

Whoop will assess your sleep need, and then track your time asleep and mark that as a percentage of your nightly requirements. It also has a Sleep Coach, which aims to help you feel more rested, although this largely boils down to suggesting early bed times – sometimes impossible around the strains of normal life.

Whoop will also breakdown your night's sleep to show disturbances, time in bed, efficiency, respiratory rate and latency (time to get to sleep).

Conversely, Apple's native sleep tracking is reliable too, albeit a bit more basic in terms of what you get. There's plenty of third party sleep tracking apps to improve the level of data you can get. Out of the box though, the sleep tracking support is richer on Whoop and tries to draw a stronger correlation with your training and recovery needs.

Apple Watch Series 7 v Whoop 4.0: Battery life

If you care about battery life, the Whoop will give you more of it. That's probably not a huge surprise when you factor in that it doesn't have a display to power.

Though it's a tracker that will give you a week as opposed to weeks and months. It can deliver up to 5 days and it worked out to about 4-6 days in our testing. It does have a portable battery charging module that you can clip onto the top of the tracker, and isn't too ridiculous to wear on the move while it's charging.

The Apple Watch Series promises up to 18 hours battery life, which is the same battery the original Watch promised. It's entirely capable of running for a couple of days depending on usage. Apple does also provide a a fast charging support that can power up the Watch in a speedier fashion. Ultimately though, it's a smartwatch you're going to need to charge on a more regular basis than the Whoop.

Apple Watch Series 7 v Whoop 4.0: The verdict

So that's our breakdown of how the Apple Watch Series 7 matches up to the Whoop 4.0. Now if you had to pick one, which one should you go for? Here's our take on things.

Buy Apple Watch Series 7 if...you want a really great smartwatch, you own an iPhone and want a great sports and fitness and health tracking experience.

Buy Whoop 4.0 if...you already have a smartwatch and you want a device that zeroes in on recovery and offers strong sleep and health monitoring support. You also don't have to charge it everyday.