Masks are the wearable of the year — even though the majority are not smart devices. Enter the AirPop Active+ Halo, a smart air filtration system designed for wearing on the face, and in short a connected mask. The device works in tandem with a downloadable app to your smartphone to alert you to what is being removed from the air you breathe.
AirPop does not promise to remove Covid-19 from the air around you, nor the air you inhale. But it does say it can make the air in your lungs cleaner of certain concerns including fine particulates. The company sent one to us for reviewing, and here is what we found.
Disposable filters hook inside the AirPop Active+ Halo smart maskGearBrain/Lauren Barack
To set up the Air Pop Active+ Halo mask, you're going to need to download the AirPop app and set up an account. We have an iPhone and used the iOS version, which was easy to install. You'll be asked to give the app permission to link to Bluetooth, send you notifications and also track you — so consider if you're okay with these.
Next, link the app to the mask sensor so you can view data about the mask and how it's working. The sensor is operated by a coin battery —which should be installed and working in the mask — and then you'll need to add on one of four disposable filters that come with the device. These hook into place on the inside of the mask, and on the side.
The app keep tracks of the 40 hours the filter should work, as long as the mask and the app are synced together, and will tell you when it's time to change out for the next one.
You can exercise, run or walk and the app collects details from how many breaths you've taken to the amount of pollutants around you based on your location. By giving it permission to track you, the app geo-locates you, reading then the AQI or air quality index in your area, and then gives you details on what it says it's pulled from the air.
For example on one short walk to the post office, I learned from the app of the number of PM 2.5 — or very fine particles — it had removed, as well as how many breaths I had taken, and my breaths per minute.
The AirPop Active+ Halo smart mask is largeGearBrain/Lauren Barack
Using the AirPop Active
In the past year most of us have become extremely adept at putting a mask on our face. Putting the AirPop Active+ Halo on is the same experience. However, this is a very large mask, and if you're someone with a smaller face, you're going to cover a significant portion of it. The company does make smaller sizes for children as well, but not for the Active+ Halo product.
After putting on the mask, you're going to want to check that the light over the sensor is blinking — or breathing (i.e. blinking very slowly) — and also lit. This indicates that it's actually syncing to the app and working. You can customize that color, choosing red, yellow, a dark blue, aqua blue and other options, to add some personalization to the look.
An immediate issue I had with the mask was a very strong and distinct smoke and charcoal odor to the disposable filters. Trying two others brought up the same smell. I let the filters actually stay out for a week, and while the scent did dissipate slightly, it never completely went away and that was disconcerting. It left me with the feeling that every time I wore the mask I was inhaling some other kind of particle, and I never felt entirely comfortable.
The app itself worked well, keeping track of other details as well as my breath count. As a runner, I actually liked this detail letting me know how hard I was — or wasn't — working to breath as I walked. Again, we used the iOS version, but we noted that AirPop on its site has updated the Android version and says that option will be available by the end of April. But we gather some Android users were having issues with the app. We did not test that version.
I also found the mask very comfortable, and that may have been because of its large size. It didn't gap, and it didn't pull on my ears, and I never felt I needed to take it off because it was bothering me. And it was easy to breathe through as well.
But the odor alone made this device something I would not want to use long term as I could not discern what I was inhaling — and that left me uneasy.
You can purchase the AirPop Active+ Halo mask on its site for $149.99 in black only. Filter refills are $24.99 for a package of four.
The Airpop Active+ Halo smart mask was comfortable, and easy to useGearBrain/Lauren Barack
Masks are devices — even non-smart ones — that people are buying often, if we're not making them ourselves. The AirPop Active+ Halo is a smart mask, though, one that works in tandem with an app and uses a disposable filter on the inside designed to remove irritants in the air.
We're not sure a smart mask adds much more to the way we currently depend on masks today. And more crucially, with the AirPop Active+ Halo mask we could not get passed the charcoal and smoke scent coming from the filters.
The mask itself was comfortable, and it was easy to wear. The app, for an iOS device, worked extremely well too. But I would be unlikely to use the mask again, even after airing out the filters for several days. That scent may not bother others, but it's something to note.
- Easy to install
- You get a number of filters to start
- Strong smoke and charcoal odor
- App isn't clear on whether mask is working or not
- Need to give location permission
Airpop Active Reusable Face Mask, 5-Layer Filter Face Coverings for Sports, Contoured Fit, Folding Adjustable Face Mask, Adult Face Masks for Pollutant Protection, Black/Yellow