What is a smart water bottle?

The health, fitness and wellness industries are booming – and it shows in tech too. There are lots of new fitness trackers, apps and other devices available to buy that are designed to help you take better care of your physical and mental wellbeing.

Sure, fitness tech has been around for a long time, but now there’s more focus on a more holistic approach to wellness, with brands like Fitbit focusing on sleep as much as your steps, Muse 2 encouraging you to relax, focus and meditate, and Oura giving you a readiness score for the day.

That’s why it’s no surprise more niche products have cropped up in this space: meet the smart water bottle.

We know what you’re thinking: do we really need a smart water bottle? For most of us, the answer is no. This isn’t tech that you need, but a great-looking water bottle is the must-have gym accessory – why not make it smart?

Reusing an old Evian bottle just won’t cut it anymore. Not only is it bad for the environment to rely on plastic bottles, but they don’t look good and they’re not built to withstand trips to the gym or the yoga studio.

That’s why well-designed water bottles have become popular recently. Brands like Chilly’s and Klean Kanteen have been scoring serious style points and are now being stocked in high street stores alongside clothes and accessories.

It makes sense then that a number of companies are banking on our love for fancy water bottles, our love for tracking our health and fitness, and our love for our smartphones.

But what makes this next generation of water bottles smart? Are they really more useful than useless? And is hydration tech becoming an important sub-section of wellness tech in its own right?

The H2OPal gives you a personalized hydration goal for the day. Image credit: H2OPal

How do smart water bottles work?

Although the use of the word ‘smart’ has become a little vague recently, in this case, it generally means that the water bottle is connected to your phone – most of the examples below connect via Bluetooth.

Aside from that, there’s no one kind of smart water bottle, but instead a fair few on the market that offer different features.

For example, both DrinKup and the Thermos Connected Hydration Bottle have smart lids containing sensors, which can tell you how much you need to drink, the temperature of your water and your goal for the day. The main difference being the DrinKup’s lid also has a built-in display for real-time info when your phone isn’t around.

The H2OPal and Bellabeat Spring are both designed with different consumers in mind but are focused on working out exactly how much water you should be drinking each day based on all kinds of things, like your activity levels and whether you’re pregnant.

There are also some very simple offerings, like the Hidrate Spark, which simply glows when you need to take a sip. Or the super minimal Joseph Joseph Dot, which tracks your water intake with simple light ‘dots’ throughout the day – no phone needed.

Although they’re just a handful of all the smart water bottles available, they give you an idea of what to expect: some tech smarts added on to functional, good-looking water bottles.

Spring sends you regular reminders to drink water throughout the day. Image credit: Bellabeat

Why are smart water bottles good?

Drinking enough water each day is an important part of improving your health and fitness. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of stats suggesting very few of us are drinking enough water. A recent study found one in five people don’t drink any water on a given day – relying on calorie-packed, super sugary drinks instead.

Although we could probably all do with downing a little more H2O throughout the day, smart water bottles still aren’t going to appeal to everyone.

The category is too small to find any official buying data. But we imagine smart water bottles will predominantly appeal to those who take their health and fitness seriously and see hydration as another part of the well-being puzzle – it certainly seems to be these people that they’re marketed at.

However, let’s not overlook some of the less obvious reasons people might need a smart water bottle. There are those who could require lots of hydration for health reasons, the elderly who may forget to drink enough without a reminder, or those in jobs that require a lot of concentration at the detriment of eating and drinking.

Smart water bottles follow many of the same principles as other kinds of fitness tech and trackers. They remind you to pick up good habits, they monitor what you do, they sometimes add gaming elements to your daily life, and they help you set – and stick to – goals.

Aside from the tech, many of the smart water bottles we’ve tried so far are also really well-designed and are good for keeping your water cool in their own right. You don’t have to compromise on looks for tech smarts.

The DrinKup bottle vibrates and sends a little <3 when it’s time to, erm, drink up! Image credit: DrinKup

What are the negatives of smart water bottles?

As we’ve already covered, no one really needs a smart water bottle. It’s nice-to-have tech for those interested in health and fitness rather than a necessity.

As with all tech, it’s also worth shopping around for the best option for you. There are going to be varying features and varying levels of quality on offer. With that in mind, do check out the reviews, privacy policies and small print before buying a smart water bottle and signing up to its accompanying app.

Another negative is that you’ll obviously need to consider charging most of them. The DrinKup needs charging only every 30 to 90 days, and many of the other examples in this article are similar, but it’s still another piece of tech to consider.

But rather than this being a case of balancing the pros with the cons, it’s more about whether the idea appeals to you or not.

During a quick poll of people we know, some laughed at the idea, whereas others said they don’t drink enough water so this would be handy. Many others weren’t that fussed and thought reminders on their phone would probably be just as effective.

Which smart water bottles do we recommend?

There are lots of smart water bottles available to buy right now. Some have a really simple way of notifying you that you need to drink more, with a light or vibration, others have more features added in, so you’ll need to figure out what’s likely to encourage you to drink more and how much of a push you need.

Other than that, most on the list are quite similar. They have an app that shows you how much water you’ve had to drink throughout the day, a type of goal setting – manual or personalized – and a way of alerting you to drink up.

Our favorite bottle is DrinKup ($69, around £50 / AU$100). It’s a great-looking smart water bottle that’s available in a range of colors and it has a smart lid with a circular display that has a 5 x 16 resolution.

The lid shows you how much water you’ve drunk today already – presented as a percentage with LED lights. It also vibrates when you need to drink and keeps track of how much water you’ve had today, which you can view from within the app. A nice feature also measures the temperature of your drink.

It’s the only bottle on the list that can tell you how much water you’ve had to drink without needing to sync to your mobile device. Although that generally only takes seconds with the other bottles, it still removes some of the friction.

If you already have one of the Bellabeat wearables, like the Leaf or Leaf Chakra, then the Bellabeat Spring ($89 / £70 / AU$129) is probably the best option for you. It tracks how much water you’ve had to drink throughout the day – and how much more you need.

Bellabeat Spring calculates the optimal amount of water for your body. Image credit: Bellabeat

Like some of the other bottles, it works out the right amount of water for you based on your activity level, age, height, weight, local weather and even if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. You can quickly check on how much water you’ve had to drink through the Bellabeat app, just shake the Spring to sync it.

Built with fitness in mind, the H2OPal ($99, around £75 / AU$140) can track your water intake, send you notifications when you need to drink and allows you to check out your progress over time. It can also provide a personalized hydration goal for the day if you fill in your details within the app.

Unlike the other devices on the list, the H2OPal may come with a water bottle, but it’s actually the silicone bands around the bottle that contain the sensors. That means you could technically switch out the bottle for another glass one or a plastic bottle.

The Hidrate Spark ($45, around £35 / AU$65) is one of the nicest-looking bottles on the list – kind of like it has been sent from the future – but is also one of the simplest. The Spark syncs with your phone and glows when you need to drink. That’s it. We can’t work out whether there’s beauty in its simplicity or if it just seems a bit pointless? It’s also BPA-free and dishwasher safe.

This is one of the few bottles on the list that isn’t insulated, which means your water will eventually reach room temperature. For some this might not be an issue, but if you like your icy cold water to stay icy cold, this isn’t one for you.

That white rim at the base of the EQUA bottle glows when it’s time to drink. Image credit: EQUA

Similar to the Spark, the EQUA Smart Bottle (roughly $65 / £50 / AU$95) glows underneath when you need to drink up. You can then see how much water you’ve had from within the app, which is calculated using an accelerometer within the bottle.

This one wins extra style points because it looks great and comes in a range of nice shades.

Our favorite simple bottle is from designers Joseph Joseph. Image credit: Joseph Joseph / Selfridges

The Joseph Joseph Dot ($13 / £12 / AU$18) is by far the simplest option on the list, but for many, it could be the most effective.

It’s technically not a smart bottle, because there’s no dedicated app or personalized water goal. Instead, one of the four lights on the bottle lights up every time it’s refilled. Simple, but effective given your recommended daily water goal will be around four bottles worth of water.

From Thermos, famed for its insulated flasks and bottles, the Thermos Connected Hydration Bottle ($59.99, around £45 / AU$85) can tell you how much water you’ve had to drink, as well as monitoring its temperature in real-time.

Ideal for Fitbit-lovers, the Thermos app can sync up to your account, filling in your hydration levels for the day. Like other devices on the list, you can fill in your details in the app and you’re then served up a personalized hydration goal for the day too.

The Hydra TechBottle ($59.99, around £45 / AU$85) is a little different to the rest in that it’s not really concerned with getting you to drink more water, but it does boast a bunch of tech features, including a light, a power bank, a speaker, a speakerphone, a sleep sounds app and much more. It’s a great idea for tech-savvy campers.

The Hydra TechBottle is water bottle meets portable speaker. Image credit: Hydra TechBottle

Although these are some of the best-looking bottles with the most useful tech packed in, there are plenty more smart water bottles on the market right now, each varying in price, performance and the features they have on offer.

What that means is, if you haven’t already laughed the idea off, it’s worth researching which has the features you need.

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