Oura’s Strange Shift to Subscriptions

It is not strange that Oura Health should want to shift to a subscription-based model.

Whoop does that; Muse pushes that; Fitbit has “premium” features behind a subscription.

It is still a strange shift in the way they are doing it, all of a sudden, with their third-generation ring. (More on that here.)

Upgrade Offers

Recent buyers of a 2nd-gen ring apparently are getting a free trade-in offer and a lifetime membership.

Earlier buyers of a 2nd-gen ring – like me – received an offer to upgrade with a discount (in my case, of 50 Euro off the 314 or 419 Euro cost of a new Oura ring) and lifetime membership.

Apparently, we at least get to keep the Gen 2 ring, although of course, that’s of rather limited value: I may appreciate that, as a chance to test gen 2 vs. gen 3, but a normal user couldn’t easily give their gen 2 ring to anyone else, given how different ring sizes can be. (Even I would need to get the gen 3 for a different finger in a different size to use both generation’s rings simultaneously.)

That offer is only valid until early November, for 14 days after the third generation’s ring’s launch…

Tough Luck If You Waited

If you are an early adopter or held back from an order because you had already heard of something new coming (or don’t want to preorder using that discount and lifetime membership offer), then you’re out of luck and would need to pay the price of a new ring plus, if you want that, the 5.99 per month for the subscription.

Here’s where things get truly strange, with the subscription.

Lifetime Membership

First of all, the duration of the lifetime membership is not entirely clear. Is it the user’s “lifetime” (with Oura) or do they mean the lifetime of the ring one gets with this offer?

Probably, what is meant is the former, and the “translation” of this offer’s value into a sum – of 149 Euro – is just because they were legally required to state a monetary value. It sounds very much like it could mean an expected ring lifetime of two years, however, thus making it confusing.

This was since clarified in a Twitter reply stating that:

As long as you have the same, active Oura account, your Oura Membership will remain free, beyond 24 months. However, the Membership value is estimated on the current monthly price of Oura Membership ($5.99) over 24 months, including taxes & fees.


And, just to make things extra-clear, this will apply when upgrading again, too, as long as the account never lapsed:

If you have a Lifetime Oura Membership, this means that as long as you have the same, active Oura account, your Oura Membership will remain free for Gen3 and beyond.


If you are not a current member/user but a new Oura customer, you will only get 6 free months of membership.

Free 6 Months, Kinda

Some of the Gen3 Oura ring’s new features will only come later (workout HR and spO2 measurements in late 2021, the improved sleep stages detection in 2022, as per the announcement; there has also been mention of Android users having some limitations at the start, with features first coming to iOS).

This effectively renders the first months of the (free) membership less valuable – if those features are even related to the subscription.

The confusion, after all, continues with what the subscription actually entails.

A Subscription, Sure – But With What Perks?

The one item in the new features that is explicitly being linked to the membership/subscription is the forthcoming “new library of wellness content,” i.e. of guided sessions for relaxation and sleep.

That is very reminiscent of what e.g. Muse is doing with its “bundles” – and it’s not very enticing, in my opinion.

The letter from the Oura CEO on their blog mentions that the membership/subscription “grants users full access to an ever-growing suite of features, daily insights, personalized recommendations, an expanding library of guided audio sessions, educational videos, and more.”

From the sound of the announcements (but hardly anything specific), a gen 3 ring without the subscription will only show the basic data, i.e.(?) the sleep, readiness, and activity scores.

Oura’s Confirmation… of Our Worst Fears

Oura has since also confirmed more about the subscription/membership, at least in more Twitter replies:

Indeed, without the membership, one will only see the three daily scores (and ring battery, basic profile information, app settings.

Only with a membership can one see all the data that figures into those scores, receive (personalized) insights, watch in-app content. Without a membership, those “and other dimensions of your Oura app and experience, will be locked.” (Source: Twitter)

And More Questions

People who decide to stick with their Gen 2 ring, however, are supposed to remain able to see all the data they can currently see, and I’m not sure how it would work to have the app show different data depending on whether it’s used with a gen 2 or gen 3 ring, and the latter with or without a subscription being active.

Oura is also describing its offering as being about personalized insights, gained from the data and the application of machine learning – and that could make a subscription worth it. It is unclear, however, if that will go beyond the general advice the app has already been giving.

And how would it work, for example, to be able to track workouts (well, workout HR) with a third-generation Oura Ring (and one’s smartphone, e.g. for location and even just to start/stop the workout HR recording), and then to see sensible data from that, integrated into daily HR, etc., if a subscription meant that only basic scores would be shown?

In light of the added answers above, I assume that it wouldn’t work – but selling a ring that can track workouts but then doesn’t track workouts without a subscription, without explicitly stating that in the informational material… that doesn’t sound good, if not outright misleading.

And a Need to Explain

Oura has a lot to explain further until these things become clear, and they have not been too good at it on launch.

Then again, their third-gen ring announcement has been all over the usual news; interest in the new ring seems to have been great. I, frankly, was miffed when it looked like I couldn’t place a preorder, and was happy when they, well, took my money.

Then again, I want to use the ring better, write about it – and get the lifetime membership… which, by the way, was also clarified to be for as long as one’s Oura account remains active, even if upgrading (but not if lapsing).

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1 Comment

  1. Bear Pig

    Now there’s a product I used to be excited for. What a shame.

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