Source: Quip via Bloomberg

Is Quip the Tesla of Toothbrushes?

A new Internet startup aims to upend the pharmacy aisle with electric brushes that look and feel great—we give it a go

Everyone needs a toothbrush.

But if you're anything like me, that strangely neon-colored contraption you fast-grabbed at your corner Walgreens is an eyesore in your bathroom and has probably been sitting there longer than it should. Startup Quip is attempting to solve both problems by offering sleek electric toothbrushes with mail-order heads so you're not relying on an ugly, dirty tool.

Quip offers eight different styles of brush handles—four manual and four electric—in either blue or green plastic ($5 manual, $25 electric) or in a silver or darker slate-brushed metal ($20 manual, $40 electric). Its business model is pure razor-and-blades: a subscription service for replacement brush heads. You are billed every three months, and $5 gets you a new brush head or a 3-month tube of toothpaste; $10 gets you both, plus a 2-week travel tube of toothpaste, all sent to your door without you having to think about it. There are no commitments, and you can cancel whenever you want.

Toothbrushes, replacement heads, and toothpaste are the complete Quip lineup.
Toothbrushes, replacement heads, and toothpaste are the complete Quip lineup.
Source: Quip via Bloomberg

There's definitely something a little strange about seeing a toothbrush marketed between a pair of Bowers & Wilkins earbuds and a Lumia smartphone as if it carries some kind of luxury cachet, but it definitely got my attention to give it a try. 

The Quip electric brush vibrates instead of spinning around like a traditional electric toothbrush, and like (the much more expensive) Sonicare's "Quadpacer" function, it pulses every 30 seconds telling you to change the part of your mouth you're brushing. Ideally, you brush each quadrant for 30 seconds, when the Quip gives you a triple pulse to tell you to turn it off. The button is nicely integrated into the rubber at the base of each head. Quip claims the AAA battery inside will last a solid three months, like your brush head.  

The manual version is, well, a toothbrush. Scrub and go. When you're done with either, stash them in a plastic stand that can be stuck to your mirror or medicine cabinet. (Gross coffee cup, begone.)

Brush heads for both versions pop in and out easily and offer up soft bristles; the paste is standard mint with fluoride. I can imagine them extending those selections later, for novelty's sake if not dentist recommendation (à la the 15x razors packed into the Mach 17, or whatever version Gillette is on right now).

It's strange to see a toothbrush marketed as a lifestyle accessory.
It's strange to see a toothbrush marketed as a lifestyle accessory.
Source: Quip via Bloomberg

It's hard to get too excited about a toothbrush, but I genuinely enjoyed using the brushed silver metal electric brush over the past few weeks. The smaller brush head is easy to maneuver, it looks great docked to the side of my medicine cabinet, and it reminds me to keep brushing when I think it's time to stop.

I've already subscribed for replacement brush heads, though I'm steering clear of the toothpaste. I didn't love the taste and can't imagine the next tube arriving exactly on time. If my brush is a little ratty for a week, fine, but I don't want to end up with no toothpaste and the next shipment days away. I'd also recommend splurging for the metal brush, since the plastic felt hollow and a little too lightweight.

Quip's premium is on design: electric brushes that look and feel great.
Quip's premium is on design: electric brushes that look and feel great.
Source: Quip via Bloomberg

Quip isn't the only company selling grooming products by subscription (think Harry's for razors and Birchbox for cosmetics), nor is it the only premium toothbrush brand to emerge online recently.

In late 2014, Goodwell started a crowdfunding campaign for its "open source" brushing kit, which it calls a "platform" and "the modern oral toolkit to fit your life." The sincerity and Silicon Valley jargon is a bit much to swallow. Attacking the market from a different health-consciousness direction, Boka in coming weeks will start selling colorful brushes, floss, and toothpaste that are free of synthetic materials and flavors.

So is Quip the Tesla of toothbrushes? No. That's not a thing. But Quip's brushes might be the equivalent of a well-appointed Prius that you can park in your bathroom. They're eminently practical, reasonably priced, and still give you that much-needed dose of mild, self-satisfied futurism.

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