One small, sleek, and powerful device instantly revolutionized the wearable market. Apple Watch and Fitbit are no competition to advanced technology now on the market.Skip the thousand-dollar lab panels, invasive sleep studies, and uncomfortable fitness tracking. A device called the Oura Ring might provide everything you're looking for (and more). Click To Tweet
But in 2020, with everything on the market, is the Oura Ring still worth it for YOU?
Maybe. It all comes down to what you are looking for in a device. Overall the ring is good but not great. It’s one of the best all-purpose wearables. It does certain things well but it isn’t right for everyone.
What is the Oura Ring?
The Oura disguises biometrics sensors in a stylish ring. Which is a trouble-edged sword:
I'd rather wear an inconspicuous ring than a huge watch or tracker. Then again, it's still a ring and can get in the way — especially during sports.
You’ll find Oura represented in any gathering of biohackers.
Early adopters made suggestions to the original model, and the company listened. Version 2 dropped in 2018 and led the market by a landslide.
No advanced wearable has matched Oura’s success. It’s the de facto benchmark for newer devices like the Biostrap and Whoop. They give the Oura a run for its money, but years later it’s still a top pick.
What Oura Tracks
You go Oura for sleep data.
Their algorithm weight multiple biometrics into a single composite score. Metrics include: sleep latency, total sleep time, time in bed, sleep efficiency, resting heart rate, “restfulness”, light sleep, deep sleep, REM sleep, timing (consistent bedtime).
I’ve discovered quite a few correlations between my sleep and lifestyle:
- Drinking alcohol within an hour of sleep fragments the little sleep I get.
- My typical eight hours in bed usually translates to only about seven of real quality sleep. The rest is little micro-wakeups throughout the night. This really surprised me initially, but it seems accurate now that I’m aware.
- I nearly double my deep sleep when I exercise.
- Eating too close to bed prevents my resting heart rate from falling to optimal levels, impairing recovery.
- Heavy technology use late at night reduces deep sleep and total sleep (using the best blue light blocking software helps).
- Low-glycemic (“slow”) carbohydrates at dinner improve my overall sleep.
More of a bonus than a core offering, the ring tracks movement.
Movement and not exercise.
The activity tab measures your: total step count, calories burned, how many long sedentary periods you had, your recovery, total inactivity time, how often you meet your activity goals, “walking equivalent” distance, training frequency, training volume, and movement intensity.
I’m not 100 percent satisfied with the activity tracking:
- “Walking equivalent distance” shows your calories burned as a walking distance. I’d rather know how far I actually walked.
- Some metrics like “Stay Active” aren’t consistent. For example, today I logged 9:33 minutes of inactivity and the bar turned red. However, the other day 9:44 minutes of inactivity is somehow within the optimal range still (see the below photo).
- The “Recovery Time” metric punishes some forms of exercise more than others.
Whoop, Bio Strap, and my Garmin device all crush the Oura Ring for training purposes.
But the average athlete might not care.
Recovery & Stress Management (Readiness)
Recovery quantification quickly became my favorite part of the ring.
I don’t fully trust the sleep or activity tracking.
Recovery data is next-level. The Oura tracks: resting heart rate (RHR), heart rate variability (HRV), body temperature, respiratory rate, HRV balance, recovery index, previous night’s sleep, sleep balance, and the previous day’s activity.
Recovery, sleep and lifestyle are closely related:
- Quality sleep improves virtually all measures of recovery.
- Grueling training brings down my HRV. Extreme cold/hot exposure, meditation, breathwork, clean food, and healthy lifestyle practices improve it.
- Body temperature fluctuates about half a degree every night. But when I travel by plane it increases a full degree that night (easily observed in “trends”).
- I recover best when my resting heart rate drops early in the night. I do this by finishing workouts three or more hours before bed, reducing evening screen usage, and taking a cold shower 15-30 minutes before sleep.
- Processed carbohydrates or eating too close to bed jacks up my respiratory rate and resting heart rate by three to five beats per minute.
- Mouth taping improves my sleep quality and recovery scores. I nose breathe during the day, but I guess that I revert to mouth breathing while unsconscious.
Pros of the Oura Ring
Oura does a lot right.
Hardware evolves notoriously slowly. The company recently raised another series of funding. So I expect improvements to continue, or even pick up in pace.
From the ring design to software to analytics, I like the improvements I’ve seen over the last few years.
The first micro-wearable I saw.
I’ve owned Garmin’s, Apple Watches, Fitbits, and even a Microsoft device. Most are an eyesore, uncomfortable, laughably inaccurate, or all of the above. The Garmin Fenix 5 currently sitting on my left wrist really feels like a mini computer. So I was happy to find something smaller.
Every model Oura gets smaller and lighter. People stare in disbelief when I flaunt my innocent ring’s biometric sensors.
Oura introduced the “Moment” feature in May 2019. After enough users requested on-demand heart rate variability (HRV) measurement, the company released a ring firmware and app update to accommodate.
What is HRV?
Your stress/relaxation level turned into a score. HRV measures your nervous system balance more accurate than any other available biometric. Since stress affects every part of you, I make sure to track HRV every single day.
The ring has always displayed overnight HRV values. What’s useful, however, is to see the effects of everyday life on HRV. Until the “Moment” update, that wasn’t possible.
The update does what it claims. You choose a session type, duration, any background music, and the app measures HRV in the background.
I can’t believe I’m actually writing this.
The idea of a wearable needing a subscription seems ludicrous.
I never considered owning the Whoop wearable simply because it requires a subscription. That’s right, not only do modern wearables burn a hole in your pocket, but some require a monthly subscription for basic use.
I can’t see any reason that a wearable should require a subscription, unless it gave you some advanced insight. Even then it doesn’t seem right.
Every week, Oura prepares a progress report for you.
You receive a visual and quantified recap of your week. I can get through the entire thing in about a minute and spot trends.
- Are my workouts hampering my recovery?
- Has something happened to my sleep?
- Am I sticking to a stable sleep and wake-up schedule?
- Why do my stress levels always plummet in the latter half of the week?
Pull out the big guns using a special in-app tab called “Trends”. There you can drill down on any metric and visualize trends on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Perfect for getting quick answers to any hunches you have.
Wearables are clunky.
Wrist straps take time and some fumbling to get on and off. Not the Oura, I can quickly slip it onto another finger in the blink of an eye and without much effort.
A minor but convenient detail.
Frequent Software Updates
Hats off to their engineers.
The ring itself and its app receive plenty of software updates. Sometimes companies push updates to patch serious bugs. I rarely encounter bugs, but their updates introduce exciting new features.
Battery technology has grown by leaps and bounds.
My iPhone’s charge still barely makes it through the evening though.
Wearable device suffer similar charge problems. I get between four to six days of daily use out of the Oura Ring, depending on how much I use the on-demand Moment feature.
This thing lasts.
I initially worried about the material and it breaking. Since I do atypical activities like rock climbing, take it in saunas and ice baths, and motorcycling. I’ve banged it into all kinds of things. My ring has held up incredibly.
While I’ve managed to destroy three wrist-mounted wearables, in the same timeframe, this thing barely has a scratch.
I’ll never buy a device without it.
Especially if I’m placing it directly on my skin. Thanks to the inverse-square law, every inch you place between a wireless device and your skin creates a disproportionately massive drop in EMF radiation. The most important basic step for EMR protection is to remove wireless devices, especially those touching the body.
Since wearables sit on the body all day long, I am especially careful. Taking precaution cannot hurt.
Cons of the Oura Ring
The Oura has it’s pitfalls.
Most of my criticism is nit-picky.
It’s a mediocre workout tracker.
Each section has it’s own composite score that comes from a unique weight of the page’s biometrics. On days with a lower score, I’d like to know which factors need improvement. It’s not clear which detract and how much.
Inaccurate (But Good For a Wearable)
I have to get this out there: wearables aren’t accurate.
For a while, I took their readings as gospel. I’ve seen reports of users doing sleep studies in a lab while simultaneously wearing the Oura. Their sleep results weren’t even close.
Most devices are embarrassingly inaccurate. Some make a random number generator look good. At least one study showed Oura having a 51-65 percent accuracy detecting sleep stages. From the vitals of your finger, the ring captures detailed biochemical changes — not an easy feat.
Users report that stationary activities like reading or watching TV in bed can trick the ring into thinking you’re sleeping. Compared to actual sleep, this time isn’t restorative and harms your sleep score.
It’s not all bad. Activity tracking and recovery metrics seem more accurate, and hold up against my other devices.
Oura introduced a feature allowing you to tag days with specific notes.
Like “consumed coffee in the evening”, “travel”, “hot bedroom”, “stress”, or any things you’d want to track. Sounds like it could be useful, but it’s not really.
I don’t know what I expected, but I haven’t heard of anyone using it.
On-Demand Measurements (Especially HRV)
On-demand biometric measurement is a must-have.
And they’ve slightly improved the feature since the Oura’s release with the Moment feature. A recent update also added skin temperature changes to the results.
But you can’t see the values in real-time! So I’m stuck using my Garmin to track real-time HRV changes.
Moments only capture heart rate, HRV, and skin temperature. If the device moves even the slightest amount during a 20-minute recording session, you get zero HRV data.
HRV training sessions don’t impact any overall scores either. You’d think that restorative breathwork would improve recovery.
No fault of their own, but rings need sizing.
I don’t know what happened, but my ring doesn’t quite fit like I thought it would. As a result, I primarily wear the ring on my thumb. It’s a different look than I expected, but I’m okay with it.
Sizing isn’t exactly seamless and makes the whole process from order to use longer.
Sometimes I get bad data.
My sleep needs work. Occasionally I awaken to a sleep score in the 60s (out of 100). Thinking I slept well, I’m shocked. Then it dawns on me that the ring probably missed part of my sleep. Upon further review, I see large blank gaps throughout the night.
Now this data becomes more than useless. I’m left with the nocebo effect, dragging down my energy, mood, and self-inducing fatigue. There’s no way to delete days, so it complicates spotting trends later.
There’s a fine line between power and ease of use.
I disagree with Oura on some of their scoring algorithms.
Like the threshold of when certain values go from optimal to in the red. Especially when it comes to training and recovery.
I have a pretty good idea of my tolerance and response to training. Sometimes I’ll go on a light recovery hike on a day off. Even though. I’ve noticed that even a light bike ride around New York City can elevate my heart rate some and absolutely destroy my recovery and activity scores. Even though I feel great and ready to train the next day, Oura says no.
Not an issue if you only use the Oura, but it doesn’t play nice with other wearables.
I track my workouts and activity on my Garmin. I keep both devices in airplane mode whenever possible. I have to remember every night to manually sync the Garmin to my phone, and then open Oura to sync my workout.
This is one glaring flaw in it’s design:
The Oura ring can only import workouts the same day they occur. So, if at midnight, you sync a workout from earlier that day, Oura won’t count it, rendering both your activity and recovery metric inaccurate.
No wearable review is complete without a mention of price.
An understandable sticking point.
For $300 plus, I expect a high-quality designer appliance. Oura frequently runs promos, and I got mine for over $100 off.
Is it expensive? Yes. No doubt. I view it as an investment into my health and their R&D.
Cool technology and all, I probably wouldn’t buy it at full price.
Is the Oura Ring Worth It in 2020?
I’ve used my Oura for two plus years and don’t plan on stopping.
I like it for basic activity tracking, and stress measurement. My sleep scores are iffy.
I lost mine kiteboarding in mid-2019 and their team gave me a sweet deal on a replacement (thank you!). The fact that I chose Oura again over the competition, shows my vote. Yes, the Oura Ring is still worth it in 2020 for most people.
Overall the device is no magic bullet, but it gives me insight and accountability for each of my daily choices.
Oura Ring: Still The King of Wearables (But Not Perfect)
I’m a biohacking minimalist (the irony isn’t lost on me). I can’t stand clutter.
Even more so when it comes to wearable gear. Choose carefully. Half the value is the vast historical data records amassed over time. Each time you switch devices, you restart the collection process. Over the course of multiple years, Oura has proven reliable.
Go elsewhere for a standalone fitness tracker.
Accuracy is above most other devices. Still, spotting correlations between your lifestyle and biometrics takes data and practice to master.The Oura Ring is my preferred device to track sleep and recovery (and movement as a bonus). Click To Tweet
I think of the Oura as a window into your body. Sometimes haze obscures the inside picture, but watch it long enough and you’ll decode your inner workings.