What is a smart ring and what can it do for you?

Oura Ring Generation 3 in a person's fingers
(Image credit: Future)

When you want more insight on your health and wellness, but don't care to wear a smartwatch or fitness tracker daily, a smart ring might be right for you. This growing product category currently offers one of the most low-profile ways to keep tabs on things like your sleep, exercise, and recovery.

Discretion is a big selling point of a smart rings. Although most smart rings house a number of small health sensors, they're meant to look like little more than a piece of jewelry. Compared to some of the best smartwatches and best fitness trackers, the battery life of a smart ring can last much longer, too. 

Between an unobtrusive design and multi-day battery life, you can wear their smart rings practically 24/7. That opens the door to in-depth wellness data that can, in some cases, help people understand their health to reach certain fitness goals.

Even if that goal is simply to improve your sleep quality (who doesn't want to sleep better?), a smart ring could be a smart investment. That said, not all smart rings are built the same. In fact, there are only a few options currently on the market that we think are worth spending money on.

Our favorite by a large margin is the Oura Ring, but there are some exciting alternatives coming soon that could make all smart rings more mainstream. Here's what you need to know.

What can a smart ring do for you?

Oura Ring between a person's fingers

(Image credit: Future)

Wondering what a smart ring can do for you? First, it's important to consider what you're looking for out of a potential smart ring purchase.

If you're looking to improve the quality of your sleep, a smart ring can monitor your SpO2 and heart rate readings overnight to determine whether you're getting restful zzz's. With this information, you can pay attention to lifestyle factors that could be impacting your sleep. A device like the Oura Ring can even recommend what time to go to bed based on your daily activity and sleep history.

If you're looking to count steps and monitor your activity, a smart ring can track your movement and calories burned in a similar way to a smart watch or classic fitness-tracking band. Although you can't see your current activity on the ring, you can view your metrics afterwards in the ring's companion app. This is a good option for those who want to keep tabs on their fitness but don't feel it necessary to follow along with live metrics. 

Depending on the parent company's software integrations, a smart ring can inform other areas of your health such as fertility. Again a smart ring is a way to get the kind of health information you'd normally get from a smartwatch, but in what some people would consider a more approachable package.

What is the Oura Ring?

The Oura Ring (more specifically, the Oura Ring Gen 3) is currently the most popular smart ring available. With sophisticated sleep-tracking metrics and recovery guidance, Oura takes a truly holistic approach to helping you understand your health.

Whether you want to tackle sleep apnea, monitor stress or track menstrual cycles, Oura Ring can give you the information you need. Wearing an Oura Ring even helped one of our editors learn that she's pregnant

Oura Ring: from $299 @ Amazon

Oura Ring: from $299 @ Amazon
The Oura Ring Gen 3 starts at $299 for the Heritage style and  $349 for the Horizon style. You can now shop both styles in all sizes and colors at Amazon.

Oura's advantages lie in the brand's major partnerships and integrations. Think: Equinox, Therabody, Strava, Natural Cycles and Peloton. Last year, Oura Ring became available at Best Buy and more recently, the smart ring popped up on Amazon as well. Apple Watch complications for Oura Ring mean you can wear an Oura Ring in conjunction with a smartwatch if you'd like, too.

What about the Samsung Galaxy Ring and others?

There are a few Oura Ring alternatives, though of them, the Ultrahuman Ring Air is the clear winner. This smart ring accurately tracks your sleep, recovery, movement, heart rate, skin temperature and even more metrics — and all while being smaller and lighter than competitors.

If you're not looking to break the bank, the Amovan Smart Ring is one of the better budget alternatives, except it has mixed reviews when it comes to data accuracy. 

But number of smart ring options available is changing quickly. Amazfit is coming out the athlete-focused Helio Ring, while all eyes are on the Samsung Galaxy Ring launching this summer. We got an up-close look at it earlier this year, plus have some ideas on how the Galaxy Ring vs. Oura Ring should stack up.

That's not all — Apple is also rumored to be working on a smart ring. We don't know much about this so-called Apple Ring, but it would certainly be an exciting launch.

What to know before buying a smart ring

The key thing to know when buying a smart ring is that you'll need to purchase the right size. Just like you want a pair of running shoes in your exact size for them to perform properly, finding the best smart ring fit for you is extremely important.

Most smart ring brands offer a sizing a kit to help you find the ideal fit; however, just because you know your ring size for one brand doesn't mean it's the same for another one. You'll want to use the sizing kit made for the specific brand of ring you're buying. 

As is the case for most kinds of gadgets you buy these days, you'll also want to research whether the smart ring requires a subscription. For example, Oura changes $5.99 per month in order to access all the fitness metrics available through its smart ring. We don't know yet whether Samsung will adopt a similar system for the Galaxy Ring, but it would be a big deal if it avoided additional fees. 

Either way, based on the growing competition among smart rings, we should see quite a few more advancements in the space soon. 

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Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.