My wedding ring, a matte platinum, sits on the ring finger of my left hand. To my right sits a black ring, titanium. The Oura ring has been part of my hand for over half a year – longer if you countI checked. I sleep with it. I shower with it. I don’t think about it much. And sometimes that’s exactly how I like my wearable tech. The Oura Ring is a lot of things that the Apple Watch isn’t, and it has a few things too should accept next.
Then I check the app on my phone almost every morning. It tells me my readiness score. It tells me my sleep score. I stare at these numbers and the pile of data below and ask myself, am I feeling OK today?
The Oura Ring is strangely wearable. It starts at $300 (roughly £260 or AU$445). It’s really ambient. It’s invisible in a sense. I don’t interact with it. It doesn’t have a screen. In a way, it reminds me of wearables from a decade ago, like the Misfit Shine with its silver disc. I don’t have a screen or data to study on the fly, but I still wear a smartwatch. In this sense, the Oura ring is already redundant. But it manages something that at least the Apple Watch still doesn’t.
The Apple Watch and many smartwatches rely on activity and “ring completion” goals. Walk for a certain amount of time, stand for a certain amount of time, do a certain amount of things. Ring of Oura has completion goals, but many of its daily metrics are holistic: Does it look like you’re doing well today? Does it affect how you plan your day? The idea of Readiness Scores is creeping around the smartwatch world, but especially Appleyet.
The Ring of Oura is proactive and has a readiness score that suggests ways for you to set out for the next day. Apple Watch tends to look back on how my day was. Fitbit’s fitness and health metrics have moved more towards the Oura, and I expect others will too. Or at least expand the experience with more holistic data. The Oura ring will light up if I seem to have an elevated temperature lately or my breathing rate has changed or my nighttime blood oxygen seems to have shifted or my resting heart rate is going up or down. This could mean I’m sick. Or maybe I need a rest. Or maybe it’s just a false alarm.
Just a few days ago I came down with some kind of cold and fever. The Oura ring noted that overnight my breathing had quickened and my temperature was higher. It suggested I switch to rest mode. I got tested for COVID-19, but I didn’t need the ring to tell me (it was negative). Still, having an app that is aware that you might be sick can be useful feedback, and I’ve noticed which stats change when I’m not feeling well.
In fact, my recent big cold was a great test of how the Oura 3 performed in tracking my measurements. I shared what the app showed shortly before, during and after my cold. You may see some changes, especially in your breathing rate, relative temperature, and resting heart rate.
Meanwhile, sleep scores also showed changes. The Oura ring’s sleep tracking works similarly to other watches and trackers, and over time I’ve found that it correlates pretty well with how rested I was the next day – of course, I haven’t tracked it against any more formal sleep tracking systems, so it’s all relative.
I’ve been waiting for a review for over half a yearbecause when I first started wearing it last year, not much had changed. The ring, which adds additional red and green LEDs for heart rate sensing and an improved skin temperature sensor, promises to have richer data than the previous Oura ring. But at the release of Oura 3 otherwise functionally the same as Oura 2.
The long-promised blood oxygen measurements have finally arrived, thanks to a recent firmware update. These are taken overnight and appear as a percentage rating the next morning in the results of your night’s sleep data: I have numbers ranging from 97% to 99%.
Another reading estimates how “optimal” blood oxygen levels were over time and whether there appeared to be any drops in blood oxygen, but does not go into specifics. Rings and watches can’t be as reliable a source of blood oxygen information as finger-worn pulse oximeters, though Oura believes his ring can come close. Over the past few weeks, my data has seemed fine for the most part. I’m not sure I believe that though.
Oura’s third-generation ring is apparently most effective when worn on the index finger, which is an odd proposition: I look like a street magician. I’ve been wearing one on my ring finger instead and the results seem to be fine. Unlike smartwatches, the Oura ring has to fit your finger size, which means choosing the finger you want and sticking to it. I replaced the first ring I had on my index finger with a ring the size of my ring finger. It’s also worth noting that your ring size can change over time if you gain or lose weight, exercise, or due to humidity (mine did). Rings are not as easy to adjust as watches, and rings can sometimes interfere with certain fitness and sports activities. The Oura Gen 3 ring can track your heart rate during active workouts, but it’s not nearly as comfortable to use as a watch… and you can’t look at your live readings on the ring.
The ring’s battery life seems to be around four days, which is great, but it’s also tricky. I prefer multi-day battery life over daily charge devices like the Apple Watch, but when you’re not in the habit of charging every day, figuring out when to charge becomes a challenge. The Oura Ring still doesn’t have any low-battery notifications other than an app notification that can appear (and disappear) on your phone. I have found that a ring can be dead for days and I don’t even notice. I wish there was some kind of little battery light on the ring.
Another thing you should know about the Oura ring is that it needs an additional subscription. The subscription fee for Oura is $6 a month, on top of $300 or $400 per ring, depending on whether you get it in the cheaper silver or black, or the matte black Stealth or gold. Paying $300 for a ring seems like a lot considering you can get a full-fledged smartwatch for the same price. I don’t like the subscription though, although original Oura ring owners can get a free ring upgrade and the ring comes with a free six-month subscription. Fitbit already has almost basicservice for its trackers and watches, and Apple relies on its Fitness Plus service. Amazon has a similar model health trackers. This could be the future of wearables. the watch and services also mirror Oura’s: You can get a similar experience, especially if you wear a Fitbit Sense for temperature tracking.
I love the Oura’s daily sleep and wellness ring scans because it’s exactly the type of analysis that’s missing from the Apple Watch. That may change soon, however, as Apple’s expected next-generation Watch may add longer battery life and temperature sensing. Fitbit is newand the latest from Samsung are moving in similar directions. Oura feels like a predictor of the future of wearable technology, but like many first movers, it may not always be where people end up.