After design issues and tech hiccups, the influx of smart rings we've had our fingers firmly crossed for is finally here. We've already reviewed one of the designs from Ringly as well as the Oura Ring, and although smart rings all have different styles and USPs, it's hard not to put them head-to-head (or should that be fist-to-fist?) and try to find out which is the one ring to rule them all.
In my search for the perfect smart ring, over the past few weeks I've been testing out Motiv's offering. The Motiv Ring is a slim, subtle and lightweight device with an always-on optical heart rate monitor, as well as a design that's waterproof up to 165ft, 24/7 sleep and activity tracking, and three days' worth of battery life.
Its activity tracking is simple and designed to provide a 'snapshot' of your day, rather than a lot of detail, and its main fitness metric is Active Minutes rather than steps.
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Motiv manages to straddle the line between subtle and stylish thanks to its minimal lines and brushed metal appearance – not to mention I chose the Rose Gold finish, which is still a popular shade for accessories from the high street to high fashion.
Having said all of that, whether you get on with a piece of wearable tech – especially of the smart ring variety – is all down to personal preference. So to help you make up your mind, here's what I found after spending a few weeks with the Motiv.
Motiv Ring: Design
The Motiv Ring is slim at only 2.5mm thick. Unlike the Oura Ring, which I recently reviewed, the Motiv feels surprisingly light. At first that felt somehow disappointing. Perhaps that's because unpackaging the Oura felt positively premium and the weighty-ness made me think it was durable and expensive? But I soon realised that the lightness of the Motiv made it easier to wear and much quicker to get used to – it took me less than a day to become comfortable wearing it.
On that note, it fit well thanks to the brand's sizing kit, which allows you to try on a range of test rings to find the best fit for you before you buy. A word of warning here: no matter how quickly you'd like to get your hands on (or fingers into) the Motiv, I'd highly recommend that you take this step seriously and try a test ring for at least a whole day.
The Motiv is made of light titanium (rose gold or slate grey), which is what makes it so, well, light, and also gives it a stylish-looking finish. That finish was a big hit when it came to pairing the ring with clothing – it went with everything. And, unlike wristband devices, I didn't have to worry about it being too bulky to put under my sleeve.
The main downside to the design was that after wearing it for a few days I noticed a number of scratches. These were light and have just taken away the top rose gold layer, unveiling a silvery layer underneath. This doesn't look particularly bad – in fact one friend thought it was meant to look like that. Still it's a shame given I'd only worn it a matter of days before the scratches developed and hadn't touched rough surfaces or even been to the gym with it.
I asked the Motiv team about the finish and the ring's durability. "The ring should stand up to everyday activities including exposure to water up to 165 feet, as well as most household soaps and lotions. Abrasion from hard rough surfaces, such as the grip of a barbell, can cause cosmetic wear," Motiv says. "The scratches we have seen, for instance in our weightlifting users, have not affected the function of the Motiv Ring." This didn't really explain how I got so many scratches, but it was reassuring to hear it wasn't going to cause any damage to the ring itself – they're purely cosmetic.
The ring has a black LED light band on the front, which doesn't look bad, but started to annoy me because it felt a little unnecessary – after all, it's not like it displays anything but a flashing light for charging. I started to twist it round and wear it so only the rose gold finish was showing and the light strip was at the back, but then worried the sensor might not work properly.
I quizzed Motiv about whether it was really necessary to keep the LED light strip at the front. The short answer? It's not. "While we recommend wearing the flat sensor side of the ring on the palm side of your hand as capillaries are densest there," Motiv says, "you don't need to worry about it if it moves around throughout the day – anywhere is okay." Hooray! This was confirmed when I tried closely comparing data from one day to the next and found the same routine yielded the same results – phew.
Motiv Ring: App and features
The Motiv Ring's app is currently only available for iOS – sorry, Android users – and its dashboard has a card-style layout that displays sections including sleep, activity, resting heart rate and any other notifications, such as if you need to sync up your Motiv.
While we're on the subject of syncing, I found the Motiv's process to be mostly seamless. You twist the ring a few times while it's on your finger, a purple light flashes in that LED strip and that's it, syncing done.
The app looks good with big, clear fonts, clean lines, bright colours as well as simple data visualisations. Click on one of the cards, for example Sleep, and you're presented with a colourful, minimal bar chart comparing last night's sleep to the past week. Nice and easy.
For those who want to know how long they slept and how that compares, this is fine. For sleep data nerds, this is likely to be too basic and doesn't even come close to matching the accuracy of Fitbit's or Oura's apps, which both use heart rate data to establish really detailed sleep stages. You can't export data or take a look at patterns over long periods of time either, so it's very much a snapshot rather than a detailed picture that'll provide any long-term insights.
The same can be said for most of the other sections. The Resting Heart Rate (RHR) data was interesting and great for a quick click in and out to see how the numbers compare. But that's all you get – no long-term analysis or insights about how or why your data was the way it was.
Activity provided a little more information, laying a graph about steps and movement over one about your heart rate. This meant you could see how your heart rate was changing throughout the activity. The main problem is that you can't see that in real-time. Again, this is fine for those who want a retrospective look at their data after walking or running, but it won't do as a fitness wearable if you're keen to track your heart rate zones or take training seriously.
The good news is that you can add in more information afterwards. For example, if the Motiv Ring knows you've been moving for more than 10 minutes but isn't sure what you're doing, it'll present a grey card and ask you. You can then go in and pick from some options, which include a huge range of activities, like tennis, yoga, sex, boxing and general cardio. It's frustrating you can't stop and start these activities as you do them, but for the most part the Motiv was able to identify between jogging, walking and sleeping on its own.
Motiv Ring: Tracking
Apart from when the LED light on the front of the Motiv flashes, there's little to give away that the Motiv isn't just a pretty, dumb ring. And that's because the device's sensors are located on the inside. There's a small optical heart rate sensor on the underside of the ring. Unlike the Oura, the Motiv collects heart rate data continuously throughout the day, which means it serves up a much more accurate picture of your resting heart rate, as well as your highs and lows as you walk or work out.
I was keen to see whether Motiv's data was the same as the Fitbit Alta HR's, another stylish choice. When I wore both at once, the results were near identical, with the same resting heart rate (56bpm) and maximum heart rate (126bpm) after I'd been for a jog.
As well as heart rate, the Motiv ring has a three-axis accelerometer for keeping tabs on your movement, which it uses to track active minutes, calories burned, distance, when you're asleep, steps and activities. I did the Fitbit Alta HR test for steps taken and found them both to be within 30 steps of each other throughout the day – which isn't bad given Motiv is a much smaller and simpler device in many ways.
Interestingly though, the main focus of the Motiv isn't hitting 10,000 steps like Fitbit or other wearables. Instead it's combining your step and activity data with your heart rate data to figure out your Active Minutes.
Confused? Me too. A Motiv spokesperson told me that the 10k steps goal is problematic because not all steps are created equal and the goal has little medical evidence to support it. That's where Active Minutes come in. Organisations like the American Heart Association, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the CDC recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week to maintain good health. "The recommendation to have at least 150 Active Minutes a week has stood the test of time," says Motiv. "The data suggests if you achieve 150 minutes a week you are at lower risk of chronic disease and cardiovascular events."
This seems like a decent gauge of activity, but depending on which studies you read you'll find different opinions. I certainly felt it was a bit strange I could have one active day, hit my Active Minutes goal then the app wouldn't push me to do any more. I personally can't stand pushy, condescending apps or wearables, but Motiv felt like it was allowing me to wallow in my laziness some days, whereas the Fitbit's pushy pleas to hit my daily goal often made me begrudgingly march around the neighbourhood.
As for sleep tracking accuracy, the Motiv has been really accurate on the whole at tracking when I get to sleep and wake up. That said, one day I got up then did some space-y meditation for half an hour and Motiv classed this as sleep, even the five minutes when I got up.
Motiv Ring: Battery life
Motiv's battery tended to live up to its promise of lasting a full three days and was juiced up within 90 minutes. But – and this is unusual for a wearable – its charging method really did stand out. I've tested so many wearables in my time with bulky accessories and docks that can't nicely fit into your bag. But the Motiv charger is one of the best I've used, simply because it's tiny and slots into the USB port on your laptop. The ring then 'clicks' into place and sits out of the way on top of it with the help of a magnet. The lights change from red – not charged – to green – fully charged – as it juices up. To make it even handier, the Motiv comes with a keyring that the charger magnetically slots into.
Let's be honest, one of the biggest reasons many people don't use wearables often is because charging is annoying. It's awkward, you forget the thingie and the other thingie and over time you just get bored. Motiv knows it's a ring that needs to be charged regularly and so it's made the arduous process as streamlined as possible.