I’m fanatical about tech gadgets, but even more so for wearables and things that reliably fulfill my needs as a “Quantified Selfer“. Good quality sleep data has always been elusive. Many devices that I’ve tried were so intrusive as to ruin any chance of actually getting good sleep. Others just did a terrible job of reliably collecting the data that I wanted. I backed a Kickstarter for the Hello Sense. This was one of the first devices that really generated useful data. Not only did it track my sleep activity, but the base unit also collected data about my bedroom light levels and air quality. Sadly, the company went bust and the device ultimately became unusable after the cloud servers were shut down.
Multiple Generations of Oura
While looking for a replacement for my sleep tracking fix, another Kickstarter project caught my eye… the Oura ring. I initially held off on backing the project since I’ve been burned by so many crowd funded tech gadgets in the past. Despite this, I kept a close eye on its progress and saw many great reviews on the original ring from people I trusted. When Oura announced a gen 2, I jumped right in to purchase one as soon as I could.
I used the Oura gen 2 for years and immediately purchased a gen 3 when it was released. Many people panned the gen3 initially because it required a subscription in addition to the cost of the ring. Fortunately, as a long time backer, I was given a lifetime subscription. Both the gen2 and gen3 have experienced pretty much everything I can throw at it…. I am a HUGE fan of this thing! There isn’t much that I can complain about and I feel that it is worth every penny.
The Oura Ecosystem
The Oura ring system consists of the ring, a mobile app, and the Oura Cloud.
Oura Cloud is a web based equivalent of the mobile app which allows you to dig a bit deeper into the data. It also includes an API that you can use to write apps for the Oura Cloud or pull the data collected by your ring into other systems. You can also participate in crowdfunded research projects through apps that are written for the Oura Cloud. I’ve participated in a few of these. The most notable was in using the Oura ring as a COVID early detection device. Ultimately, this lead to the ring being used in the NBA and UFC for this purpose.
The ring looks like… a ring… much more so than the first generation. It doesn’t make you the focus of a room like wearing Google Glass did. This is a pretty amazing feat considering all of the sensors that it packs and the fact that you can go days without needing to charge the battery. It’s waterproof and fairly resilient… I’ve definitely pushed mine to some limits that I probably shouldn’t have and it’s survived.
Oura Mobile App
The ring connects to the app on your phone via Bluetooth. You can put it into airplane mode and still have it collect data for quite some time before needing to sync it. The Oura App displays a timeline of your data summarized by day. The Oura app is divided into four sections: Readiness, Sleep, Activity and a Dashboard that surfaces your ‘scores’ from the other three. You can then drill down into each section for more details. There is also an ‘Explore’ section that contains meditations, breathwork and sleep exercises as well as additional learning material.
The sleep tracking of the device is rock solid. I’ve done tons of things to wreak havoc with my sleep in order to test the ring’s ability to detect it. Every morning after destroying my sleep in the name of science, I’d check the app. It would basically tell me, “Dude, go back to bed, you need it”. There really was no fooling its sleep detection. This has continued to improve with the third generation device and they are now beta testing a new sleep algorithm that seems to improve things even more.
I bought the Oura Ring mainly to track sleep time and sleep quality (as measured by the amount of time spent in the different stages of sleep), but the ring is so much more than ‘just’ a sleep tracker. The Sleep section tracks a few additional items above and beyond what I bought the ring for. These include a resting heart rate trend and sleep latency. The latest version of the hardware also includes breathing regularity (blood oxygen sensing). After using the ring for a bit, a ‘body clock’ which displays your personalized sleep chronotype is generated. You can use this to better align your circadian rhythms.
The Oura Ring is also an activity tracker. I’ve been wearing various activity trackers since the first versions were commercially available. I’ve never really been a fan of wearing anything around my wrist since they always seem to get in the way, but I’ve always overlooked that in order to get the activity data. The Oura app has recommendations for how much activity you should be getting (this changes daily based on your ‘Readiness’ which I’ll discuss later). It also tracks your progress toward your daily goal and the intensity of the activity that you do. You can also turn on notifications in the app to remind you to get up and move on a regular basis.
For activity that gets your heart pumping, the ring does a pretty good job of tracking. I’ve noticed that it doesn’t always do the best job of tracking activity that is less vigorous. The app has the ability to manually input this type of activity. Additionally, the Android app has Google Fit/Health Connect integration. Most of the activity I want to track tends to get picked up by the ring, but there are certain activities (i.e. impact martial arts) where I remove the ring and need to manually track the activity. I like the fact that I can get near real time feedback about my activity intensity. This has allowed me to develop a routine that I can do frequently throughout the day that gets me into a high intensity level of activity very quickly (this is a must for any practitioner of High Intensity Interval Training).
The ‘Readiness’ section of the app really pulls together information from the other two sections to give you a general idea of how much you should push yourself on any given day. It takes into account how well you’ve been sleeping and how active you’ve been and combines that with trends regarding your HRV, body temperature and respiratory rate in order to provide a suggestion for ‘pushing your activity to new levels’ or just ‘taking it easy’ on any given day. I’ve found this to be great for me to figure out when are the best times during the day for me to workout and also what supplements seem to help me recover faster. It’s also pretty effective at giving me a heads up when I might be coming down with something and gives me an extra verification point to rest instead of pushing through it.
The ‘Explore’ section of the app contains several guided meditations and breathwork routines that are categorized by goal. You can also configure ‘unguided’ sessions. This is useful if you use other meditation apps like I do. In either case, the Oura ring tracks your HRV, Heart rate and skin temperature during your session. There is also a ‘Learn’ section containing videos and slideshows containing information on how to use the many features and improve your scores.
One of the most valuable features for me is the ability to add ‘tags’ throughout the day regarding things that I do with the aim of improving my scores. You can then filter based on these in order to see the impact of these practices on your scores over time. I would LOVE to see alignment between the Oura tags and similar functionality in Google Fit in the future.
So there you have it… my Oura ring review. It’s an awesome piece of hardware. Besides the fact that Android functionality often lags behind iOS, my only other real complaint is that I wish it came in half sizes… that would make it even less obtrusive than it already is! If anyone is interested in getting an Oura ring, let me know, I have a few discount codes that I can provide.