Last updated on June 16th, 2021 at 11:41 pm
Wearable technology is making it possible to tally bodily movements and know more than ever before about your own rhythms. Whether it’s a band on your wrist, glasses on your eyes, a headband on your forehead, or a ring on your finger, the devices to collect invaluable stats about your wellbeing are plentiful and evolving rapidly.
What can these wearable smart devices help you learn and optimize, exactly? We’re all used to smartwatches providing basic vitals like heart rate and daily steps. But now new wearables like Whoop and Oura have much more powerful biometric sensors that not only aggregate, but also analyze all sorts of useful data straight from your arm, head, or finger.
In this article, we’ll focus on two of the best devices for sleep tracking and recovery optimization: Whoop vs Oura. Whoop’s intelligent wrist strap, and Oura’s powerful smart ring are both incredibly impressive devices built for the same overarching purpose. Let’s see what else is similar and different about them, and help you ultimately choose the best wearable to optimize your performance.
What data / metrics do Whoop and Oura collect?
Both Whoop and Oura are smart wearables that track real-time signals in order to help you optimize your sleep and recovery cycles. But what exactly does that mean? In general, these include activity-level metrics that demonstrate whether you’re under or over-exerting yourself. These include:
- Heart rate
- Heart rate variability (HRV)
- Calories burned
- Sleep phases
- Sleep performance / quality
- Resting heart rate
- Body temperature
- Respiratory rate
- Body temperature
Beyond just displaying digital readouts via their apps, Whoop and Oura suggest the best times for activity vs recovery to help you stay balanced. Your device might suggest you push harder, slow down, or take a breather — unless of course, you’re doing things just right. Through continuous analysis of your sleep and physical activity patterns, you’ll learn how to perform better, how to manage your energy, and when to allow your body to rest — all three of which are critical for any athlete (or mathlete!) seeking optimal results.
Sleep and recovery optimization wearables from Oura and Whoop predict your readiness to perform, and provide personalized recommendations that reduce your chance of injury. You’ll also get bedtime suggestions each night, intended to help you exercise harder and recover more quickly. This is HUGE given how critical a good night’s rest is to overall health.
How do Whoop and Oura work, exactly?
The Oura Ring
Oura packs an impressive set of advanced sensors into a slim, sleek band that fits comfortably around your finger, just like any other ring. It boasts a 3D accelerometer, gyroscope, and body temperature sensors, plus infrared optical pulse measurers. This fancy tech senses your body heat, pulse, and the intensity of your muscle movements.
These sensors are designed to track your activity around the clock—or at least so long as you’re wearing your smart ring.
If you keep it on 24/7, you’ll feed it ample data to consistently analyze the following:
- Sleep: While you sleep, the Oura ring tracks your sleep stages and rest quality. It can provide you with the optimal sleep schedule based on your daily patterns.
- Physical activity: Oura also tracks the number of steps you take and calories you burn, alerting you when you’re being too sedentary and need to get off the couch. It tracks activity volume and frequency, and understands how to balance this data with recovery days. It also helps you create daily goals, and if you forget or are unable to wear it one day, you can always add activity data later manually.
- Recovery optimization: Finally, the Oura ring tracks your resting heart rate, respiratory rate, body temperature, and heart rate variability (HRV) to help you know when to push it to the limit and when it’s okay to put your wheels up.
Oura’s wearable rings work with an app that visualized your data over time. Oura makes it easy to import and export data from other devices into their app, so if you already use another fitness tracker like a Fitbit or Apple Watch, you can bring all of your metrics together into one view.
It gives you a sleep score and an activity score, with daily feedback alerts to let you know where you’re at and create personalized goals. There’s also Oura Cloud, which allows you to analyze your data even further with a personalized dashboard accessible from any browser.
The Whoop wristband
The Whoop strap is a sleek, attractive fabric band worn on the wrist. Hidden on the inside, its sensors constantly monitor vital signs and physical activity. A default strap is free with membership, but you can further customize its look and feel by purchasing various bands in different colors and materials.
Much like the Oura ring, Whoop’s smart wrist strap continuously tracks your body movements 24/7, so long as it’s wrapped around your wrist.
It provides real-time data and patterns about your:
- Sleep: During sleep, Whoop’s wearable tracks the stages of your Circadian rhythms to gauge sleep performance, consistency, and efficiency.
- Physical activity: Whoop tracks your calories burned, advising when to exert more energy and alternatively, when to rest/recover.
- Recovery Optimization: The strap measures important markers of recovery, including resting heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV), and shows how activities are impacting recovery.
A bonus feature of Whoop is its robust online community of wellness focused customers and gurus, which can provide a social and psychological boost to reach your health goals. They make it easy to compare your personal data with others and challenge yourself against top athletes, gamifying the experience so that you stay focused and on the wagon.
Whoop data integrates with other fitness trackers so you can keep it all in one place should you ever decide to switch devices. Membership starts at $30 and gives you access to the app — essential for analyzing your data on the go. Elite membership includes premium analytics, coach assist, and performance experts who can interpret data for you. With a full battery, the Whoop strap will continuously pull in and sync your data for up to 5 days without needing more juice.
The biggest difference between Whoop and Oura is design.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Whoop and Oura is their different shapes / forms. This might be the biggest factor when deciding which is right for you. Whoop’s wrist strap approach will be familiar to users of other popular wearables such as the Fitbit or Apple Watch. Oura, on the other hand, has created something truly unique with a minimalist metallic ring that wraps around a finger. Its style is both modest and elegant enough such many may not even notice you’re wearing it—whether you’re in athleisure, pajamas, or even your fanciest suit/dress.
As you can imagine, Whoop’s wearable is more conspicuous. When you’re comparing these products on aesthetic design alone, the Oura ring has an edge in my book, but not everyone feels comfortable wearing jewelry, and Whoop offers plenty of analytical horsepower, especially compared to competing fitness tracker bracelets.
Here’s a Whoop fitness tracker I recently bought straight out of the box, so you can see how it looks like in person:
Which is a more comfortable fitness tracker, Oura or Whoop?
Most Oura customers report barely noticing that they’re wearing anything at all. It’s like a wedding ring—once you get used to having it there, it basically becomes a part of your body that you don’t think twice about. Although there are different styles, the Oura ring is made of strong, non-allergenic materials — usually titanium with a carbon coating (DLC). This makes it plenty durable to keep on while lifting weights, although power lifters may opt to move it to a less prominent finger or remove it altogether to eliminate friction in their grip.
While Whoop takes up more physical space on your body, it’s great for fitness-oriented people who are always on the go. After 3 days of wearing mine, I no longer noticed anything on my wrist — now it’s just part of me.
The Whoop wrist strap has a pro-knit band with sweat-absorbing, comfortable filaments and a non-slip rubber grip. The battery strap slides on so you can charge it while you’re working out, running errands, at work, etc. and never have to stop tracking data. Compare that to the Oura ring, which needs to be plugged into the wall for 20–80 minutes every few days.
Overall, both Oura and Whoop are very comfortable to wear, whether you’re sitting in a climate-controlled room, or dripping sweat running on a sunny day. Choosing which is most comfortable likely depends how much you use fingers during your favorite physical activity, and how comfortable you feel wearing a ring vs a bracelet. While the ring looks SLEEK, I personally prefer a strap.
Whoop vs Oura: Sleep and Recovery Optimization Wearables Compared
Heart rate variability (HRV)
Sleep phases & performance
Resting heart rate
Heart rate variability (HRV)
Sleep phases & performance
Resting heart rate
|Embedded sensors||photoplethysmography-based heart rate sensor and accelerometer||3D accelerometer, gyroscope, body temperature sensors, infrared optical pulse measurement|
|Works with app?||Yes, for iOS, Android and desktop||Yes, for iOS and Android|
|Cost||Free strap with $30/month membership that gives you access to their community. You can get $30 off here!||$299 to $999 for ring, free app|
|Size||Strap adjusts, so one size fits all|
Eight ring sizes ranging from US 6 to13
(Ring dimensions: 7.9 mm wide, 2.55 mm thick)
|Weight||“Lightweight”||4 to 6 grams|
|Memory storage||Stores data up to 3 days, syncing it to the cloud via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)||Stores data up to 6 weeks with Cypress’ PSoC 6 BLE microcontroller (MCU)|
|Battery life||5 days on full-charge||7 days on full-charge|
|User Community||Robust online forum of like-minded fitness buffs and coaches||Unofficial Facebook user groups|
|Return Policy||Full refund or exchange within 30 days (excludes shipping)||Full refund or exchange within 30 days (excludes shipping)|
|Warranty||Limited 1 year warranty||Limited 2 year warranty|
|Where to buy|
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As you can see, these two sleep and recovery optimization wearables have completely different pricing models. With Oura, you invest a lot upfront — at least $299 for the ring — but the app is free. With Whoop, the wristband device is free and you pay only $30 per month for access to their community (and your data). Which do you prefer?
While both devices offer really advanced biometric sensors, hardware is the primary focus for Oura, while Whoop’s emphasis is on their thriving online user community and how they deliver their analysis, not necessarily in creating the most innovative wearable in the world.
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What are some of the best Oura and Whoop alternatives?
There are some alternatives to these two market leaders. Some of the biggest Whoop and Oura competitors – besides each other – are:
- Fitbit – they have both trackers and smartwatches that can help you track your activity levels, heart rate, sleep, etc. They are a real competitor to the Whoop strap.
- Apple Watch – obviously you’ve heard of the Apple Watch. If you’re a diehard Apple enthusiast it might be worth considering. From a fitness tracker perspective, you can track your steps, activity, heart rate, etc. Theoretically you can also track your sleep – BUT, since it has such large battery charging needs, this doesn’t seem super practical.
- DREEM 2 – The DREEM 2 is a smart headband for better sleep. This isn’t a fitness tracker – you only wear it in bed, but it does have some very cool features to help you monitor and get more sleep, like brain activity reporting, heart rate an oxygen saturation, and some cool reports on your sleep quality.
- Motiv – this smart ring tracks (or we should say tracked) your heart rate, steps, activity level and more. But, they have since stopped selling, so you can’t get them any more.
In addition to Oura, Apple Watch, Motive and the others we’ve listed above, there are some Whoop alternatives that we haven’t spent much time with like Catapult Sport’s Vector series watches, Athos (workout tracking devices you attach to pouches in special clothes), and Tribe Wearables.
The Verdict: Which sleep tracking wearable is right for you, Oura or Whoop?
Both devices track important metrics that give you a deep understanding of your workout / recovery and sleep cycles. Both have apps that provide personalized recommendations on achieving optimal performance.
In my opinion, Oura wins the fashion contest with its discreet smart ring with a powerful set of sensors embedded. Whoop’s wearable fitness and sleep tracking wearable is the overall winner though for endurance athletes or anyone who prefers a wristband to a ring. Its online fitness audience is more likely to keep you motivated for longer by connecting you with kindred spirits and coaches.
Ultimately, Whoop is best for athletes who seek motivation to stay active and thus might hesitate to for over a ton of cash in the name of optimizing their sleep and recovery patterns. Oura, on the other hand, is like the Ferrari of fitness trackers, beautifully engineered for more self-driven athletes who will invest whatever it takes to get an edge.
Both brands offer wearables that can track your body’s movement and materially improve your sleep / performance. To make your final decision, the key questions to answer are:
- Do you prefer to wear a metal ring or a knit-fabric wristband? This really just comes down to personal style and preference.
- Is a $299 one-time fee preferable to paying $30/month? Whoop ends up being more expensive after just 10 months of payments, so if you’re fully committed to optimizing your performance over the long-run, then it could be economical to choose the higher priced Oura.
- How do you typically stay motivated — checking in with friends and mentors, or measuring progress independently? If a little friendly competition and an occasional pep talk goes a long way, you may want to consider joining Whoop’s member-only community of fitness enthusiasts for a month or two.
With all of this in mind, the choice is yours — go forth and prosper, friends! Let us know who you decide to go with — Whoop or Oura — and share your experience with sleep and recovery optimization wearables in the comments below.