James Dixon examines this stress busting gadget in our Apollo Neuro review. Did his testing reveal it as a high tech answer to modern day stress or is it just a gimmick? Find out below…
Modern life is pretty intense. We’ve never been so overstimulated, overstretched and, frankly, stressed as we are these days. Most data backs this up – we are anxious and stressed in record proportions. As a result, it’s hard to switch off, bring your blood pressure down, and exist in peace for even just a few moments. Long term, it’s hard to keep the ruinous effects of stress at bay.
There are many causes and plenty of cures. Sometimes these interconnect.
Modern technology is arguably one of the biggest drivers of mental health concerns at present. It also represents a way to alleviate stress, as mindfulness and stress-busting devices become ever more advanced.
Though nothing is a substitute for quiet mindfulness, a lifestyle geared towards low stress levels, and plenty of physical activity and kindness, some devices really can work quite well.
This is where the Apollo Neuro comes into play.
Apollo Neuro Quick Verdict
The Apollo Neuro is a sub-par stress relief product. It’s very expensive for what it does, which, even if it manages what it promises, is still very little. It is one-dimensional in conception, clunky and chunky in execution, and rests on pretty poor data dressed up in what I think is deliberately misleadingly vague language. And it probably can’t even do what it purports.
If anything, I think that it will add to your stress levels. It will represent yet one more thing to think about and worry over. It will make it clear to everyone that you’re using something for some purpose, and they will ask questions (people do). And you’ll see a $400 dollar hole in your bank account, which can’t be relaxing for anyone looking to actually keep up with rent or mortgage payments.
Avoid it. Search elsewhere. There are far better products out there such as the Sensate 2.
About The Apollo Neuro
The Apollo Neuro is a wearable stress busting device designed to help your body to naturally manage the symptoms of chronic stress and anxiety far more ably. It’s eye-wateringly expensive at around $400.
At first glance, as far as I could tell, this was four hundred bucks for very little – it vibrates, giving you a form of touch therapy, which is supposed to somehow balance your natural ‘energy field’, whatever that’s meant to mean.
It connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth, where it is designed to sync up with the Apollo Neuro app. This will help you to control it, choosing from various different programs like ‘clear and focussed’ and ‘energy and wake up’.
I don’t know why you need a separate app for this, other than to conform to the current vogue of everyone having one. A simple control dial could do this at much less expense and effort.
Each vibration session lasts between five minutes and two hours. The manufacturers recommend using it for at least three hours daily, with extra focus given to times in which you feel overwhelmed.
Honestly, it seems more like the cause than cure. This is exactly the kind of technology creep that has helped give rise to heightened stress and anxiety. And where other, similar products like Sensate 2 can nonetheless do a lot of good (see below), I’m not sure that the Apollo Neuro is worth the expense and added stress.
It seems to me like it would further the vicious spiral of overthinking, worrying about gadgets, being glued to your smartphone, and increased stress and anxiety.
This isn’t to say it’s all bad. The physical device is well-designed, though not as well-designed as the Sensate 2.
The strap is decent, with good quality Velcro so that it can be adjusted well. It comes in a variety of lengths, so that it can fit no matter how large or small you are. You can wear it on your wrist and ankle.
It’s chunky, so will be a presence, but it sits quite snugly against the skin. You can also remove the band and wear it with a clip – attach it to your waistband or bra. The main thing is that it’s touching your skin. It needs to do this. How else could it balance your natural ‘energy field’? (Hint: In my opinion it can’t either way – this doesn’t really mean anything).
How The Apollo Neuro Works
I’m doing the Apollo Neuro down a bit. Fuzzy wording aside (I genuinely can’t believe they talk about balancing energy fields!), there is something of a scientific underpinning backing the Apollo Neuro. Per the manufacturers, it is supposed to work on your heart rate variability (HRV), optimizing it for stress reduction. HRV is the natural variation in the length of time between your heartbeats.
There is something to this. High HRV – high variance – can be a signal that your parasympathetic nervous system (CNS) is good at adapting to change. It can deal well with stress. Low HRV can signal the opposite, that your CNS is overactive, is quick to trigger, and, in short, is primed for keeping you stressed, and being hypersensitive to stress.
It may also signal symptoms that often come hand in hand with high stress levels, such as anxiety, depression, and elevated stress hormones that can increase your risk of suffering certain chronic health conditions.
The Apollo Neuro has been designed to optimize your HRV to allow you to better deal with stress.
Note, it doesn’t reduce stress levels.
Only a lifestyle change can do this. It simply enables your body to cope with it more ably – or so the manufacturers claim.
The truth is likely a little more blurry – none of the above work is fully scientifically justified or accepted. However, if we take it at face value, the manufacturers claim that body vibration therapy, which the Apollo Neuro delivers, can alter your body’s stress response. This, too, is based on immature, slightly shaky evidence that needs a lot more data to give it full credibility.
As mentioned above, you can change up the vibration intensity and duration. There are seven programs to choose from. You can control it via the app or by the device’s controls, located on its side.
Again, I see the app as superfluous. Disconnect from your smartphone and go manual. This will do more for your stress levels than the Apollo Neuro itself. It could also have saved a lot of money and made the product a lot cheaper had the company defaulted to this option rather than developing an entirely superfluous app.
We get a lot of shaky science for $400 dollars, then, alongside a little over-engineering and some fuzzy wording that only serves to compound the fluffy data use. It’s all beginning to look a bit silly.
There are of course some benefits to using it (see below), but I was and am unconvinced that they do anything to save the Apollo Neuro. The basic theory is simply too flawed, the price too high, the device too odd and a little gimmicky. And there are better options out there (again, see below).
Benefits Of The Apollo Neuro
It’s not looking good for the Apollo Neuro. However, nothing is all bad. There are some plus-points. They don’t save it. I still wouldn’t recommend it to anyone (spoilers!), but in the interest of fairness, we should point out what it does well. I like to give balanced judgements after all.
Firstly, it’s easy to use. It should be. It would be self-defeating if it wasn’t, if it’s trying to keep you relaxed. It’s not as easy or simple as it should be, but still, it’s well made for ease-of-use.
The app does have some uses above and beyond what the manual controls offer. It can make it easier for you to schedule your use. I wouldn’t recommend this. The science behind both mindfulness and the act of switching off from software is far more robust than the science on which Apollo Neuro relies. But still, some folks like their gadgets to keep their lives in line, and this will do it.
The app also gives you suggestions, like when to use what programs and so on. As if we’re not bossed around by technology enough. I would suggest this will go further towards making the Apollo Neuro a net stressor, despite its ease-of-use.
The vibrations are also pretty discreet, which is handy if you’re going to use the Apollo Neuro for the recommended three hours per day. They are quiet enough that nobody else will notice them – though they may notice the really quite chunky device strapped to your wrist or ankle.
They’re pretty quiet even at higher intensities. I played around with the fifty percent mark and nobody noticed that my wrist was buzzing away when I used it. This means that you can sort of tune it out yourself, meaning no distractions as you get on with your life.
The vibrations don’t do much for your stress levels (at least I felt no obvious benefit), but at least they are inconspicuous.
That’s pretty much it for the plus points, as far as my experience goes.
Using The Apollo Neuro
The Apollo Neuro is a mixed bag. As above, it’s pretty easy to use. It’s quiet and subtle, aside from the device’s physical bulk. It’s also kind of useless. A very expensive form of useless.
Firstly, it only vibrates. It doesn’t do anything else. This is a bit of a joke for something that costs $400. In fact, when using it, I did at times wonder if it was the manufacturer trying one over, kidding around with us whilst raking it in. It’s the only explanation that makes any kind of consistent sense.
For $400 dollars’ worth of invasive, attention draining gadgetry, you might expect some kind of fitness tracker. Or something that monitored your vitals and actually gave you feedback.
What, exactly, is your HRV doing? You’ll never know. What is happening to your energy field? You’ll never know – partly because the phrase means nothing, partly because the Apollo Neuro doesn’t seem to think you should know. It collects nothing, crunches nothing. It just sits there vibrating while you keep your fingers crossed that something good will happen.
Something good will not happen. I gained no benefits at all – I track those metrics and I saw absolutely no improvement in them as a result of using Apollo Neuro.
I should mention that I suffer with stress and anxiety, the same as anyone, more so than plenty. I combat them both in tried-and-tested ways. I exercise, get plenty of rest, some downtime, a fair amount of time unplugged from media.
I meditate, usually through yoga nidra and breath work. These work incredibly well, are cheap (free if you want them to be – walking around your local green space will do wonders for your mental wellbeing), and take only modest training to get into.
So I know what stress feels like. I know what stress relief feels like. There was none of the latter here. None at all. There was a little added stress as I faffed about setting the thing up and getting it to work.
There would have been a lot of added stress if I’d paid for the thing out of my own pocket, as the realization dawned that the money was wasted and, thus, the hours I put into earning the money was wasted.
That really would stress me out. I would be angry. I would feel duped (I would have been duped) and would sorely miss $400 that could be better spent on a relaxing mini-break or a few months of spa membership.
I’d also like to note that I’m very diligent in two regards.
Firstly, I’m diligent about my work. If I’m reviewing a product, I’ll use it as instructed. Secondly, I’m diligent about my health and wellbeing.
Again, if I’m using a product, I won’t half-ass it. I’ll use it exactly as suggested. With this in mind, I set my doubts aside and used the Apollo Neuro as I was meant to. I played with various programs and intensities, but always made sure to keep my use around the three hours per day that the manufacturers recommend, for at least five days per week, again as recommended.
Nothing happened. It was useless. I tracked my key metrics – and nothing.
Though the vibrations are discreet, as above, the device itself isn’t. It’s chunky and cumbersome. It’s a fair amount bigger than any given smart watch, gets in the way (it interfered with my hand placement on my keyboard, which is quite a big deal to a writer!), and makes it obvious to anyone looking that something is up.
If you don’t want to spend your life explaining that you’re using something for stress and anxiety, which itself is incredibly stressful and anxiety-inducing, then you’ll have a rough time wearing the Apollo Neuro.
Please don’t buy it. It seems to me that you’ll get very little if zero benefit from it – and it’s a pain to live with.
There are some much better products out there if you’re looking to invest in a gadget for your stress and anxiety. Or do as I do – go with tried-and-tested methods that are scientifically justified and don’t cost hundreds of dollars to try out.
If they don’t work – if your stress levels are chronic – speak to your healthcare provider. They will be able to do something that actually does what it purports to.
I like Sensate 2. Again, I don’t particularly rate tech and gadgetry for stress relief. As above, I see them as part of the cause, and rarely as a cure. But I recently reviewed the Sensate 2 and was very pleasantly surprised. It sits around the same price point as the Apollo Neuro whilst being a far better product in every single way.
It’s a state-of-the-art sensory device that is beautiful to look at, easy to use, and a genuine pleasure to live with. It works in conjunction with an app, which actually makes sense after you’ve used it for a while. The device isn’t a wearable watch with a control panel. Rather, it’s sort of a pebble shaped gadget, around the size of your palm or slightly larger, and the app is there to play music and other sounds, rather than simply to pick between programs.
The app’s library is a little small, but they are working on that, with far more content due to be released very soon.
You hang the pebble around your neck on its lanyard, pick your soundscape, and relax. It’s far more intentional and purposeful than the Apollo Neuro. You will have to take ten minutes out of your day, at least, much as you would for a traditional meditation practice.
The soundscape gives you a good range of infrasonic sound waves, which focus on the CNS, especially the vagus nerve. They will work the same way as the Apollo Neuro, improving your resilience to stress.
Again, this is young science with limited data. I entered into my Sensate 2 review very skeptically. However, my user experience was really quite profound.
My main takeaway was that it augmented my regular meditation practice very well, giving me slightly better benefits and allowing me to get into the zone far more quickly. You can take longer sessions if you want, which I would fully recommend.
Its beauty is a plus point, too. Unlike the chunky, ugly Apollo Neuro, the Sensate 2 gives you a fully relaxing sensory experience across several senses, beginning with sight and touch. It is lovely to live with and use, bringing your heart rate down and lightening your stress levels as soon as you set eyes on it.
I don’t usually judge gadgets by their looks, but this is a special case – if we’re aiming at soothing ourselves, no senses can be overlooked.
I’m still a skeptic. However, I definitely found my stress levels reduced and my meditation practice improved whilst testing the Sensate 2. If you’re looking for a gadget that does what the Apollo Neuro claims to do, I would urge you to go with Sensate. Their product is fantastic, in a completely different league to the Apollo Neuro whilst costing around about the same (or even a few dollars less).
In my opinion, the Apollo Neuro is not worth buying. If anything, it raised my stress levels, as a point of professional pride if nothing else. How dare anybody put out such a rubbish, clunky product, make it so unwieldy, back it with such shaky data and terminology, and charge $400? If I was such a cynic in general, I would have a hard time believing it.
It gets worse when you see what the Apollo Neuro could have been. Fine, the theory is a little off. But if you buy into the idea of HRV stimulation (and fair enough if you do), you should go all-in and look for something that plays into it. So the Apollo Neuro could look like an attractive prospect on paper.
In reality, it’s overpriced, simple in a bad way, and horrible to use. The manufacturers are also pretty blasé in the hogwash they spin.
If you want HRV stimulation and a relaxation aid that is a genuine, relaxing pleasure to live with, the Sensate 2 is there for the taking. Spend your money wisely and get something that will actually make your life better.
This article was written by: James Dixon – SOMA Analytics PT, Nutritionalist & Published Author
James Dixon is one of the key players in the SOMA Analytics’ team. He is a personal trainer and is educated to Masters level. He is a published author and is a keen advocate of high quality nootropic supplements. James enjoys helping others to reach their peak both physically and mentally and believes that expressing his knowledge through his writing is an effective way to positively impact the wellbeing of others on a larger scale.