The Ring Wearable
First off, the Oura Ring remains the only wearable / health tracker in the format of a ring.
The way Oura has always explained their approach, this is one of their big advantages in terms of the data they are able to capture, as the capillaries in the finger make for better readings than the wrist.
Personally, I also appreciated their insistence on measuring HRV (heart rate variability) only during sleep, which they also explain with data quality.
What has made the Oura Ring a harder sell than other wearables is that it has not been a full tracker for anything more than sleep and general activity levels, and the ring format means that it does not offer any display, any of the usual smart(watch) features usually associated with the wearable format.
The V3 Oura Ring Update
Where Oura has reacted to their user demands and where they continue to go their very own way with the third version of their ring is telling:
Oura remainds steadfastly committed, apparently, to being the smart ring company.
There is no change in the format or properties with the third generation; the ring remains a ring, without any display or even any indicator lights. They are not moving onto the wrist, either.
The sensors and capabilities of the ring get extended, however:
Where the Oura Ring to date has focused on sleep, with heart rate variability (during sleep) an additional indicator for readiness, and with activity levels throughout the day another aspect of their overall health/wellbeing focus, Oura Ring v3 will also track workouts and add spO2 measurement during sleep.
Heart rate and temperature sensors also get updated (and those spO2 sensors added).
To be more exact, there will be:
- “Daytime heart rate” measuring HR 24/7, not just during sleep
- “Workout heart rate”, which actually means that the Oura ring gen 3 will work as an activity tracker (together with one’s smartphone, by the looks of it)
- “Improved Sleep Staging”, i.e. a better algorithm for measuring and analyzing sleep with regards to its different stages (where Oura differentiates between the usual light sleep, deep sleep, REM sleep, and awake times)
- “Period Prediction” for women to track their menstrual cycle (which has been a weak point of the Oura ring, as so many other wearables, especially when it comes to properly interpreting rising body temperature in its relationship to the period rather than to readiness)
- “New library of wellness content”… which is the point explicitly mentioned as part of the Oura membership, rather strangely.
The Curious v3 Subscription Model
The new hardware and capabilities will be greatly appreciated as they (will*) let the Oura Ring alone give a more complete picture of one’s activity/fitness status. However, Oura is also moving towards a subscription model.
A newly ordered v3 ring will come with free 6 months of membership, but then the membership will cost €5.99/month afterwards – and Oura has not been making it quite clear what extent of features will be available without the membership!
From the sound of things, it will probably only be the sleep, readiness, and activity scores without insight to the data underlying those scores.
Membership seems to give total access to all the data/features, in addition to that “library of wellness content,” various videos and guided sessions for meditation, breathwork, and sleep.
*Workout heart rate and spO2 will only come later in 2021 (and we’ll have to see what comes how; automatic activity detection has been there for iOS since February 2021, but I haven’t yet seen any activities automatically get detected on Android); the improved sleep stage algorithm is pre-announced for 2022.
Upgrades for people who already use an Oura ring have been going a bit strangely, same as info about the subscription service – but all that is worth its own post.
All in all, the new hardware and features are appealing.
They make the Oura ring’s Gen3 a much more complete, yet still very unobtrusive, health and now also activity tracker. For people who want to get insight from a wearable without wearing a watch and advertising their fitness or sports pursuits loudly, an Oura ring is still pretty much the only option; every other wearable goes on your wrist.
Whether or not the subscription service offers enough to be worth it, adding a monthly 5.99 on top of a wearable that is just a ring, but costs 314 in its basic version (419 in matte black “Stealth” or gold) – that however remains to be seen.