MOCACuff review: A simple and affordable Bluetooth wrist Blood Pressure monitor

MOCACARE is a relative newcomer in the household healthcare products category. The company’s first product, MOCAheart got its start on KickStarter and promised to be a tiny and simple heart health indicator. But plenty of users complained (on Amazon and in other reviews) about the lack of quantitative measurements in MOCAheart. Whereas the device does give your exact blood oxygen and heart rate, the most important measurement — the “MOCA index” — is just a qualitative indication of pulse wave velocity that’s directly correlated to blood pressure, but without much transparency or granularity in the way its calculated. That left users to rely blindly on Mocacare to tell them if their heart health — so not exactly their blood pressure — was good or not. That’s without mentioning the premium $ 149 price tag (now $ 99).

Enter the MOCACuff, the second device from the company and the more interesting one if you ask me. MOCACuff isn’t as portable or as minimalist as MOCAheart, but it’s more traditional and easier to understand. On first look, it’s a regular wrist blood pressure monitor. But it does have Bluetooth connectivity, which adds a little bit of smarts to it.

A regular wrist Blood Pressure monitor, with a twist

The MOCACuff ships in a small box that fits some documentation and the hard neoprene storage case. Inside the latter are the MOCACuff itself and two AAA batteries. You simply put the batteries in and the screen turns on to start setup.

There’s nothing too special about the design. Like all wrist blood monitors, it has a large screen that uses big digits for displaying the blood pressure (BP), a round Start/Stop button, and three small buttons for mode, setting, and memory.

The cuff can fit wrists between 135-195mm (5.3″-7.7″) and I had no trouble putting it on and fastening it in place. It’s well designed with a rigid end that holds the cuff on your wrist without sliding down and a long flexible end that wraps around your wrist and fixes on the other side. Any extra cuff length can fold back and stick to the cuff, to keep it out of the way and avoid it flapping around too much.

The instructions clearly explain how you put on the cuff and take a measurement. Basically, you position it a little below your palm, fit it snugly but not too tight on your wrist, rest your elbow on a table, and keep your arm up so that the cuff and your heart are aligned. With your palm open and relaxed, you press and hold the Start/Stop button and it starts inflating to take a measurement.

Taking a measurement. (My hand is resting on the table here just so I can take the photo.)

Once the measurement is done, the result will show up on the screen with the systolic and diastolic pressures, the heart rate, and an indicator of irregular heartbeat if that’s the case. On the right side of the screen, you’ll see a small arrow pointing toward one of 6 levels of BP ranging from green for optimal to yellow for normal, then several shades of orange to red for pre-hypertension to severe hypertension.

Up until this point, there’s nothing different about the MOCACuff, until you see that blinking Bluetooth icon below the date and time on the left side of the screen. That means it’s trying to connect to a Bluetooth device. If it finds a nearby phone with the Mocacare app installed, it’ll stay steady for a couple of seconds until it finishes transmitting the data.

App setup and sync

The Mocacare app requires you to sign up if you want to see your MOCACuff results. There is a Quick Scan option that should skip the login process, but it only works with the MOCAheart and not the cuff. I tried to get it to recognize my cuff to no avail, so I went back and created an account.

Signing up

Making an account is easy, though there’s no Google or Facebook or Twitter login. Maybe that’s for the better, privacy-wise, but it does mean you’ll have to remember another password. Once your account is authenticated, you fill up your profile with a name, photo, some details like your age, gender, weight, and height, and you’re done. The app follows along nicely, but that Froyo birthday selection menu (last screenshot below) was disturbing to say the least.

Required permissions

One of the weirdest things about the Mocacare app is its requirement for a few permissions to be able to connect to a nearby MOCACuff. You are forced to grant it Phone and Location permissions, otherwise it won’t see or sync with the MOCACuff. That makes no sense whatsoever to me. Syncing over Bluetooth shouldn’t require these. And even if the app wants these permissions, it could ask for them later or at least explain why it wants them and what it does with the data. As far as I can tell, Mocacare doesn’t attach a location to individual measurements and it doesn’t make any calls, so why require these?

The other permissions shown above aren’t required by default, so Mocacare will work regardless of whether or not they’re granted. And I could easily find where most of them are used in the app. Camera is there to take your profile photo, Contacts checks your address book to connect you to other friends using Mocacare, and Storage lets you browse for a profile photo or save your history as an image graph. I don’t know what Microphone does, though.

Synchronization

With both Phone and Location permissions enabled during the setup process, the Mocacare app opens to the My Device tab where it is immediately ready to scan for a device and sync its data. The upper left corner lets you switch between the MOCAheart and MOCACuff, but in my experience it found the cuff even when the heart was selected.

All of your new measurements are synchronized over to the app, along with their corresponding date and time. So even if you don’t open the app for a while, your entire BP history will be sent once you connect over Bluetooth.

The My Device screen also houses a couple of tutorials and explanations for the correct positioning, the different errors on the screen, and a small troubleshooting guide for connection errors.

Blood Pressure measurements and history

The Mocacare app displays your BP history in either graph or list form, with the former being divided between BP and Heart Rate and available as daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly graphs. Systolic and diastolic pressures are shown in various shades of red and blue, respectively, to say how high or low the values are.

Not my own BP and HR measures. These were taken from various patients across the last month.

If you want to delete a specific value, you have to switch to the list view then tap and hold on an individual measurement to delete it.

Information cards and recommendations

In the list view, tapping on a single measure reveals a bigger detailed screen with the BP card and a short description of the condition associated with it, then a Heart Rate card with some tips to improve your health like laughing more, limiting certain foods, and so on.

I have to say I’m not convinced by the labeling of the yellow level (in this case 120/80) as “pre-hypertension.” That should be normal and calling it pre-hypertension is alarmist. Maybe it’s a bug, because the first orange level (in this case 124/85) is also called “pre-hypertension” and is much more deserving of that label.

Sharing your data

You can export your data from the history tab by tapping the share button on the upper right. There you get to select a timeframe and the values to share.

The app then makes an image out of all the values and graph, appends your name and birthday and gender, and lets you email your physician or save to Google Drive or show it to a family member or friend.

Small sample of measures taken by some of my patients.

You may have noticed that in the app above, all the measurements are assigned to me. That’s because Mocacare doesn’t have a guest mode or support multiple users, which means that all values taken are simply under my name. I can delete them completely to remove them from my history, but I can’t assign them to someone else.

Settings and reminders

Under the Settings tab, you can modify your personal profile, specify which medical conditions you suffer from, and change a couple of settings like enabling push notifications and choosing reminders.

Unfortunately, the latter have to be set each day, so there’s no way to add a recurrent reminder every day or couple of days or week to take your BP.

MOCACuff in real life use

I didn’t encounter any major problems using the MOCACuff. The device itself was easy to set up with just the date and time being asked before it was operational. Taking a measurement is easy and done like any other wrist BP monitor, although I found it to be a bit more sensitive to movement and talking: I saw the “Error” message a couple more times than I would have with other monitors. But the accuracy of the results was always on-par with my trusty manual sphygmomanometer, varying by a few points but not more than 5% in most measurements I took on different patients, different times of day, and different BP values.

There are also plenty of features in MOCACuff that are like every other wrist BP monitor: memory function, 6-level value indicators, auto-off after a minute of no use, auto inflation and deflation, one-button measurement, etc… Even the Bluetooth connectivity is optional, so you don’t need to sync to your phone unless you want to.

When I’m using MOCACuff with patients, no one notices the blinking Bluetooth icon so it might as well be a regular ol’ wrist monitor. That’s quite a departure from the other connected BP monitor I’ve tested and reviewed, QardioArm. The latter’s more streamlined and futuristic design with no screens or buttons was quite an eye-catcher and everyone realized it was something they hadn’t seen before. The fact that it completely relied on the app to turn on, inflate, check the values, and turn off, made it intriguing but also prone to some sync and Bluetooth issues over time. “Ugh, I don’t know why it’s not connecting now, I just used it a few hours ago,” was a sentence I uttered a few times with QardioArm, enough to lead me away from using it when in a hurry. I don’t have that worry with MOCACuff, since it just works regardless and I can sync the data later if I want to.

The Mocacare app works well, even if it requires to be in the foreground while the device is in Bluetooth mode in order to receive the synced data. The benefits of having it are the graphs for a clear view of your progress over time, the descriptions of each BP level, the tips and recommendations for improving your heart health, and the sharing option to send your data to doctors, family members, or even save the graphs for your own perusal.

However, the limits of the MOCACuff are also actually in its app. Beside the weird permission requirement that I still can’t wrap my head around, the app doesn’t really do much compared to the display on the cuff itself. Mocacare have to understand that they can’t simply add Bluetooth to a device and expect it to become smart, they have to use that connectivity to augment the data in several ways. Qardio, for example, lets you assign GPS coordinates from your phone to your measurements, so you’d know if a high BP was correlated to a high altitude or not. Qardio also has guest modes, multiple-users to track different persons’ BP, recurrent reminders to avoid forgetting or missing a measurement, and more… The Mocacare app offers none of that. It’s merely another copy of your BP history on your smartphone, not more.

Conclusion

The MOCACuff is an interesting product. It’s familiar enough in its design and functionality that it won’t deter any user looking for a wrist Blood Pressure monitor, and it adds Bluetooth synchronization for those who want a little bit extra. Even if the app itself leaves me posing a few questions regarding its added value, it could easily be updated in the future to add some missing functionality like guest measurements, multi-user, recurring reminders, GPS tagging, better note attachments, and more. I hope that’s on Mocacare’s timeline because these options would easily multiply the usefulness of the Bluetooth synchronization.

But when I stop and look at the price, I can’t help but forgive the lack of these bonus features. The MOCACuff was priced at $ 69 at launch, but it’s been discounted to $ 49 for a while. That puts it well below many other connected BP monitors (QardioArm, Omron 10 series, Withings, iHealth, etc…) and within range of the cheap monitors like Pyle and Koogeek that either have less functionality or aren’t FDA-approved like MOCACuff. From my research, the only two devices that could compete with it are the $ 50 iHealth Sense, which doesn’t have a screen, and the $ 50 Omron Series 7, which is an upper-arm monitor (less practical) with seemingly some accuracy problems and flaky Bluetooth connection issues.

With that being the competition, I think the choice veers toward the MOCACuff if you’re in the market for a Blood Pressure monitor with some sort of connectivity. It works like a regular monitor, it’s affordable, reliable, and simple to use, and the Bluetooth options are useful for tracking and sharing.

Buy: MOCACuff MOCACare $ 49Amazon $ 49.99 (seller MOCACARE)