Patting down my pockets to check I have my keys and phone, plus checking my wrist for my watch, are now joined by a new action – checking my finger to see if I'm wearing my smart ring.
I've already said how I think smart rings are awesome, but now it's a wearable I'm convinced is going to be sticking around. The particular ring I'm talking about is the McLear smart ring and not the Motiv Ring that I've spent a fair amount of time with. This ring that does something the Motiv can't do (yet) and that's payments.
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I've been using it for a few months and the only time I've felt the need to remove it is when I'm in the gym, going for a swim or going to bed. I could happily wear it to sleep and for a swim (and I have), but there are no benefits to wearing it in those scenarios. There's no fitness or sleep tracking to tap into here like there is on the Motiv or Oura rings. What I've got is a ring that means I don't always have to remember to grab some loose change or slip my contactless card into my running belt when I head out to clock up some miles.
I get that phones, watches and other wrist-worn devices have had payment tech for a while now, but the difference for me is that I don't have to scramble around to use it. There's no unlocking of screens or launching apps. If my hands are full, like carrying multiple bags and I can't quite reach my wallet or phone, I'm just a simple closed fist gesture away from paying my way. This has happened on a few occasions I've been wearing it and I've been glad it's been there.
McLear smart ring and Motiv's smart ring
The other big reason it's sticking around on my finger is also a really simple thing: battery life. One of the biggest challenges that faces wearables across the board is battery life. But for this ring it's not a problem because I don't ever have to charge it. At all. I don't have that moment when I pick it up and realise I haven't plugged it into its charger properly overnight. That lack of necessity to charge no doubt lies with keeping the features of this ring simple and for me that's not a problem. I don't miss the fitness tracking features, for instance, because the watch I always wear covers those just fine.
There are some nice added features that come with this payment ring, like showing you where you spend your money and how frequently you spend it there, plus you can activate a Top Up feature to make sure you're never short of cash on your ring. But if I'm being honest, I've not spent a lot of time in the companion phone app exploring those features. I don't think that's a bad thing because the ring delivers on what it promises and that's to make contactless payments effortless. That's exactly what it's done for me and now it's going to stay on my finger.
I've definitely enjoyed the variety of reactions I've had when I've bought clothes or my lunch and cashiers see me raising my fist to the pay terminal. Some look at me oddly, others are blown away when they ask if I'm paying by card and I say no, by ring. There's actually only been one slightly embarrassing moment when the ring hasn't worked. I was paying for my lunch at a self service checkout and it didn't work. Thankfully, no one was around to see me repeatedly fail to complete the transaction and have to reach for my card to bail me out. It's worked ever since then, thankfully.
Ultimately though, my experience of living with this smart ring has truly sold me on this wearable form factor. I know that McLear plans to add more features to its own device and Motiv plans to roll out payment features to its ring this year too. While it's exciting to see these companies put sensors and tech that can track your exercise, heart rate and even let you unlock doors, it's payments that I believe will convince more people that smart rings have a future. I'm certainly sold on the idea.
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