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I’m not really into wearable tech. I have never really considered using any body-tracking device — partly because I have traditionally not been that interested in what my body does, I have no goals that would warrant constant bodily surveillance, and also I think they’re all ugly.
However, there is one health issue I am interested in — sleep. At the risk of talking about myself like I’m a baby, I’ve never been a great sleeper, and I’ve always been curious about the quality of my rest.
That’s why I decided to try the Oura ring, which is a smart ring that has all kinds of health-tracking features, including sleep monitoring. Here’s my review.
What the Oura ring looks like
First of all, the Oura looks like the One Ring from Lord of the Rings. That immediately makes it better than an Apple Watch for me. It looks a bit like a thick wedding band and can be worn on your index, middle, or ring finger. (I wore it on my index finger, which is what Oura recommends.)
The Oura still might not be to everyone’s taste — for example, I don’t generally wear chunky jewelry — but it’s relatively unobtrusive. It comes in various colors, including black, rose gold, silver, and gold, so you can match it to your existing jewelry, if that’s a concern.
Note that there’s a step before you’ll get your actual ring: Oura sends a sizing kit to help ensure the right fit.
The Oura ring cost
The Oura costs between $299 and $349, depending on the model. (A Gucci x Oura collaboration edition costs $950, ooh la la.) There is a membership fee of $5.99 after the first month.
The Oura ring is waterproof
The Oura is easy to charge and generally needs to be plugged in once a week — it typically took less than an hour for me. It’s waterproof, so you can keep it on in the shower or while washing dishes. The ring is lightweight, and while I feared that would mean it would scratch or mark easily, it seemed to withstand daily wear and tear pretty well.
Pros of the Oura ring
As I said, I was mostly interested in using the ring for monitoring my sleep.
The Oura app has an easy-to-understand interface that updates in the morning to show you various metrics, including how long you slept; your resting heart rate; how much time you spent in REM, light, and deep sleep; and “sleep latency,” or how long it took you to fall asleep. Some might find it intimidating or anxiety-inducing to have so much data available, but I soon forgot I was wearing the ring and I didn’t really think about it, even when I wasn’t sleeping that well.
One unique feature is the daily “readiness” score. According to Oura, this score “helps you decide whether it’s time to gear up or wind down.”
To calculate your score, the Oura ring takes factors like sleep, how active you were the previous day, and body temperature into account. At first, I felt skeptical of this — I don’t need some app to tell me how OK I am — but after a while I found it to be a little more optimistic than I was about my baseline well-being. It’s also a good reminder to slow down if you’re doing a lot — if you haven’t slept well, the app will suggest you chill out a little more, for example.
Another metric I liked was the heart rate variability. I’m still recovering from a bout of late-summer COVID, so it was reassuring to know that I would be able to tell if it was off. (Heart rate variability measures the time between heartbeats, and if it’s higher it could mean you are happier and less stressed — although it’s not clear if wearable trackers can provide accurate enough data to say one way or another.) That goes for other metrics, like resting heart rate and respiratory rate — it was reassuring to have all of those monitored, so I could keep an eye on things.
The ring’s other main function is activity tracking. It measures your heart rate periodically throughout the day, and you can input details about any more strenuous activity, like walking or a workout. Scores can be displayed in calorie burn or steps — users who don’t want to think about calories can disable that mode. A library of meditation tracks is also available, and after you play one, a neat feature shows you how much your skin has warmed (which is apparently a measure of how relaxed you are).
Cons of the Oura ring
The Oura ring uses a “3D accelerometer” to track activity, “which measures how your ring moves up and down, side to side, and back and forth.” But while it easily registered when I was walking or doing cardiovascular activity, it wasn’t able to automatically figure out when I was doing weight training or yoga. You can manually input these workouts, though. It does count your steps and measure the distance traveled. I'm not much of a runner myself, but Oura has location tracking if that's something you're looking for. You can enable Location Services via the Oura App to use GPS functionality. (Just make sure the app is updated to the latest version.)
And because the ring only measures your heart rate periodically, it doesn’t always register all your sleep or activity. For instance, one night when I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep for a considerable amount of time, the app erroneously recorded it as a mixture of awake and asleep time.
I have never been interested in a tracking device and found the Oura to be great for my purposes. (I’m also delighted that it’s not a watch, honestly!) I don’t have any fitness or specialty training goals, but I was interested in getting a decent macro picture of my movement, breathing, heart rate, and sleep. You basically forget you’re wearing it after a while, and the app’s features are all easy to understand and interpret. I thought it was a fun addition to my daily life and appreciated having a gauge of my overall health and activity. Most of all, I ended up with a solid picture of my sleep habits, which was really interesting and more helpful than I thought it would be
You can buy the Oura Ring Gen 3 Horizon from Oura for around $349.
This story was updated to show that the Oura Ring has added GPS functionality to the device.