- Great design
- Interesting features – readiness
- Wellbeing focused
- No auto fitness tracking
- Tracking not comprehensive
- Focus might be too narrow
Nowadays if you’re looking for smart activity and sleep tracking you don’t have to grab an Apple Watch or a Fitbit because there are a number of smart rings that’ll do the job just as well – if not even better.
There are now a few smart rings we’d recommend you check out, but the only two that we’ve loved enough to wear again and again are rings from Motiv and Oura.
Oura has now released the second iteration of its ring, which promises smarter tech, better tracking and, crucially, a slimmer and more wearable design.
Considering we liked the first version when we reviewed it, we were keen to try out the new Oura Ring, delve into its sleep tracking smarts and see whether it could be the device that brings smart rings well and truly into the mainstream.
Oura Ring: Design and sizing
Obviously the fit of any wearable is important because you’re likely to have it on you 24/7, but on your finger it matters more than ever.
Of course Oura is switched onto this and sends out a sizing kit first so you can get the right size for you. You’re encouraged to try a few of the rings and then wear your choice for a whole day to make sure it’s just as comfy at night as it is during the day – this is important given the Oura is all about sleep tracking.
There are eight sizes from a US6-US13 and after being torn between two sizes for a while, I settled on the 9. Luckily when it arrived it fit me perfectly.
The design of smart rings has been a real pain point for years now. Many companies have struggled to shrink rings down to an acceptable size once you build in the necessary battery, processor and sensors. With that in mind, Oura has performed a small miracle with the latest version of its ring. It’s now significantly slimmer than its predecessor with a pared down design that looks more wedding ring than Green Lantern.
Read this: The best smart jewellery you can buy
It weighs between 4 and 6 grams, depending on which size you opt for, which is lighter than most conventional rings. It’s 7.9mm wide and 2.55mm thick, which is similar to a standard wedding band. When it's on it really does look subtle and it’s light and comfortable enough to wear all day, all night and to the gym and pool.
Oura has gone for another super minimal look with two models to choose from – Balance, which we're wearing, and Heritage. Balance is a smooth, simple ring with a slight crest at the top that comes in silver, black, rose gold or, for a significant price bump, has small diamonds down the centre. The Heritage has a smooth ring design and a flat top instead of a crest and this comes in silver, black, rose gold or stealth, which is a matte black shade.
This time round Oura has used titanium rather than the zirconium with a carbon coating. After wearing the silver Balance for two weeks I noticed some extremely light, hairline scratches, but it’s been working out, swimming and bashed against things a few times, so I'd say it’s fared very well and the marks are only noticeable if you put it under a very bright light.
The inner rim of the ring is where most of its sensors are housed, including infrared optical pulse measurement, a 3D accelerometer, gyroscope and body temperature sensor. All the points at which the ring touches your skin have a non allergenic, non-metallic inner molding that sits flush against your finger. I have quite sensitive skin and the Oura didn’t irritate me even slightly, which is good for a wearable that’s designed to be worn 24/7, as well as for long periods of time between charging.
Oura Ring: Features and app
The Oura Ring is a different breed of activity tracker to a Fitbit – the focus of the ring is built around three key areas, which are Readiness, Sleep and Activity. And as there’s no screen on the Oura Ring itself, you’ll find all the information you need within its accompanying app. Oura's compatible with both iOS and Android.
Every sensor within the ring is designed to help more accurately gauge how all three of those add up using readings based on your body temperature, resting heart rate and heart rate variability and more.
When you first open the app, you’re greeted with a Readiness score at the top and cards underneath dedicated to Sleep and Activity. You can swipe right to see previous days and open the hamburger menu in the top left-hand corner to delve deeper into each of those areas, as well as analyse Trends over time.
This is a really simple set-up for an app, which feels almost too basic at first. But it’s cleverly designed so at a first glance you get the essentials, then you can learn more and more as you click through the categories and can take a deeper look at the bar charts, graphs and explanations for how you’re doing.
All in all it’s a fantastic app experience and really smart to focus on doing three things extremely well. Let’s take a closer look at each section.
Oura Ring: Readiness score
Readiness is likely not something you’ll have come across in a wearable app before. This is exciting but at the same time left me feeling a little wary. Is this just going to be a very arbitrary metric that’s designed to make me feel terrible for not working out more?
The first thing you see in the home screen of the Oura app is your Readiness score for the day, which is anywhere between 0 and 100, and it’s accompanied with a little tip for the day too.
Readiness takes into account how well you slept the night before, how well you’ve been sleeping over the past fortnight, how well you balanced activity with rest the day before, your body temperature, resting heart rate and recovery index (how well your heart rate stabilises throughout the night). That’s a lot.
Oura combines all of those metrics and presents you with a simple score. But you can click into the Readiness tab and find out what’s going well and what isn’t. A simple line chart shows you how you fared in each of those areas, then you’re presented with graphs for a few of them to get a better picture of how your heart rate variability has been the past week, as well as your resting heart rate, temperature and respiration rate.
What’s great about this is you can see the top scores that matter, then go deeper and look at the charts if you want to figure out which areas need to improve. You can also click on each to get a detailed explanation of what everything means.
At times the accompanying suggestion was helpful and actionable, like ‘Challenge Yourself’ on a day I’d slept well and worked out the day before and ‘Take it Easy’ on a day where I’d had poor sleep the night before. So far, so good.
But on one day the advice was just ‘How do you feel?’ I can only assume this meant I was fairly alright but should check in with myself, but it seemed a bit confusing in comparison to previous days.
The thinking behind Readiness is that the Oura can use all of this data to give you a score and work out when you should be aiming for a peak performance, which is more exercise, trying to smash your personal best and getting off the bus a few stops earlier, or when you should be resting and recharging, skipping the gym.
This focus is more realistic for most people than the current fitness narrative that we should all be constantly pushing, performing and achieving. I felt it really clicked with me because I have an ongoing knee injury that flares up when I’m pushing myself too hard. I also have depression and anxiety and find working out helps keep them in check, but doing too much at once can have negative effects. By focusing my efforts on how ready I am for the day, I’m better managing my physical energy – as well as my mental energy.
Data, especially if it’s loaded with emotive language, can alter my perception of how I’m feeling. Sometimes this is for the best. For example, the Oura app would tell me I slept better than I imagined and told me to seize the day, which was energising. But sometimes I’d wake up ready to hit the gym to see my sleep score was low and the Oura app would tell me to focus on recovery, which made me wonder whether I really was tired. This kind of thinking is obviously very subjective and for the most part the advice was helpful, but it didn’t gel with me all the time and that’s something that’s worth bearing in mind.
Oura Ring: Sleep
Thanks to the range of sensors within the Oura ring, it’s a fantastic sleep tracker.
Like the Readiness section, it presents you with a sleep score, which it finds by measuring total sleep, sleep efficiency (which is how long it took you to nod off), tranquility (which is how often you woke up throughout the night), latency, timing and then amounts of REM and deep sleep. Each of those areas are given a score, so if your sleep score isn't great you can work out what’s actually causing it.
And like the Readiness section, you can see charts dedicated to sleep stages, which shows you awake, REM, light and deep, as well as your resting heart rate throughout the night.
I found the sleep tracking to be extremely accurate and was on par with Fitbit’s Sleep Stages using the Fitbit Versa, one of our favourite sleep tracking ecosystems to date. So if you’re a sleep nerd and love to analyse data, find out where you can improve and see trends over time, the Oura ring is one of the best devices for it.
Oura Ring: Activity
The Oura Ring is very much an activity tracker, not a fitness tracker. If you’re looking for detailed data about your fitness, form and specific metrics for certain activities, you’ll need a dedicated fitness tracker.
Instead, Oura detects the amplitude and intensity of your movement and recognises that you’re active or inactive, tracking everything from heavy workouts to housework. Not what activity you’re doing or that you’ve worked out, unless you manually add something. Then it’ll just show up in a list of activities, rather than being able to see how that affected your heart rate or anything else.
The app presents you with a daily activity goal based on how well you’ve been sleeping, how active you’ve been recently and how well you’ve been recovering. As in the Readiness section, there’s a big focus on meeting targets and training frequently, but there’s just as much focus on recovering and ensuring you’ve had enough sleep and rest to be hitting those targets.
So your activity goal will change each day, which is really smart as so many trackers tend to ask for one step or activity goal for life and expect you to stick to it. Oura, meanwhile, knows one day you might be hungover and feel groggy and can’t expect much, whereas two days later you should be pushing yourself to the max.
The Oura Ring also helps you balance activities so there’s enough action and rest throughout your week. Again, this seems sensible and I found it to be really insightful too. It’s not often I give myself permission to slow down, but it’s probably not a coincidence that I’ve felt really good physically and mentally while using the Oura Ring.
Oura Ring: Battery life
According to Oura the ring should last a week between charges. I found it lasted six days, pretty much down to the hour. So although that’s a day shorter than Oura’s predictions, it’s still a decent amount of time for a wearable that’s always tracking you.
Oura’s battery notifications were also really handy. Six days is a funny amount of time to need to charge. It’s not every night or every Sunday, so it makes sense to keep the push notifications on so you’re not caught out.
Charging itself is really easy. The ring comes with a little charging stand that it slots on top of and charges up wirelessly within two hours.
Oura Ring: The future of wearables?
It’s not hard to see that I loved the Oura Ring. But for the price, is it worth it? Of course it depends on what you’re looking for and your budget. I definitely felt more switched on to how I was feeling and couldn’t fault it in many ways. But I don’t feel confident saying it’s going to be worth it for everyone. Wrist-based wearables are easier to recommend, but in many ways this feels like more unchartered territory.
If you’ve got fitness covered with another gadget and you’re interested in feeling better, sleeping better and being given a helping hand to listen to your body more, it’s worth it. But all that is highly subjective.
More than anything I’m interested in what’s next for Oura. It feels to me like we’re not quite there yet. Perhaps whatever Oura does further down the line will track fitness better, use temperature for female health features, give us more actionable goals and use this great-looking smart ring to paint an even more comprehensive picture of our health that’s highly personalised to us. Fingers crossed.
How we test