Oura Ring 3 review

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i admit i was Thinking about the Aura Ring the wrong way. I was thinking of the device as an alternative to my Apple Watch. I think this is true, in a vague sense – for most people, it’s likely one or the other. After all, having two activity trackers is overkill for most. It is also cost-prohibitive. At $299, we’re well into smartwatch territory on the pricing front.

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There’s also the fact that, starting with Ring 3, Oura is adding a $6/month subscription fee that starts after the six-month grace period. The new service comes with additional features, but also sticks behind a paywall metrics that was previously free to users. The Aura Ring 3 is, in a word, an investment. But this is not a smartwatch.

If anything, it’s the successor to the fitness band — a category we don’t think about much these days, but one that completely dominated the wearables category before Apple even had to put its teeth into space. Crashed in. Companies like Fitbit and Xiaomi still sell a ton of things on a yearly basis, but they’ve largely fallen out of fashion in favor of their more full-featured brethren. The more I started thinking of the Aura Ring as a fitness band (or, perhaps more appropriately, Health band), the more this is starting to make sense.


image credit: Brian Heater

It’s, in a sense, a passive device—not one that buzzes and beeps, one that demands constant attention throughout the day. The Aura Ring is a device that can be worn and largely ignored, avoiding the occasional preset nudge for things like movement reminders. And if we’re being honest, that’s always going to be the case here. Sure, many fitness bands have blurred the line with displays, but the Ring form factor has some very real limits in regards to real estate.

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Instead, Ring is designed to stay out of the way while collecting actionable sleep, health and fitness data that you can view later on a connected mobile app. And in fact, that has long been the selling point here. For the most part, a ring is better for staying out of your way than a fitness band. That was the appeal of Motive’s early play—and while that product appears to be from the fitness category, it’s a banner that Ora has been more than happy to pick up and run.

image credit: Brian Heater

Before we go any further, a confession: I’m not a ring boy. I especially don’t like rings and I don’t wear them (cue: “Don’t Fence Me In”). This is a big reason why I’m not going to be a regular Oura user. To be honest, I too have become quite attached to my smartwatch. That said, I’ve been wearing Ring 3 for the prescribed two weeks. That was Oura’s recommendation/soft demand for a product review.

It was a strange request, as far as these things go. When reviewing hardware, you usually prefer to spend as much time as possible with the product. Easier said than done, sometimes. But here, the company emphasizes that a fortnight is needed to establish a kind of baseline measurement. It’s not like the readings are going to be bad for the first two weeks, the better if you wear the device for a while and the Aura has a clear idea of ​​your habits, sleep, and biometrics.

And it makes sense, given that we’re all different, and adaptation is key to any type of health device. My guess is it won’t be hard to find such a buy-in among those willing to shell out $299 for a ring. It is also a relatively simple lift as it is a minimally invasive product. Once again, as someone who isn’t a Ring person, it took some time to get used to, but as a restless sleeper, it’s easier to wear to bed than a big, bulky smartwatch. Let’s appreciate for a moment the inherent irony of a sleep-tracking device that’s hard to wear to bed. Ora Ring is not that.

It’s comfortable. Because it’s a ring. Again, I’m not a ring man, but the simple fact of occupying less real estate makes it less offensive. Design-wise, the product is virtually identical to its predecessor. It is a single-color metal band, rounded, but with a flattened edge that marks the top of the product.

image credit: Brian Heater

If you don’t know your ring size, the company will send a sizing kit la Warby Parker featuring several plastic dummy rings. You are encouraged to wear one for 24 hours, as the human finger has a mode of swelling and contraction during the day. I chose my size and color (a matte black) and waited. Ultimately, I found that the final product was a bit looser than its plastic counterpart, but the ring held up just fine. And, in fact, I found that the exact fit evolved with the day.

Viewed from above, the device looks like a standard ring – and that’s exactly the appeal. However, you’ll occasionally see a green glow emanating from the inner circle, as the Ring’s sensors capture heart rate readings. Daytime heart rate monitoring is one of the few new features available at launch, along with duration output (something I admit I didn’t have the opportunity to test) and improved temperature sensing. Based entirely on those new features, the 3 represents an incremental update compared to the 2.

The list of upcoming features coming this year and beyond is quite long, with additional content such as meditation and breathing sessions, workout heart rate monitoring, more accurate sleep staging and SpO2 blood oxygen sensing. In the case of that last one, in particular, it’s not entirely surprising that it was delayed — and Ora certainly isn’t alone in rolling out a major health sensing feature after launch. In this case, it’s not about FDA approval (not yet, at least), but about implementation.

This stuff is tricky to get right, and when you’re not Samsung or Apple it’s likely double. However, it’s a long list of promised features that will likely leave many potential consumers wondering why the company didn’t wait to launch a more fully realized product. I eventually wonder if it’s a piece of a deeper strategy to offer a hardware base with the promise that the features will continue to be improved and rolled out over the course of its life.

After all, there’s no doubt that Oura has some long-term ambitions with this stuff. look no further than numerous studies in which the company has participated. A cursory look at its blog reveals everything from depression to the effects of phone use on sleep to adapting to the undersea environment. Not everything is going to be proven, and certainly most or many will lead to brand new features, but at the very least, here’s some interesting insight into how much we’ll eventually be able to monitor or predict with sensors. Among other things, those studies have proven the accuracy of measuring things like heart rate on a finger versus the wrist.

Ultimately, I prefer a wrist-worn tracker like the Apple Watch for tracking my workouts. I was able to pair the two and use them to paint an overall picture of my activity. I agree that not everyone has the means or desire to do so. Where the Aura Ring ultimately succeeds in comparison to more traditional trackers is its emphasis on actionable insights—which is why the company insists so much that people set a baseline before determining its efficacy.

image credit: Brian Heater

Things like recovery and readiness are overlooked by these types of tools. Ora describes the latter as:

Preparation is your core Oura score and is designed for you and only you, helping you find what works for your body and lifestyle. Readiness is an overall picture of your health – taking into account your recent activity, sleep patterns, and direct body signals (such as resting heart rate, heart rate variability, and body temperature) that may indicate whether your body is under stress or not.

Effectively, it takes all the metrics it’s collecting and determines whether you’re doing enough work to be fine between them. Recovery time was a constant red flag for me. Which, fair enough. I could and probably should do a better job of letting my body recover between workouts. This is definitely something to improve upon, as the red “Attention” notifications clearly indicate.

image credit: Brian Heater

Another place that pops up is sleep. Clicking on the Home tab, the app notes, “Your heart rate dropped late at night, so you might not be fully recovered. To help recharge your body, take a break today to rest.” How about taking some time off?” On the face of it it seems obvious that, say, meditating at night (versus in the morning when I usually do) or practicing breathing exercises before bed would be better for my (of course) sleep than, say. Doom scrolls with my buds on Twitter.

But in the midst of everyday busyness, it’s easy to overlook this fact. I’ve always said that one of the less and less talked about benefits of a wearable is that it’s the technology equivalent to tying a string around your finger. It’s an injection of mindfulness and a reminder of why you made that investment in the first place. We buy these things because we want to better ourselves. And in a world where technology often does the opposite, some positive technological reinforcement is a net positive.

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