The Oura Ring seemed to be everywhere in 2020. The smart ring and other wearables could detect illness. Researchers were investigating the possibility when the NBA announced that it had purchased 2,000 Oura rings to track athletes. Prince Harry is a long-standing fan. Jennifer Aniston, Kim Kardashian West are also known to have worn the sleep tracker. This is a huge buzzword for a niche gadget. However, the third generation of the Oura Ring launched in 2021 and includes new features such as blood oxygen and period prediction. It’s not clear whether the $299 smart ring is worth it, which now requires a monthly subscription.8Verge Score
Oura Ring Generation 3
- Stresses the importance of rest and recovery
- All day comfort
- Tracking SpO2 and Period Predictions
- A subscription is required for new users
- It is important to be committed for the long-term upfront
- Athletes find it too easy to track their workouts
It’s not obvious to anyone that it’s a sophisticated ring.
It’s very simple for a ring that has so many fashionable fans. It’s not too dissimilar to Frodo’s gold Heritage review ring. The unit is also available in black and silver, as well as a matte-black version called “stealth.” A sleeker Oura x Gucci version costs $950. A fully round Horizon design costs $349. This is a remarkable feat of engineering as it requires a flexible cell to support the shape. The Heritage design houses the battery in a flat top. The Horizon and Heritage are functionally identical, and I have tried both.
You won’t be noticed unless you have the Gucci version. It blends seamlessly into your daily life. It won’t get caught on your clothes and will not buzz when you receive notifications. The ring is also much more comfortable than wearing smartwatches 24/7. It was my smart ring most days.
This is not an easy task. The new Oura Ring includes four additional temperature sensors, an LED green heart rate sensor and an SpO2 sensor to monitor blood oxygen levels. This is on top of the accelerometers and battery. These tiny sensors can be seen if you look inside the ring. The ring may be a bit wider than I would prefer, especially for smaller fingers and hands, but it is still a fair compromise considering the current state of the technology.
It’s amazing that Oura managed to fit so much into such a small package. However, there are some quirks. If you want to get the best metrics, it is important that you make sure the sensors are correctly placed. This is easier with the Heritage version because it has a flattop. Although the Horizon has a slight dimple at the sensor location, I didn’t always notice that the sensors were not aligned correctly. You must also ensure that the sensors are clean as you wear it day and night. It is not adjustable so it is important to fit. To buy a smartwatch you don’t need to measure your wrist. However, for the ring you will need to wait between two and seven days to receive a free sizing tool. Oura recommends that you try a dummy band for at least one day before ordering.Horizon’s version features a subtle dimple that allows you to see where the sensors are. If the dimple matches the underside of your finger, you will know that it’s properly fitted.
The ring must be charged, just like a smartwatch. To charge the ring to 100%, it takes approximately two hours. The Gen 3 was launched before Oura’s more ambitious health features, such as SpO2 tracking. I used to get close to Oura’s seven-day battery life. Since I enabled SpO2, I now get three to four days. This isn’t bad, and Oura app does a good job reminding me to charge my phone before going to bed. However, I have lost some sleep data due to missing the notifications or being too tired to charge my phone before bed.
Tracking of sleep and recovery
The Oura Ring claims to be a sleep and recovery tracker. That’s exactly what it excels at. The app is based on three scores: readiness to sleep, activity, and sleep. Each score is calculated using the heart rate, temperature and activity data that the ring has collected. A high score indicates that you are doing well, and a low score suggests that you need to slow down or change your lifestyle. This is the basic idea, and you can ignore any additional data. If you need more information, be prepared to read a lot.
Your sleep score is what you should be taking into consideration. Oura calculates your sleep score by taking into account factors like total sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. These are all common metrics that other wearable devices offer. There are other metrics, such as “timing,” which is the midpoint in your total sleep between midnight and 3 AM. Your readiness score is also calculated using something called the “recovery index,” which measures how long it takes for your resting heart beat to stabilize while you sleep. Each of these metrics is explained in detail, but it’s not hard to see why they are important.The Oura Ring Gen 3 (middle), and Gen 2 (left), are thicker than other rings.
These three scores form the heart of the Oura experience. The third-generation’s sensors now provide more data. The ring used to measure your heart rate only when you were asleep. The new LED is able to track your heart rate throughout the day. This introduces new terms such as restorative and graphs of heart beat trends. Restorative times are periods of relaxation when the ring detects that your heart rate has dropped and your hands are warm. Chris Becherer (Oura’s chief product officer) says that this happens because your skin temperature rises when you are more relaxed. The guide also allows you to interpret the patterns you see. A flat, low-heart rate pattern during the day is known as an “Open Ocean”, and it indicates that you have had a restful day. A hammock-shaped heart rate curve, on the other hand, indicates that your body has recovered well from the night. Although it’s a lot, Oura deserves credit for providing both bite-sized and more detailed explanations.
Oura has added new metrics to its app over the past year. Oura’s latest take on circadian rhythms is the latest. The app will display your chronotype and body clock . After three months of data, your chronotype will be determined. It will show you if you are an early bird or night owl. Although not exactly in the same terms. The body clock function is a visual indicator of when you will go to bed according to your chronotype. According to Oura’s explanation, my “early evening” type is what I would describe as a night owl lite.
But is it really accurate? The daytime heart rate monitoring was consistent with other trackers. Random spot checks showed that it was within five beats per minutes of what I was seeing on my Apple Watch Series 7. Although there were instances when they weren’t in sync at times, this usually resolved itself after a few seconds. The Series 7 will give you a faster heart rate and Oura’s daily data will be easier to understand. The Oura Ring was also a delight to see my Pokemon nightly sessions as a time of rest.Restorative time is an important metric in daytime heart rate monitoring. The Explore tab is also a new feature.
Sleep tracking is difficult. Some wearables that I have tested struggle to tell if I am awake at 4AM when my cat is screaming at the moon. My fellow insomniacs, some trackers consider those sleepless hours spent staring up at the ceiling sleep. This was not a problem for me. It could tell when I went to bed at night and when I was trying to fall asleep. As I don’t have access medical equipment, I cannot tell you how accurate the data on sleep stages is. It was a good product, and I found it to be consistent with the Withings. Since then, the only two wearable sleep trackers that I have found to be as good as the Oura Ring are Fitbits and the Woop 4.0.
Oura beta tested , a new sleep stage algorithm. It claims it is more accurate than gold-standard polysomnography and corresponds better with that. I have been trying out both the new and current algorithms. I am unsure which one I prefer until the final version becomes available. The difference is noticeable, and the new algorithm tends towards me waking up earlier in the morning.
The second-gen Ouraring was reviewed and the readiness score was mixed. It told me to relax when it felt good. Some days, it told me to push myself and not let my body get in the way. However, this time, my ability to recognize bodily stress seems to be improving. After being sick for a week my readiness scores plummeted from the high 70s to 80s to the low 50s-60s. The ability to switch on “rest mode” which turns off your activity score and prioritizes readiness and sleep, was also very appreciated. Oura’s lead is a good example for other fitness trackers.You have the option to choose whether your metrics are easy to understand or more complex.
Oura’s activity score is based on weekly activity rather than arbitrary daily goals. It’s fine if you spend your day at work, it’s not a problem. Your score will start to drop if you fail to meet your goals for three days or more in a row. Your readiness score will affect your daily calorie burn target and training load.
Quantified meditation sessions are another neat feature. Oura is a data-nerd’s dream. I don’t normally recommend woo-woo guided mindfulness features. You can see how each session affected your heart rate, heart beat variation (HRV), or skin temperature after each session. The company added an Explore tab to its app this week. This allows users to organize audio and video content, and offers more educational reading.
The Gen 3 was equipped with SpO2 sensors right from the beginning, but blood oxygen tracking wasn’t available until the Gen 3. In summer 2022 an update brought it to the Gen 3. It’s now available and I think it’s one my favorite wearable blood oxygen features. Although fair, it’s a very low bar.This is How Oura Presents SpO2 Data. However, I have never received the “Pay Attention” rating.Image by Oura
Oura will measure blood oxygen in two ways if you enable this feature. The first is your average daily SpO2 percentage. Anything higher than 95 percent is considered normal. Oura calls this breathing regularity. This is the number of variations in blood oxygen levels that were detected while you sleep. Variations are a sign of breathing problems, so the smaller the number the better. Withings and Fitbit both have similar SpO2 features so this is not a new approach. My preference is for Oura’s presentation. It’s easy to understand and the educational reading helps you interpret your results.
However, SpO2 tracking does come with a significant loss in battery life. Although I prefer Oura’s SpO2 implementation to spot checks on my Apple Watch or Samsung smartwatches, it’s still not an extremely useful metric. I am a healthy adult and have received Optimal and Good breathing frequency ratings in the eight months that I have been using this feature. My average daily SpO2 is 96%. This feature is not very useful to me and it doesn’t really cost half of my battery life. This might work differently if I suspect I have sleep apnea. However, even then, it is not intended to be a diagnostic tool.
Your temperature, user feedback and the calendar method are used to predict your period. Oura recommends that you have at least 60 nights worth of data in order to obtain more accurate results. The app allows you to see a bar graph showing how temperature data has changed over the course your cycle. You can also view historical period data. The app will notify you when your period is due to begin a few days in advance. The app will prompt you to log data if it believes that your period should have begun.Predictions for Period are still in beta. However, you will receive advance notifications based upon your temperature.
Although I would love to confirm these predictions, Oura’s period forecasts are not compatible with birth control. This is also true if you have certain medications or are going through hormonal changes. This is not a criticism of Oura. It’s actually a good thing from an accuracy standpoint. Apple also includes many of these factors as factors that disable its temperature based Cycle Tracking features, such as retrospective ovulation estimations. These limitations should be noted.
Although the Gen 3 adds heart rate tracking to your workouts, it is not the most impressive feature. It’s very basic and supports only running, cycling and walking. Although the record screen does not display any metrics, it will provide a summary of your stats and heart rate after the activity has ended. If you only care about casual activity tracking, that’s okay. However, I find it much more beneficial to import workouts from Apple Health or Google Fit (or any other app like Strava that integrates into those APIs).
This brings me to the main problem with the Oura Ring. This will not suffice if you are an athlete or need to be connected with your phone. The best way to use the Oura Ring as a secondary tracking device is for me. The Oura Ring is a smartwatch that does not excel at recovery and sleep tracking. These same smartwatches compensate for the Oura Ring’s inability to send notifications or track activity. However, I am using my wearable reviewer privilege. A secondary tracker costs $300-350 plus $6 per month. What economy is this? It’s not an easy task.
Half of the features were not yet available when I started to review the Oura Ring Gen 3 in 2021. As someone who has covered this company, I know there are many other features Oura is still working on. I don’t know when the new sleep stage algorithm is going to be available. And who knows when we will see the results of Oura’s research into disease detection, and pregnancy prediction. Harpreet Rai, former CEO of Oura, spoke to me before Gen 3 was launched. Both said that period predictions were a first step towards more ambitious women’s health features. Oura is clearly looking into the future of wearables and counting on its customers that it will be worth the wait.
This means that many of the cool things about the ring may not be visible to average people. Becherer confirmed that these new sleep algorithms are a backend update and that there will be no UI changes in the app. Your data will be more accurate. You’ll see the best results for each of Oura’s features if you wear it every single day for several months. This is a huge commitment and you need to feel comfortable with it.
It’s not surprising that Oura has now switched to a subscription model with the launch the Gen 3. According to , it did this because it has ambitious plans for this market. It is costly to do the research Oura, Apple, and Fitbit have done. Increasingly, one-off hardware sales don’t keep in business. Wearables are also moving in this direction. Fitbit offers Fitbit Premium, Apple offers Fitness Plus, and Whoop, another recovery tracker, requires a $30 monthly sub (though the yearly subscriptions are more affordable).
Oura’s membership costs less than those. Six months are free and then it’s $5.99 per month. If they purchased the Gen 3 before November 29, 2021, owners of previous Oura rings were eligible for a lifetime subscription. However, this option is no longer available. Oura also states on its FAQ page that even if you cancel, or decide not to subscribe, you will still be able see your readiness, sleep, activity, and activity scores.
Oura is looking into the future of wearables and counting on its customers to believe that the wait was worth it
The cost of the Oura Ring will depend on whether you are willing to make the commitment. In the short-term, Whoop is more affordable than , especially considering that the company recently reduced its subscription prices . If you are willing to stay with the platform for longer than two years, it will tip in Oura’s favour. (Unless you purchased the Gucci version of the Fitbit or are planning to purchase your ring used. You will get excellent sleep tracking and recovery metrics with a cheaper Fitbit, as well as other smart features such notifications and contactless payment. Despite this, Fitbit’s fortunes aren’t looking too good lately.
Is the Oura Ring worth it or not? If you are concerned about recovery but prefer analog watches or wrist-based trackers, then yes. It’s not trying to do too many things, unlike the failed Motiv Ring. It is trying to be a great health tracker and few other people do it better.