Apple smart ring — three features I'd like to see, and one I wouldn't

Samsung Galaxy Ring
(Image credit: Samsung)

It seems as though smart rings are all the rage when it comes to wearable technology, and Samsung has certainly shown a potentially strong hand with the announcement of the Galaxy Ring. I recently wrote about how the device interested me in concept, but I have also been thinking about how Apple could make its own ring to compete with Samsung.

It's not as far out an idea as you may think. Apple has had a patent for a fitness-tracking ring for a while, after all. Apple has the means to release a ring of its own, and also to stand out from the competition, going by several related patents that have built up over the years.

We can start by looking at what the other rings currently do. The Galaxy Ring has only been teased so far, so there is no real information relating to its features and functions. As such, the best example we have of how a ring tracker works is the Oura Ring

The main purpose of the Oura is to monitor metrics like heart rate variability (HRV), blood oxygen levels, body temperature, and sleep quality. The ring compiles this information and provides the wearer with daily readiness scores through its app. So what could Apple add to this and the market in general?

Oura Ring

(Image credit: Future)

Apple is very good at designing wearables that go from being somewhat niche to being a staple part of our daily lives. Just think about how prolific the Apple Watch has become over the years and compare it to how it was viewed when it was first announced. And the patents we've seen so far make me think Apple could do it again with a fitness tracking ring.

Patented potential

Before we go further, the usual quick caveat about patents. A company holding a patent does not mean a device is coming, or even planned. Companies take patents out for a variety of reasons, often just to have it in their back pocket or make sure other companies can't use the design.

Features I'd like to see

Vibration alerts

But one of the patents that Apple (via Google Patents)  has filed covers several interesting features, including a vibration function. When I discussed my hopes for the Galaxy Ring, I mentioned wanting to see a vibration function included in the device. I reasoned that it would be able to make people aware of any potential changes to their health through a harder-to-ignore means, so the possibility of an Apple ring offering this is an exciting one.

Gesture control

Another interesting potential feature is gesture control. There was a patent in April 2023  (via Patently Apple)  for "Skin-to-Skin Contact Detection” which covers multiple ways to detect contact or movement gestures between two body parts. For example, a thumb touching a finger would allow electrodes to sense the movement and then perform the relevant action. There were even indications from the patents that Apple was developing technology that would allow the ring to know what devices it was pointing at. 

Apple TV Plus logo on TV

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Gesture controls that can be connected to every Apple device would be a pretty impressive way to add extra functionality to the ring. It's a possibility that another Apple patent hints at, although in the form of a controller for a VR headset

Apple's current Vision Pro tracks hand movement with cameras, so no need for rings there. But imagine being able to point to your Apple TV and scroll through without the use of a remote, just a simple wave of a hand, or even scroll through your phone without having to touch the screen. Is it unnecessary? Maybe, but it sure is a cool idea that would be worth the price of admission.

Apple FindMy

While I don't have patents to back these up, there are a few other features that I think Apple would be smart to add to a smart ring. For instance, its Find My network which many Apple and third-party devices have used in the last few years. One of the biggest issues with things like rings is that they are very easy to lose, so having one that links in with a huge device-finding network like Find My would be a huge improvement.

Features I wouldn't like to see

Contactless payment

However, there are also features that I wouldn’t want to see, namely the inclusion of Apple Pay. Contactless payment on a ring has already been proved in concept by the McLEAR ring. There might even be the inclusion of other NFC capabilities to help with things like wireless data transfers.

However, the idea of having the equivalent of a debit card on my finger is not a good one. One of the big concerns I have is how easily contactless money transfers could be exploited. Thankfully this isn’t something the Oura Ring does, and there's not yet any evidence that this would be considered by Apple for its ring.

The concept of a ring is undoubtedly something that Apple should look at, and if the patents are anything to go by, already is. The contest with the Galaxy Ring might not be at the forefront of the tech race, but it is one that Apple has a good chance to win. The patents suggest Apple has some great building blocks, it just needs to take the chance.

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Staff Writer

Josh is a staff writer for Tom's Guide and is based in the UK. He has worked for several publications but now works primarily on mobile phones. Outside of phones, he has a passion for video games, novels, and Warhammer.