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6 things to consider before buying a smart ring

Key Takeaways

  • Consider your needs: Smart rings are great for health tracking, but might not offer the aesthetics or durability of traditional trackers.
  • Get the right fit: Using a sizing kit can save you from returns and ensure your smart ring fits comfortably with room for changes.
  • Watch for costs: Some smart rings require subscriptions for full functionality, so consider how much data tracking you really need before purchasing.



While they remain relatively niche at the moment, smart rings may be poised to go big. The Oura Ring has accumulated a dedicated fanbase, to the point there are now a number of competing products on the market. What’s more, Samsung is preparing to launch the Galaxy Ring later in 2024, and even Apple is rumored to be developing a product despite the success of the Apple Watch.

You might be tempted to join the bandwagon, but before you make the leap, there are a variety of factors to consider. A smart ring could be ideal — but you might be also be better off with a conventional wrist-based tracker, or even a chest or arm strap. It all depends on your circumstances.

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1 What do you want out of a smart ring?

Function over form

The Oura Ring sits on a white windowsill next to a plant.


You might be tempted to buy a smart ring as a fashion accessory, but that’d be a mistake for a few reasons. Some of them should become clearer as we go on — for now, we’ll point out that most of smart rings have aesthetics as a secondary priority, never mind long-term value. You won’t be handing one down to your grandchildren. If you buy one, it should be for practical reasons.

Most smart rings are geared towards health and fitness, for instance recording sleep patterns, heart rate, blood oxygen, and/or body temperature. Some enable retail payments or other NFC (near-field communication) functions, potentially ignoring health and fitness features entirely. Determine the main reason you want a smart ring and shop for something that best suits that criteria — you’re probably not going to find something that does everything perfectly. Indeed, if you’re after a do-it-all accessory, you’re probably better off with a high-end smartwatch from Apple or Garmin.


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2 Smart rings aren’t as tough as regular ones

Don’t make an expensive mistake

The Samsung Galaxy Ring at MWC 2024.

via Android Police

A number of rings use metals like titanium for their exteriors, and those should be plenty durable for most activities. But the emphasis here is on “most.” Since there are electronics inside, it’s important to make sure a ring is waterproof if you want to wear it swimming, in the rain, or in the shower. Always avoid exposing a smart ring to chemicals like harsh cleaners, remembering that even bath soap can erode water seals over a long enough timeframe.


When you’re doing construction work or other hard manual labor, you may need to temporarily remove a smart ring to avoid scratching or denting it. In fact if you’re into weightlifting, you should automatically choose a wrist-, arm-, or chest-based tracker instead — the knurling on barbells and dumbbells can scratch up all but the toughest rings, smart or otherwise. In my experience, it also takes a little time to adjust your grip and maintain strength. Some of you may not find it comfortable at all, particularly if you’re wearing a wedding ring too.

Related

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3 You need a sizing kit

Save yourself from returns

An Oura Ring sizing kit.

Amazon

If a company offers a plastic sizing kit specific to its products, order one, even if it ends up costing you a small fee. Like any ring, smart ones need to be tight enough to hold still while leaving enough room for comfort and daily changes in finger size. You don’t want to spend several hundred dollars — and days waiting — just to get a ring you need to send back. Because of their internal components, it’s also possible that a smart ring won’t match the dimensions of any regular rings you wear.


If a company offers a plastic sizing kit specific to its products, order one, even if it ends up costing you a small fee.

Once you get a sizing kit, try any given sample ring for at least 24 hours, no matter how comfortable it might seem at first. This should account for regular swelling and shrinking, and give you a taste of what it’s like to wear a smart ring around the clock.

4 Your ring probably won’t fit forever

The cost of personalization

A person wears a Gen 3 Oura Ring on their index finger.


Regardless of how good your initial measurements are, body dimensions can change within a few years, sometimes even a matter of months. Let’s say you buy a fitness-oriented ring to help you burn fat — if you’re successful, that ring might start to feel loose before the warranty expires. Conversely, if you suddenly become sedentary, it might start to feel awfully tight.

This may not be a huge issue when people tend to upgrade tech every few years anyway, but it’s worth considering. This is another area where wrist-based devices have the upper hand — swappable bands make it possible to size up or down, and some are stretchable enough that size doesn’t matter.

5 Are you willing to pay for a subscription?

Think about how much data you really need

A hand wearing the Oura Ring holds a phone with the Oura app's Cycle Insights on the screen.


As much as some people might love Oura, the company charges a subscription fee if you want to take full advantage of its data tracking and analysis. That means that a $300 ring could ultimately cost you closer to $500 or more, depending on how long you intend to use it. There is some functionality without a plan, but you may as well have bought an entry-level Fitbit at that point.

Thankfully it’s not that hard to find a subscription-free ring, such as the Ultrahuman Ring Air. Just be on the lookout for subscription traps when you’re shopping. A subscription can be worth it — but probably only if you’re seriously invested in fitness or trying to self-diagnose chronic problems, like poor sleeping habits.

6

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7 You will need your smartphone

A question of convenience

Apple Health heart rate data on an iPhone.

Circular


While the compact form factor of smart rings is part of their appeal, that comes with sacrifices. It’s impossible to control settings or check recorded data on-device, so you may end up pulling out your phone more often. That’s especially true if your interest is fitness. Automatic workout detection is sometimes available, yet it can easily be inaccurate, so don’t be surprised if you frequently end up triggering or editing workout sessions manually.

While the compact form factor of smart rings is part of their appeal, that comes with sacrifices.

One of the great things about screen-equipped wearables is that they can reduce your dependence on phones, whether by showing you the time, health data, and notifications, or offering some basic apps on your wrist, like messaging and music playback. All that goes out the window with a smart ring, so it might be worth saving up for something like a smartwatch.


FAQ

Q: How accurate are smart rings?

In theory their heart rate (HR) and blood oxygen (SpO2) tracking can be even more accurate than smartwatches, given the blood vessels present in your fingers. In practice, though, accuracy may vary dramatically from manufacturer to manufacturer, and from situation to situation, depending on the sensors and algorithms used. Check professional reviews. It’s probably best to stick to wrist-, arm-, or chest-based trackers if you’re a hardcore runner or weightlifter who wants up-to-the-second accuracy.

Similar things can be said about sleep tracking, but with the note that no consumer sleep tracker is truly accurate beyond being able to tell when you fell asleep and when you woke up.

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