The OURA ring is a great contender for ‘best consumer-athlete sleep tracker‘.
WHAT IT IS
It claims to be a high-precision sleep tracker with accompanying analytics and an app that advises you on readiness.
As a ‘ring’ it is highly portable, yet your use of it may be limited by your appreciation of its aesthetics.
WHAT IT ISN’T
Whilst it IS an activity tracker it is not a high precision *sports* tracker. If you are an athlete of some sorts, OURA will be perfectly fine for sleep analytics and steps/general activity but, when you are training intensely, an additional device is needed ie your usual sports watch.
Whilst it takes HRV-accuracy HR readings at night it does NOT do the same throughout the day.
IS IT WORTH READING ON?
If you are interested in accurate nightly HR readings and sleep analyses then “Yes” the product is certainly worth considering and maybe you want to learn some more from this review.
If you want a ring-based solution to your sporting endeavours then, as far as I know, no other such product exists. At least none with any degree of accuracy.
Let’s have a closer look.
UNBOXING AND CONTENTS
It’s a pretty-enough box. You get the ring and a USB-based charging cradle. When it’s charging the cradle lights up.
FORM and SIZING
There is no escaping the fact that rings are predominantly seen as jewellery. To wear the OURA all day you simply have to like its looks.
Put that thought on hold for a minute. Perhaps you might instead be interested in a conveniently worn sleep tracker and you are not so interested in activity tracking. Maybe the OURA’s subjective beauty is irrelevant to you that context and all you want is something easy to use at night? ie a ring!
I personally don’t wear jewellery, like rings, but it is a nice enough design. I would describe the finish on the model I have as a metallic-haematite-grey colour. Quite nice.
It does seem to have some fashion-credibility. A female friend wore it to a gym class and generated quite a bit of positive interest.
However I am not so sure that male friends can carry it off so well. Here’s a shot from Ben Greenfield’s site. Maybe they carry it off, you decide!
It’s a fairly big device. But NOT crazily big. Here are some images comparing to the chest strap pods we all ‘love/loathe’ and also comparing to a man’s plain band/ring of the same finger size.
On either a 5’9″/174cm male or female I would say it just about works for 247 looks. Maybe a smaller woman could make more of the fashion side of the device, maybe a larger guy would make the ring look smaller? Apologies for the comments on size and gender, I try to avoid such comments but it seemed appropriate here for once. I’m sure some 5’0″ guys with awesome fashion-sense could make it work aesthetically too. I’ll stop now before I dig a hole any deeper for my gender-neutral self 🙂
The precise sizes are not given by Oura. Probably because each ring would be a different size.
Here are the headline specs as I see them:
- Battery – 3 days per charge and empty-to-full charge in an hour;
- Ring Sizes – 6-13, in full sizes;
- Weight – 15g/0.5oz;
- Waterproof – 5ATM, 50m ie swim/showerproof and can be worn in a sauna;
- Bluetooth SMART Class 2, low-powered and ONLY ON about 1% of the total worn time and it has an airplane mode (Bluetooth OFF);
- Made from zirconium dioxide ceramic which is claimed to be highly scratch resistant.; and
- Allergies: Nickel-free and medical grade materials used. Inner moulding claims to be 100% non-allergenic
GETTING THE RIGHT SIZE
OURA use standard ring sizes. But you will probably want to try one on first so OURA have a ring sizing kit that can be sent out before you purchase. These are replica OURA sizing-rings and you can wear them 247 for a day, or more, to ensure you get the right size and are comfortable with the shape.
- Arctic White – $299
- Mirror Black – £299
- Stealth Black – $499
Stealth Black is a MATT colourway. The one I have is the MIRROR BLACK.
The app is free
Full device compatibility is shown (here). Essentially it is iOS9 and Android 5 and later but it does work on other devices than those as being certified to be compatible.
More on the app later…
I’ve been using it for well over a month. It’s been great.
It’s a highly practical way to wear a device. Running, cycling, swimming, sleeping and classes are all fine. There were only two occasions where I regularly took the ring off:
- To charge it!; and
- When using hand-held weights and/or hand-held gym equipment.
Getting the OURA Ring to synchronise with the smartphone app was OK but did seem to work better when the ring was very close to the smartphone.
There was a firmware update via the app and the update process worked fine.
USABILITY SUMMARY: Excellent. Highly usable.
It is difficult to compare the data of sleep trackers.
- “Senses the arteries in your finger, just like the hospital pulse oximeter;
- “Captures 250 samples per second for a constant flow of reliable data;
- “Detects blood volume pulse, body temperature and activity level with advanced sensors; and
- “Determines sleep stages with precision comparable to clinical sleep labs.”
APP Functionality, Insights and Accuracy
Normally I devote less time to the app side of things as that tends to change regularly as the app is updated and also because the app can vary across platform and also because I like to spend more time with the sports/fitness gadget in question. Clearly I’m running out of things to say about a ring. So app-time here we go!
APP -‘FEED’ VIEW
The main view of the app is the ‘daily feed’. This gives you some key highlights from each of the main 3 sections; sleep, activity and readiness.
For the intended target market of ‘the general consumer interested in sleep tracking’ then this is an appropriate and sensible format. The existing wordy interface probably would encourage you to interact with the device on a more regular basis than a few tables of numbers.
As follows, I would make the same, criticism of OURA as I do of EMFIT: I’m just too busy. I only want to look at the app when it has something exceptional to tell me. So I’m looking for some kind of exception-based alerting system.
Such alerts COULD change my training behaviour that day. But I don’t want to waste 3 minutes each day looking at stats that confirm I had a good night’s sleep.
From the main FEED view you can click/tap through to more detail on the Sleep, Activity or Readiness tabs. Perhaps one of those sentences in the feed did arouse your interest to delve further. The Oura interface is very simple to use and if you do indeed want to delve deeper then the information you want really is a simple tap and a swipe away.
The main SLEEP view starts with a trend of how much time you spend in each type of sleep; REM-, light- and deep-sleep. There are also days shown above where I either forgot to wear the device or the battery was too low.
The image on the right then shows how you can swipe down for quite a bit more detail about a selected night’s sleep. Here we get:
- Measures of sleep class and duration;
- Measures of sleep efficiency (awake vs. asleep & time-to-go-to-sleep);
- Nightly progress and trend of resting HR; and a
- Breakdown of the night into sleep phases.
This is all interesting stuff, for a while. As an athlete you might know that HRrest is a (flawed) measure of your recovery and perhaps too a measure of your absolute fitness (HRmin). You might also know that:
- Deep sleep – is the time to repair your body;
- REM/Dream sleep – is for learning and memory ie cognitive performance improvements; and
- Light sleep – perhaps is for memory consolidation and preparation for other stages of sleep.
So all these classes are important. But, really, I’m not that interested. I just want to know if I slept properly and if I need to do something about it – and, ideally, WHAT I should do about it. So I actually prefer the approach of EMFIT in this one particular instance, shown below. Here EMFIT gives you a green box target for each sleep class and its pretty easy to see if you hit the target. In this example I got too much LIGHT SLEEP.
However putting sleep classes to one side I would say the breakdown of sleep information by the OURA app is generally very good. EMFIT gets WAY TOO DETAILED, WAY TOO QUICKLY – personally I love that, but I expect most people won’t. So OURA is pretty close to what I imagine it’s target audience are looking for ie some clever details, but not too many.
The previous images for SLEEP CLASSES have been specifically chosen. They are from the same night and yet OURA and EMFIT differ very noticeably. I don’t really know which one is right. Here is the SLEEP CLASS comparison information again:
- REM: EMFIT 21%, OURA 54%
- Light: EMFIT 63%, OURA 34%
- Deep: EMFIT 16%, OURA 8%
I could spend a considerable period of time analysing the differences but there is no point as they clearly account for sleep classes in a different way.
Whilst the determination of the start and end of a sleep class is not based on HR, I found the disparity in sleep classes quite surprising as, for example, some other data like the Heart Rate track for each system seemed VISUALLY SIMILAR.
I should also point out that OURA say that they try to emulate PSG (polysomnography) readings and claim that they have got closer to that standard than any other product. Apparently most researchers in ‘sleep tracking’ world take PSG as the gold standard.
This SLEEP CLASS comparison by SleepLAB of OURA to PSG could be seen as a reasonable match.
Each morning the OURA ring gives you a ‘readiness’ score out of 100 with 100 being the best.
I could nitpick here and say that a simple traffic light (Red-Amber-Green) would be better but dealing with a percentage is easy enough for most people.
HRV-based, training-readiness apps that use chest straps, like BioforceHRV and Elite HRV, also provide a readiness score. Having used such products for many years I can say that a simple, daily indicator is a very useful piece of advice. Whether or not such an indicator is accurate is another matter entirely.
OURA is also great as it allows you to view some of the components of your readiness score including:
- Sleep Balance
- Previous Day Activity
- Activity Balance
- Body Temperature
- Resting Heart Rate
- Recovery Index
But really, as I said before, I really only want to know if: I am ready to train; or not ready to train; or ‘maybe’ ready to train.
Just like the assessment of sleep quality, it is impossible for me to say if OURA is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when it comes to the accuracy of its readiness readings.
My feeling is that OURA broadly matches how I feel and broadly matches Bioforce HRV in its general guidance.
But then if a readiness product matches your ‘feeling’ is that actually useful? Surely you could trust your feeling?!?
For my athletic endeavours I NEVER trusted a single product to tell me if I was ready for strenuous exercise on any one particular day. Instead, for example, I would look at BioforceHRV alongside a statistical measure of my Training Stress Balance and against what my Garmin told me as I warmed up for an exercise. I would then make my own call based on this information.
OURA could quite easily replace a product like BioforceHRV/EliteHRV/ithlete on that basis. Also because Bioforce & co are based on a 1-3 minute snapshots then that could lead to errors whereas OURA is working away all night!
However some of the real usefulness of READINESS guidance comes when you are approaching an OVERTRAINED state. This is where your training can go quite wrong, quite quickly. And at such a point your feeling MIGHT not tie in with the reality of impending physiological doom. Or, put another way, a readiness product should specifically be able to detect when you are approaching an overtrained state. I didn’t get to that point with my use of OURA so I can’t really comment.
The activity view is nice and clear. It gives a pretty simple and, to me, good insight into differing levels of intensity and durations – trended hourly and daily.
People are starting to realise that it is not just ‘steps’ or ‘activity’ that are important but it is the INTENSITY of the ‘step’ or activity that is probably more important. So OURA’s inclusion of their take on ‘intensity’ is very sensible.
A cursory comparison of steps against a Polar tracker showed some notable differences. I tend not to worry about these things too much. If you stick with one device and don’t obsess over the 10,000 daily steps mantra you will get a good view of your non-sporting activity levels and whether or not you are improving.
So OURA is probably not the best activity tracker but it’s good enough for tracking your general level of non-sports activity.
You won’t be able to use OURA to meaningfully track SPORTING levels of activity. But that’s the great thing with a ring….it very nicely complements a typically ugly-but-useful sports watch.
BENEFITS FOR THE ATHLETE
For me the nature of the OURA product make it a great fit with an athlete’s lifestyle. You can easily take it with you wherever you go and you can easily wear it overnight and, optionally, throughout the day even when training alongside another device (sports watch).
Of specific interest to me were:
- Deep Sleep Statistics – possibly ensuring adaptation to exercise is happening
- Night time temperature – a check against a good/high HRV being caused by illness
- General sleep quality
- General low level activity tracking
ACCURACY – THE SCIENCE
In “The Sleep of the Ring: Comparison of the ŌURA Sleep Tracker Against Polysomnography” de Zambotti et al (March, 2017) conclude “…From EBE analysis, ŌURA ring had a 96% sensitivity to detect sleep, and agreement of 65%, 51%, and 61%, in detecting “light sleep” (N1), “deep sleep” (N2 + N3), and REM sleep, respectively. Specificity in detecting wake was 48%. Similarly to PSG-N3 (p < .001), “deep sleep” detected with the ŌURA ring was negatively correlated with advancing age (p = .001). ŌURA ring correctly categorized 90.9%, 81.3%, and 92.9% into PSG-defined TST ranges of < 6 hr, 6–7 hr, > 7 hr, respectively. Conclusions: Multisensor sleep trackers, such as the ŌURA ring have the potential for detecting outcomes beyond binary sleep–wake using sources of information in addition to motion….”
Apparently that study is peer-reviewed.
With my non-science eyes that (excerpted) conclusion & diagram looks ‘good’.
Any scientists reading might also consider this research from 2000 (ie PRE-OURA): Norman et. al https://www.researchgate.net/publication/12243393_Interobserver_Agreement_Among_Sleep_Scorers_From_Different_Centers_in_a_Large_Dataset which expects variation in the interpretation of results.
I would consider the products shown below to be ‘proper’ alternatives. An average Jawbone, Fitbit or Garmin band is not quite in the same league as OURA for sleep tracking.
QS EMFIT (review) – Extensive and detailed nightly sleep stats and trends from an under-the-mattress sensor.
WHOOP (review) – Wrist bracelet for nightly sleep stats, daily exercise stats coupled with readiness & recovery
GENERAL THOUGHTS & INTERESTING BITS ABOUT OURA
- If you want to improve your sleep then give some thought to what lifestyle choices are AFFECTING your sleep. So if you have coffee late at night, or alcohol, or engage in sexual activity, or play computer games then you are not really determining which of these is LIMITING your current sleep effectiveness.
- OURA does not have sports-specific metrics and does not auto-detect and label specific activity types. It looks at activity ‘in the round’.
- OURA tracks activity whilst swimming but does NOT track HR whilst swimming
- OURA does not show ‘live’ HR data but does record HRV levels of HR accuracy overnight.
- During the day OURA only measures ‘activity’ through movement, not HR
- Daily activity targets are set each day based, for example, on previous night’s sleep quality
- There is only limited data export eg to www.wearecurio.us
- As of 28April2017 – new HRV features have been announced for May 2017.
I like both the concept and the execution of the OURA ring. A ring-based HRV/sleep readiness tracker ‘makes sense’.
The aesthetics of the ring are not for me but seem to be liked by many people I showed it to.
The ring fits, charges, connects and works well.
The app could be extended in many ways but it delivers key information in a succinct and easy-to-use manner.
If anyone could make a similarly wearable device that also captured accurate heart rate data during exercise they would probably be rich soon after!
The stats all seem plausible, although perhaps less so with the activity tracking during the day. I’m not convinced that OURA is either more or less accurate than QS EMFIT for sleep and readiness tracking.
I’m not quite sure what I would change about it even if I were given a magic wand. Changing the looks to suit me may well not suit you. Making it smaller may well reduce battery life. Perhaps a battery low alert could be added to the ring. But that’s a pretty trivial request for improvement.
I would really like 2 or 3 genuinely independent sources of verification about OURA’s accuracy. Then again, I think I would like that SAME LEVEL OF RESEARCH FOR ALL SLEEP TRACKERS that claim a high level of accuracy. As I said above, it seems to offer plausible data for sleep & recovery analysis.
PRICING & AVAILABILITY
- Arctic White – $299
- Mirror Black – £299
- Stealth Black – $499
Stealth Black is a MATT colourway. The one in this review is the MIRROR BLACK.
Manufacturer Site: (link)
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