Owlet Smart Sock Plus review: an update for fans

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Here’s something I didn’t know until I became a NICU parent: In the United States, one in 10 babies are born prematurely. Many premature babies require a stay in the NICU, lasting an average of 13.5 days. While I had no idea what I was doing when I brought my twins home from the NICU, I knew I was going to continue monitoring their vital stats using an Owlet sock. My partner and I had become accustomed to checking their heart rate and pulse levels on a hospital monitor, and being able to get this information at home has helped us build our confidence in our role as lay caretakers. two very small humans.

In the NICU and parent forums online, several people have recommended the owl. It is precisely these fans that the brand has responded with the recent $ 359 release of Smart Sock Plus, a larger sock with an updated algorithm that can be used on children up to five years old or 55 pounds. That’s a decent jump from the previous 18 month / 30 pound threshold that my kids just passed. The company claims that 72% of parents surveyed said they would like to use their Smart Socks for longer, and that certainly included me.

Advantages

  • Fewer false alarms
  • Better fit over the sock
  • The device and the algorithm have a much longer lifespan

The inconvenients

  • More expensive than the latest version
  • Always difficult to babysit

Equipment

The third-generation Owlet monitoring system featured a redesigned ‘butterfly’ style sensor that fits into an updated fabric sock, and it’s more or less the same with the Plus. You’ll find the same removable sensor with a protruding button that attaches to the base station for wireless charging when not in use, as well as the same winged Velcro fasteners to toggle it between socks.

It’s also still light, easy to remove and replace, and quick to charge. Owlet says a full charge takes an hour and a half, and you can get eight hours of use with just 20 minutes of charge. This turned out in testing when I was able to enjoy a full night of battery life for the time it took to complete our bedtime routine with the kids. The compact and more subtle base station is also the same one found on the smaller smart sock model.

The new sock also has a similar construction, including a strip of soft, flexible fabric that wraps around the ball of the foot to keep the sensor on the outside of the little toe. And there is an ankle band to keep it all in place. The Smart Sock Plus comes with the same four initial sock sizes: left and right for under 12 pounds; and left and right for 12 to 30 pounds; plus a left and right sock extension pack for 30 to 55 pounds. It should be noted that currently the Smart Sock Plus is only available in the classic mint green shade, and not in the colors Deep Sea Green or Dusty Rose.

Owlet Plus smart socks

Amber Bouman / Engadget

I had issues with the fit of the last sock and was pleased to find that the Plus version for taller kids (30 pounds and over) seemed less prone to unintentional slipping. I say involuntary because my children have just learned to work with Velcro so that they can purposely remove the sock. While they were proud of themselves for their accomplishment, it underscores the challenge of gifting a sock for older kids: it could be a struggle to get them to keep it.

One of the user reviews I read for the original Owlet sock recommended putting a regular sock over the smart sock to keep it from slipping. I tried this and found it to work well for my son, but less so with my daughter who has better dexterity. This is unlikely to solve the problem during the life of the sensor, although I would expect older children to learn to wear the sock to sleep. I asked Owlet what they recommend to keep the sock in place in these cases, and they also suggest using a regular sock or footed pajamas. They also claim that some parents wait until their children are asleep before putting on the Smart Sock, but these people are braver than I am.

Because the sock fits better, I had fewer disconnect error alerts. In fact, the only time I got any alerts due to a misaligned sock was when my kids took it off. Since frequent unexplained alerts was one of my issues with the latest version, it was nice to see that it had improved. I had consistent readings when they were in cloth socks or soccer pajamas, and also when they were under a blanket. In addition, I had no problem keeping the base station in my office, next to my child’s room; he was still able to keep everything connected.

Owlet Smart Sock Plus worn under a fabric sock

Amber Bouman / Engadget

I will say the sock still seemed to run out of battery faster than the second gen, but it was comparable to the third gen. While the sock could reliably get through an evening of surveillance (around 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.), I occasionally saw low battery warnings in the morning. However, these warnings indicated that I had less than four hours of battery life, which seems like a lot of time.

Software

Every time I set up an Owlet device, I have a problem. This time, instead of connecting to the Owlet in my WiFi settings, I was asked to go through the privacy settings and enable the Local Network option. But the Owlet app kept telling me to check permissions even after enabling them. And out. And again. And closed and restarted the application.

Although this was the first time I had to call Owlet support for a resolution, I was able to easily reach a live person and resolve the issue in just over five minutes (thanks again, Jill!). I haven’t had any problems since.

As with the rest of the Plus experience, the app remains largely unchanged. The difference here is in the updated algorithms that Owlet uses to calculate data for children in the 18 month to five year range. Since the sock can now fit more children, the algorithm must adapt to physical changes over time. Owlet says a good example is heart rate, which changes as the child gets older.

Owls application

Owlet

Apart from that, you always have a dashboard to access each kid’s profile, which contains their live heart rate and pulse data, sock battery life, and state of. WiFi connection. If you are also using the Owlet camera as a video monitor, you will see the feed here. Data for previous days can be found under History, which includes an overview and info graphics. This has always been one of the most useful parts of the app for me, as it showed me the trends on when my twins were sleeping – and not sleeping – well.

As I mentioned, I haven’t had any false alarms yet, although I’m not sure what those are – faster internet in my new home? Better fit on the sock? Improved algorithms? Either way, it’s nice to report a better experience, especially considering the price difference between the third-gen sock at $ 359 and the third-gen sock at $ 299.

The competition

There aren’t a ton of products similar to Owlet’s sock. The company has apparently cornered the market for baby clothes that measure pulse and heart rate, but there are a few other noteworthy devices in the space. One of them is the Nanit system, which combines a camera with a garment from the Breathing Wear company to monitor breathing and sleep as well as provide video feed. The full surveillance system, which includes app subscription extras like two days of video history, costs $ 379. In testing, the Breathing Wear performed as advertised and the camera delivered an impressively clear 1080p HD stream. I also used the Pampers Lumi, a solid $ 187 camera that just tracks diaper changes and sleep patterns. However, it looks like the Sensor is hard to find right now – we reached out to Pampers to see if the Lumi Sensor and companion diapers are still widely available.

Owlet Plus smart socks

Owlet

Conclude

The Owlet Smart Sock Plus meets a need of people who are already on the Owlet bandwagon: it allows parents to continue using a product they love and are comfortable with for longer. Other than better algorithms and a bigger sock, there isn’t much of a difference between the Plus and the third-gen device – which was absolutely an improvement over the version that came before it. I would expect the $ 69 expansion pack to sell well, as it provides what current customers will need to upgrade to the next sock level, but $ 359 is a high barrier to entry for a baby monitor system that may not work for your sleep routine. That said, if you are an Owlet customer who is happy with your current smart sock, you are unlikely to regret purchasing an expansion pack when your child has grown old enough.


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