Feeling stressed? Need a reminder to breathe and relax?
Spire is a wearable device that monitors your breathing and looks for signs of tension. When it does, you’ll receive a gentle reminder on your smartphone, which can help you discover when you're stressed, where it happened, and what you were doing.
From there, you’ll have access to guidance and exercises that can further promote a calm, balanced state of mind. For these reasons, Spire calls itself “your personal mindfulness coach.”
Spire can also track the number of steps you take and the calories you burn each day!
Is Spire right for you? Will it provide good value for the money? We’ll answer all your important questions here. First though, let’s take an in-depth look at exactly how Spire works.
How Does Spire Work?
At the heart of the Spire system is their sensor (known as a stone). The sensor’s exterior is constructed of an assortment of durable plastics, while the clip is made from surgical grade stainless steel.
Your sensor’s clip can be attached to the waistband of your pants, shorts, or skirt (or even your underwear!), or to the center of your bra, with the stone resting against your body.
As you breathe, Spire’s stone monitors the expansion and contraction of your thoracic cavity (i.e. your chest) through a suite of sensors, which use algorithms to sense activity and breathing patterns.
Using psychophysiology principles, Spire aggregates this data to figure out when you're calm, focused, or tense:
- Calm – Your breathing rhythm is slow and smooth, while your body is stationary.
- Focus – Your breathing rhythm is medium speed yet consistent, while your body is stationary.
- Tension – Your breathing patterns are elevated and erratic, while your body is stationary.
Then, if you’re tense, Spire can help ease this state of mind by vibrating the stone or sending a notification to your iOS smartphone using low energy Bluetooth.
From there, the Spire companion app “can guide you in short, simple exercises or mini-meditations to increase focus, calm and productivity.”
Outside of helping you remain calm and reduce stress, what can the data gathered by Spire’s sensor be used for?
Other Uses for Spire’s Data
As Spire gathers data about your breathing, the number of steps you take, and the calories you burn each day, it combines it within the app and divides the information into 3 segments:
- Calm – How much of the day you’ve been centered and relaxed.
- Activity – How often (and how long) you were active throughout the day. Includes number of steps and calories burned.
- Focus – When you were most focused throughout the day.
This allows you not only to track your progress, but also to set fitness and mindfulness goals.
Speaking of which, are there any real-world benefits related to mindfulness and breathing exercises?
The Benefits of Breathing Exercises
According to the Spire website, breathing exercises can help lower blood pressure, reduce tension, and increase endorphins. Is there any truth to this?
First, it’s important to keep in mind that stress is basically a fight or flight reaction, which releases adrenaline and cortisol, elevates your heart rate and blood pressure, increases blood flow, and causes certain types of inflammation.
While this process can be beneficial in short, infrequent bursts, continuous exposure to elevated stress levels can cause very real physical effects, including low energy, headaches, digestive upset, decreased immune response, and excessive wear and tear on just about every organ in your body.
The good news is that relaxation techniques like deep breathing can counteract (and prevent) many of these symptoms by giving your body appropriate oxygen levels, slowing heart rate, stabilizing blood pressure, and focusing your mind.
Instead of a fight or flight response, breathing exercises can elicit a relaxation response.
At first glance, it seems like Spire’s psychophysiology claim (i.e. how the brain and body interact) holds some water. Is this actually the case?
What is Psychophysiology? Can You Use It to Reduce Stress?
Psychophysiology is defined as “the branch of psychology that is concerned with the physiological bases of psychological processes.” In a very real way, psychophysiologists want to know as much as possible about how you body affects your brain, and vice versa.
So, can the data culled from psychophysiology research help reduce your stress levels? Because stress starts in the brain as a result of an emotional response and then spreads to the body (the very definition of the field of research); yes, you can use insights from psychophysiology to reduce stress.
Here’s the thing though: much of psychophysiology uses sensors to gather information about bodily processes, so the information you get is only as accurate as the sensors you’re using.
Are customers finding Spire’s sensors to be accurate?
What Are Spire’s Customers Saying?
Gizmodo liked the “handsome” design of Spire’s stone device and charger, the latter of which uses reclaimed mahogany cork. The company even won a National Design Award for their charger design.
Gizmodo noted that Spire’s sensor initially took some getting used to, but they didn’t notice it after a short while, that it was easy to use, and they appreciated the guided meditation feature.
They didn’t like the fact that Spire wasn’t always accurate in its readings (such as sensing tenseness when relaxing on the couch), and that they repeatedly had to re-pair the device with their phone. The author also noted that while Spire’s stone itself won’t drain your phone, the companion app (which must remain open for the tracking to work) probably would.
Gizmodo’s conclusion? They recommended that you don’t buy it, as “you'd be paying $150 for a mediocre fitness tracker and a vaguely soothing but dubious mood tracker.”
On the other hand, Digital Trends gave Spire 8 out of 10 stars, citing its ease of use, the well-designed app, and long battery life.
Like Gizmodo, Digital Trends also experienced some pairing issues, as well as a charging issue (which seemed to be resolved once a software update was downloaded). They also noted that Spire tracked activity erratically, claiming that, “On some of my most active days, while achieving 150 percent of my day’s goal according to other devices, Spire had only tracked me to 50 percent.”
Lastly, PC Magazine gave Spire a “Fair” rating of 2.5 stars. They liked receiving alerts before consciously realizing they were tense, and the fact that Spire’s stone tracks data that no other fitness tracker records.
PC Magazine’s author gave some insight into wearing Spire’s sensor during physical activity, and claimed to have experienced fairly raw skin. Even without considering this aspect, they claimed that the pressure from the sensor was irritating after wearing the sensor all day.
We already talked briefly about Spire’s price, but let’s dig in more.
Is Spire Expensive?
Spire will cost you $149.95 if purchased through the company or the Apple Store, and $149.99 through Amazon.
For this price, you’ll receive one Spire stone, a custom-made Spire wireless charger, and USB cable. Spire’s companion app is free.
All Spire purchases come with a 30-day refund policy and a 1-year warranty. In order to request a refund or process a warranty claim, you can contact Spire’s live phone support at 800-501-CALM (2256).
Given all of this, will Spire provide you with a solid value?
Is Spire Worth the Money?
As with anything else, whether or not you’ll find Spire worthwhile depends on a variety of factors. But basically, it comes down to your expectations.
Are you usually an early adopter with wearable technology? Are you passionate about trying out the newest gadgets? Then Spire might be right up your alley. And because you’ll be tracking something that no other manufacturer currently offers, it could provide you with a unique experience and might be worth the risk.
Or, do you expect any technology you own to work (essentially) flawlessly? Do you become frustrated when an error occurs? In an instance like this, you might want to wait until Spire has been on the market for a while, where all the kinks have been worked out in advance.
In either case, if you don’t own an iOS-based device, you’ll be out of luck until Spire releases Android and Windows phone versions (they claim they’re working on them, but don’t provide any timelines).
Also, remember that there are numerous quick breathing exercises you can use whenever you’re feeling stressed during the day, without being required to purchase Spire. Sure, you won’t have any sensors to alert you, but as soon as you realize you’re stressed, you can implement these exercises without shelling out any money.
For more, be sure to learn 6 ways to naturally improve your focus and decrease stress!