It’s often the little details that translate to the biggest benefits when it comes to taking care of your diabetes.

That was top of mind for me after trying out the new Ascensia Contour Next ONE meter, the latest in the line of Contour meters from the company formerly known as Bayer. Approved by the FDA in November 2016, this Contour Next ONE meter sports a next-generation design with subtle differences from its predecessors, and it’s the first app-enabled meter Ascensia has brought our way in the Contour line.

I must say, I’m impressed with Ascensia of late, for what they’ve produced and the innovations in their pipeline that include partnering with Glooko for better data-sharing access on multiple platforms.

Let’s dig into this new meter itself…

Meeting the New Contour Next ONE

The new Next ONE model is an upgrade of the Contour Next USB meter, which was discontinued as of Dec. 31, 2016. I’d been using that meter for several years, including a version that links wirelessly to my former Medtronic insulin pump. I’ve loved the meter for its finger-sized portability, and now that I’m disconnected from an insulin pump and on Multiple Daily Dosing instead, I no longer need the linking capability. Fortunately, my test strip supply is fully stocked and this new meter uses the same Contour Next test strips, so it doesn’t require a new prescription, making for an easy transition.

Sleeker, Slimmer: While the form factor is mostly unchanged, it is a bit thinner and sleeker in design. The earlier generation Contour Next meter had a button on the top side of the meter to turn it on and off, plus three buttons on the meter face allowing you to select and scroll through meter menus. Now, the Contour Next ONE has eliminated all of those buttons except for a single round circle ‘OK’ button with an up and down choice.

New Screen: Not sure if you consider this an upgrade or a downgrade honestly, but the previous color LED screen is now gone and in its place is a basic black and white LED with icons to indicate your glucose log or settings. There isn’t a built in backlight, though you really don’t need it since the screen does light up enough to use efficiently even in the dark.

Watch Battery: Ascensia took away the rechargeable USB and instead is now using a round watch battery. I have mixed feelings on this, as I do like the ability to plug-and-charge my meter wherever I may be, with no need to run out and buy these less-common batteries. There is a micro-USB included, but it doesn’t charge the meter. It’s designed purely to plug into a computer to download data and use the software; unfortunately, you have to buy the cable separately because it’s not included in the box.

(Hidden!) Port Light: Yes, there is a port light you can use to illuminate the spot where the test strip is inserted. But you might not know it at first, if you just looked at the meter or even if you read every single piece of marketing material Ascensia includes — because for some reason, the port light is not described as a feature. Seriously, even reading the manual cover-to-cover, you’ll never see a mention of the fact that you can actually make the port light work for up to 40 seconds before turning the meter on. For the first few weeks I used this meter, I assumed it had no port light aside from the two-second flash it gives when the meter is turned on. I actually used my Dexcom receiver to light up the meter so I could insert a strip in a darkened room. Then just by happenstance, I double-tapped the round OK button and discovered this hidden gem! Seriously, Ascensia: this is a huge factor for many PWDs (people with diabetes), especially those of us who enjoy movie theaters or regularly test in the middle of the night.

Target Lights: A new feature on this meter embraces the industry trend of attempting to help PWDs answer the key question, “What do my blood glucose numbers actually mean?” — that’s common among the newly-diagnosed and many with type 2. Ascensia is using what it calls Target Lights, which light up in green/ yellow/ red post-result to indicate whether you are “In Range,” “Low” or “High.”

Second-Chance Sampling: This is a small difference, but now you have 60 seconds instead of 30 seconds to apply a second drop of blood to the same strip, in case the first attempt wasn’t large enough. Handy for those of us who sometimes struggle to get “bleeders” after a fingerstick, and need to take extra time to redo the sample.

Accuracy: Although the minutiae of glucose meter accuracy may no longer be a hot topic these days, we firmly believe that it’s still very important. And this new Contour Next ONE meter is the most accurate product Ascensia has produced to date. New data presented at the European ATTD conference in February shows that this Ascensia meter meets the FDA’s tightened accuracy requirements of 95% within 8.4 mg/dL of reference results, whether the test is above or below 100.

The Contour Next ONE App

With the launch of this new meter, Ascensia joins the #DData world by offering its Contour mobile app to display data on both iOS and Android smart-devices. Being an Android guy myself, I truly appreciate that this is available beyond just iPhones at the time of launch.

The Next ONE meter has built-in Bluetooth and syncs data with the mobile app, though I did find that frequently the meter didn’t automatically sync like it’s supposed to but encountered connectivity issues. It was more annoying than anything, and I’ve heard from others using this new meter that it’s not just me (and to be fair, the Dexcom app often has the same issues).

From a UI perspective, the Contour app is very user-friendly and easy to navigate. It presents you with all the features you’d expect in a mobile meter app in 2017: logbook, averages, trend-tracking and meal information, photo uploading and data-sharing.

You can find latest readings on the home screen, with the ‘My Readings’ menu representing the traditional logbook, and that three-day overview graph is always visible when you’re scrolling through the readings. You can easily peruse averages over the past week to three months, and by tilting the phone to horizontal orientation, you can also get a standard day’s view or break it down for specific data over 3-30 days, a customized time block or by meals or time of day. Very nice!

In particular, I like the ability to add photos within the app — whether it’s my morning Greek yogurt with blueberries that rings in at roughly 16g carbs, or a picture of the meter next to my Dexcom CGM.

Using what it calls a ‘Smart Testing’ feature, this new meter also allows you to set a customized alert to check your glucose during the day, remind yourself of upcoming doctor visits, or other particulars you might want to be reminded of.

Of course, there is the ability to share diabetes data through the app with your healthcare professional or anyone else you might want to share it with. The app also gives you a prompt during a critical Low to alert an emergency contact, helping to assure that you can get assistance if needed.

In addition to this app, users can look forward to the upcoming integration with the Glooko data platform, set to be rolled out later this year, that will make Contour Next ONE data directly accessible through Glooko’s mobile app and clinical products.

Final Verdict and Availability

The meter itself is going for a suggested retail cost of $19.99, while the strips are supposedly priced at 83 cents per strip, or $41.55 for a 50-count box (though most found in retail pharmacies run just over $1 per strip).

Ascensia is currently launching the Contour Next ONE meter throughout the US, coming soon to mainstream chains like Walgreens, Target and CVS. The ETA for most distributors is the end of March, we’re told. Meanwhile, you can purchase the meter directly from the Ascensia customer store online and other online suppliers.

Overall, it’s a nice little meter. I personally miss the color screen of the previous-generation Contour Next USB meter, and since I’m a Dexcom CGM customer who uses the mySugr app for diabetes data-tracking, the Contour Next app didn’t knock my socks off enough to change up my tools.

Still, I think it’s a great addition for those who might want and need an aesthetic, accurate little meter with some strong data-tracking tools.