Biostrap EVO: An Excellent Evolution In Fitness Wearables

 

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” - author Peter Drucker

 

It’s undeniable that more and more people around the world are paying more attention to their physical well-being. At-home workouts, gym memberships, subscription-based nutrition programs have all seen growth in recent years, indicating people want to take ownership of their wellbeing.

How do you know if that new workout is really working for you? How can you tell if you are overtraining? Is there a way to see if your new diet is really helping achieve your goals? That is where wearable technologies like Biostrap have come into play.

In 2019 a Gallup poll concluded that 19% of Americans currently use some sort of wearable fitness tracker. That same poll revealed that when combined with past use, one in three Americans report having used a wearable fitness device.

As the demand for wearables continues to grow, companies are having to continuously improve their products to meet the demands of the consumer. Brands such as FitBit, Apple, Oura and Whoop have all had to respond, and Biostrap is no exception with the release of their EVO sensor.

 Pros:

  • Faster sync times
  • Greater wireless range
  • IP68 water resistance rating
  • New wristband design

Cons:

  • Price
  • Same form factor as previous model
  • No new functions

 

Background

In June of 2019, I wrote an in-depth review of the Biostrap. I covered the features it offered, how the app worked and gave my pros/cons and even some suggestions of things I’d like to see in a future product.

As I mentioned in my comprehensive product review, Biostrap has an active online Facebook group in which the company regularly interacts with its users.

Above: My original Biostrap wristband I have used for over 18 months

Over the past year, I’ve seen a steady series of firmware and app updates for my Biostrap. Some of these changes were small “quality of life” tweaks such as notification that my wristband was charged on my phone.

Some updates were more substantial, such as back-end biometric processing on Biostrap’s internet servers and the implementation of an ‘airplane mode’. With each incremental update, I saw better reliability and stability in the wristband.

Biostrap EVO will represent the largest single update to the Biostrap platform since the previous product was released. Biostrap sent me a preview unit to test out some of the updates to the hardware, and in this preview/sneak peek we’re going to take a look at what EVO is all about.

 

Why EVO? What is EVO?

Biostrap hasn’t rested on their laurels with a solid first-generation product but listened to users, incorporating suggestions into their next-generation product. This brings us to EVO, a newer, stronger, faster sensor for the Biostrap platform.

EVO is cleverly named, as you’ll see below what EVO is and what it isn’t. EVO isn’t a radical redesign, but a natural evolution of product line. Biostrap has built upon the success of their current technologies and made important changes to core aspects of the hardware.

Functionally, EVO does exactly what the previous Biostrap sensor does. EVO isn’t a “Biostrap 2.0”, and consumers shouldn’t be under the impression that it is. Rather, EVO is what the Biostrap sensor has evolved into.

Disclaimer: Biostrap provided me with a pre-launch preview unit for evaluation purposes. The evaluation unit I was sent is not the retail version that will be shipped to consumers in October 2020.

 

Cost/Availability

Biostrap has announced that EVO will begin shipping in October of 2020. Pricing for the EVO is going to be $249.00, but right now the EVO is available here for a special preorder price of $199.

(Soon the price will divert back to $249)

 

EVO: What’s New?

I can’t help myself, but I do like Biostrap’s decision to name this updated product “EVO”, and I can’t help myself from making puns such as “It’s an EVOlution”.

And in a sense, that’s exactly what this update is: an evolution of five existing core areas. Let’s break down these updates one at a time:

 

  • 5x faster processing
  • Upgraded antenna
  • Increased device range
  • IP68 water/dust resistance
  • Updated strap design

 

5x Faster Processing

Biostrap EVO’s new sensor has been updated to give users data sync times that are five times faster than the current Biostrap model, all without sacrificing data integrity.

Sync times have been one area that I’ve seen the user community ask Biostrap to work on, and I’m glad to see the engineers at Biostrap tackle the request.

It’s important for people to understand that Biostrap’s sensor captures high-resolution data, and the amount of information that the sensor needs to transfer and upload to the servers is quite extensive.

Optimizing data sync will be an appealing function for many existing users.

 

Upgraded Antenna

I believe this update goes together with the above 5x processing times. Biostrap says that their high-resolution data can be captured/sent with larger packet sizes.

It makes sense that working in tandem with a faster sensor, an upgraded antenna that can push larger data files would result in faster sync times without a loss in data quality. The upgraded antenna also likely plays a big role in the next core area that’s been improved: range.

 

Increased Device Range

While this isn’t a feature I covered in my initial review of the previous generation Biostrap, EVO units are going to have increased Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) range. When I previously wrote about Biostrap, Bluetooth range wasn’t something that I considered terribly important. After all, I always had my phone with me or nearby.

Over the last year, however, with the inclusion of battery charge notifications after some product updates, I’ve realized how nice it is to not have to have my Biostrap within a few feet of me while it’s charging.

 

IP68 Water/Dust Resistance

With previous generation Biostrap sensors, it wasn’t recommended that users subject them to water. I’m glad to see Biostrap attaching an actual water and dust resistance rating to the EVO, but what exactly does a rating of IP68 mean to you, the end-user?

We can briefly break down the rating into a few parts.

The first two letters, “I” and “P” stand for “Ingress Protection” or how well a device guards against things like particles of dust and water gets inside. The first number indicates how well the device protects against solid particles like dust, with a maximum rating of 6.

The second number represents how well a device protects against liquids, with a maximum rating of 8.

In short, a device with a rating of IP-68 provides the maximum level of protection available against dust and liquids within the IP-rating scale.

For some perspective, the current iPhone 11 Pro is certified IP68. Having this rating doesn’t mean that the device is “waterproof” and can be used for prolonged dives underwater, as the IP rating scale doesn’t take water pressure at depth into consideration.

Realistically what this means for Biostrap users is that they should be able to shower/bathe, workout in the rain and wash their hands without worrying their sensors will be damaged.

A great improvement!

 

Updated Strap

EVO is going to ship with a completely redesigned wrist strap available in two colors, Onyx (black) and Ivory (white). The Onyx will have silver metal hardware, whereas the Ivory will ship with rose gold.

The strap’s redesign gets rid of the peg-style mechanism that secured the previous strap in favor or a more traditional watch buckle-style clasp.

Biostrap states that their band uses medical-grade hypoallergenic silicone and is designed for optimal airflow. The buckle system promises to better adapt the strap to users' varied wrist sizes for ease of use.

 

My Time With EVO

 

Biostrap’s new EVO sensor on the bottom, and my original sensor on the top

 

Biostrap provided me an early preview of EVO by sending a pre-release unit. I’ve had a few weeks with EVO, and in that time, I’ve tested the hardware in the real world.

My initial impressions are positive: the design changes/updates to the Biostrap sensor do give added value for the end-user and make Biostrap an even more attractive option than it was over a year ago.

Let’s dive in and see what I experienced using EVO over the past few weeks.

 

Sync Times

Faster sync times is arguably the most exciting update for me as a current Biostrap user. I’ve learned over the last year that if I leave the Biostrap app open on my phone before bed, my sync times are generally pretty quick when I wake up each morning.

That said, they’re still substantially longer than that of my Oura ring. I suspected this is due to amount of data that Biostrap is working with compared to Oura, and not anything to do with the quality of the hardware or software.

There have been times I forgot to leave the app open, and it took my Biostrap anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes to sync with my phone.

In testing EVO, I can’t empirically show that it is actually “5x faster”, but the speed difference is noticeable. Due to the fact Biostrap’s app wouldn’t let me connect both the new EVO and my existing strap at the same time, it wasn’t possible to make comparisons in a head to head matchup.

I intentionally kept the app closed overnight to see how long EVO would take to sync from my overnight readings. The results speak for themselves:

With 9:25 hours since my previous sync, the app reported to me that it would take 11:38 minutes. I can speak from experience that a typical sync time after 9 hours would be closer to half an hour. That’s quite an improvement!

One thing I noticed is that my EVO unit is operating on firmware version 0.9.6 – not a V1.0 version. I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time EVO ships a V1.0 or even 1.1 version of EVO’s firmware has been pushed out to users, further speeding up sync times.

Another area that I noticed a speed boost was in doing the on-demand biometric reports that Biostrap offers. During the 5-minute biometric test, the wristband takes continuous readings, collecting a massive amount of data.

In the past, syncing the data after these biometric sessions could take anywhere up to 5 minutes. I was pleased to see that biometric report sync times have also been improved, with my session taking about 3 minutes or less.

 

Antenna/Range

The improved antenna and Bluetooth range for EVO was another significant improvement that I noticed.

Typically, I am only able to be about 10 feet away from my wristband before my phone loses the sensor’s signal. With EVO I was surprised that the app picked up my wristband from across my living room, and into my kitchen.

I first experienced this by getting a “charging complete” notification on my phone. The distance I am now able to get with EVO seems to roughly be about twice that of the previous Biostrap sensor (somewhere around 20-30 feet).

Bluetooth range never seemed terribly important in the past, but now that I’ve experienced the increased range, I’m really enjoying it. I can check the status of my battery while charging without having to walk over to my wristband.

I also believe that the stronger Bluetooth signal is partially responsible for the faster sync times. The improved sensor speed when combined with a stronger antenna allows for more data to flow between the wristband and smartphone.

And while the device may have a stronger Bluetooth signal and increased range, Biostrap still gives users ultimate control over Bluetooth exposure with an airplane mode. Airplane mode lets users disable Bluetooth and wireless signals, reducing EMF exposure if that is of concern.

 

Water/dust resistance

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test this new EVO feature. The sensor I was sent is a pre-release unit, and I was advised by Biostrap not to submerge or get my testing unit wet. Hopefully, once I’m able to get a production unit, I can update this section with real-world testing results and situations where an IP68 rating would be beneficial.

 

Updated Strap

Again, because I was sent a pre-production unit, I was unable to secure one of the new Biostrap straps for testing:

Biostrap’s new EVO sensor on the left, and my original sensor on the right

I know from participating in member groups that users have requested an updated strap design for some time, and I’m glad to see Biostrap was listening. I personally never had any issues with the original strap design, but I can see how a buckle closure system would be more robust.

The peg closure system relies on a metal 2-piece metal peg that screws together. While extremely uncommon, I have heard of a user or two having the peg become unsecured. The new design with a buckle would eliminate this possible issue.

I’m also happy that Biostrap took some time to incorporate aesthetics into the strap design. If I’m going to be wearing something on my wrist all the time, I at least want it to look nice!

The new bands with silver and rose gold accents look sharp, and I’m excited to get one for myself.

 

Other Observations

The sensor itself looks nearly identical to the previous generation Biostrap, and only a small metal skin sensor on the underside is visible differentiating the two. Most of what Biostrap has done with EVO is on the inside.

As I mentioned, I was operating on a firmware version that I believe isn’t going to be shipping with production units. I didn’t notice any truly odd or bizarre bugs, but on occasion, the sync process would stop and start over again. This didn’t seem to have any impact on the actual sync time, leading me to believe it’s not really disconnecting but a quirk in the app that’ll be fixed.

All said, my time with EVO has been overwhelmingly positive.

 

Final Thoughts: Join The Biostrap EVO-lution?

The cleverly named EVO by Biostrap is just that – the natural evolution of an already great wearable health device.

The question for existing Biostrap users then becomes, is it worth upgrading? In my opinion, if you currently use the Biostrap daily and rely on the data it provides, yes.

Not only are you getting a newly designed strap but also upgraded internals that will provide faster sync times and greater range/freedom with the device.

Receiving a new EVO unit also means you’ll have a factory-fresh battery inside, so you’ll get longer battery life from each charge. If you’ve had your Biostrap for more than a year, the upgrade will provide a noticeable boost in performance.

What if you’ve only recently purchased a Biostrap in the last 3-6 months? The answer here becomes a bit harder to answer. Yes, the hardware improvements are great, but they will also be most appreciated by long term users. The previous generation Biostrap is still a fine piece of technology and likely will continue to be supported by Biostrap for quite some time.

With the preorder price right now of $199, there hasn’t been a better time to jump onto the Biostrap platform if you’re new. With all the improvements that have been made, Biostrap has really set themselves up to compete against heavy hitters in the wearable health space such as Oura and Apple.

 

In Closing

Instead of a “do it all” device such as the newly released Apple Watch Series 6, the Biostrap is focused in a health-centric niche. This allows the product to provide deeper insights and more useful data to serious athletes, biohackers, and those wanting the most information possible from a wearable device.

With EVO, Biostrap has evolved its current product and essentially upgraded the device in all the ways that matter. It’s not unlike adding more RAM to your computer or installing a new solid-state hard drive for faster performance. All the things that were great about the Biostrap are still there, and only made better with the increased performance.

I believe EVO represents the natural end-result of several years of product design testing and listening to their user community.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if EVO is the jumping-off point for a Biostrap 2 in the future. With Biostrap releasing EVO, it’s hard for me to imagine what could be in the works for a future version 2 device. To the designers and engineers at Biostrap: you’ve done some good work here with EVO!

 

This blog post was written by David Baker. David has years of biohacking experience with an emphasis on testing gadgets. He's also got 15 years of amateur bodybuilding involvement.

 

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