Last month Oura announced their 3rd iteration of their ring, which packs in more sensors while still looking the same. But more important than those sensors, are the new features and functions those sensors light up, which shift the company’s focus from primarily being a sleep tracker, to now being a more 24×7 life tracker with everything from workout support to period prediction. In effect, they hope to smoothly shift into a much broader market, while hoping to retain the accuracy they’ve historically been known for.
From a basics standpoint, the Oura Ring actually isn’t all that much different than most lightweight activity trackers. It tracks sleep and activities (e.g. a walk or run), and can share that data with Apple Health or Google Fit as well. However, putting it in the same category of devices as a $59 Fitbit Inspire 2 would be a quirky and weird comparison. There are things Oura does far better and deeper, and yet oddly, there are also things that a $59 Fitbit does far better. Thus adding to the complexity of Oura as a product.
Of course, this launch has been anything but smooth. And oddly enough, very little of it has to do with the tech. Rather, it’s their shift to a new subscription model that’s upset existing users, all tied to a product launch that promises features that won’t come for many months. Only a handful of the new software features are enabled today (even less if you’re male). Still, that doesn’t mean the tech is a flop – or that it’s bad. In fact, as you’ll see – there are many aspects of the Oura Ring that I’m incredibly impressed with. And I’ll cover all those elements throughout this post. As such, I’ll apologize upfront for all the caveating for unfinished features throughout this post. So if I’m being repetitive, it’s merely to try and be super clear on what’s here today and what’s still coming.
With that, after a month of 24×7 wear, let’s dive into it.
The new Gen 3 unit changes physically to include new sensors, as well as additional platform changes that are more software-focused features. Together, both require a subscription now for Gen 3 devices. Starting with the hardware side, there’s the following changes:
– Added daytime/semi-real-time heart rate tracking
– Adding workout heart rate tracking (coming December 2021)
– Adding of SpO2 (Blood Oxygen) tracking (coming sometime 2022)
– Significant increase in LEDs: From just infrared LED to green, red & infrared LEDs. Green for workout, red for SpO2, infrared for night tracking
– Changed temperature sensor system for higher accuracy
– Increased internal memory from 0.5MB to 16MB
– Ring size stays the same as Gen 2, but is 67% smaller than Gen 1
– Battery life claims at 7 days
– Water-resistance claim at 100m, including saunas and ice baths
Meanwhile, on the software/platform side, you’ve got:
– Added period prediction (available today in beta)
– Adding some 50 “science-backed videos” on understanding all this data (coming later 2021)
– “Improved” sleep stages algorithm (coming in 2022)
Now as you can see, this is clearly a case of Oura launching a product now with the sensors it needs to add the promised features later. This seems to be the pattern du jour lately, with Fitbit doing the same thing on products both this year and last year. An example here is the SpO2 tracking – whereby those red LEDs are in the ring today, but won’t be enabled till 2022, where they’ll start providing blood oxygen tracking. However, there are no specific timelines, or even guesstimates, from Oura, on any of the 2020 features. Meaning, they won’t say if this is a ‘January 2022’ thing or an ‘October 2022’ thing.
So in short, as of writing this review (late Nov 2021), there are three new features on the Oura V3 currently functional:
– Added period prediction (available today in beta)
– Added daytime/semi-real-time heart rate tracking
– Added Explore app tab with guided audio sessions for sleep/meditation
Everything else feature-wise is still outstanding, and according to Oura that includes hardware aspects like enabling green LEDs (optical HR sensors) at full strength and frequency for proper/accurate daytime and workout tracking.
In the Box:
The first thing to know about the new ring is that the sizing has changed slightly for it, and thus, there’s a new sizing kit. That’s because, unlike a watch or wristband that’s adjustable, the ring needs to be very specifically sized to your finger. The sizing kit is simply a collection of dummy rings without any tech in them. Just plastic molds:
In my case, I went with a size 10. I think in all actuality I’m probably halfway in between this size and the next smallest size, but the next smallest size was simply far too tight. Meanwhile, this size is good, and won’t easily slide off my finger. But I could see perhaps being about 1mm smaller for slightly better fit, accuracy-wise. But ultimately, that’s the trickiness to this specific form factor, sorta like some of the shoe insole-based running technologies that are specific to a certain shoe size.
Once the sizing is done, you pick out the specific color/style/size that you want, and then they send you that ring. Here’s the ring, and the box it came in:
Inside the box there’s a small charging platform. You simply drop it on there, and it charges. It only aligns in one direction.
Here’s a closer look at the charger, which is a small stand that you just place the ring on. It’ll auto-orient itself the correct way when fully inserted onto the stand (kinda like a child’s toy, it only fits one way). The stand has a standard USB-C port on the back of it, so while travelling you can just take the stand and use any USB-C cable you have with you.
And here’s a few closer-up pictures of the Oura ring itself, where you can see the sensor bumps, and LED diodes between them.
In talking to Oura, they recommend that for workouts the ring be worn on our index finger, as opposed to your ring finger. They’ve found better accuracy there. Of course, in my case, that also then means realistically a different size for comfort. I can, with water, get my size-10 ring (which I sized for my ring finger) onto my index finger. But it’s snug AF and uncomfortable. Here’s the two side by side:
It’s worthwhile noting that at the moment, since as of this writing the Oura workout bits aren’t actually in the Oura ring, that it doesn’t much matter which finger I wear it on.
Ok, with that, let’s dive into usage.
So starting with the basics, you’ll slide on the Oura ring just like any other ring you’d wear. As noted earlier though, the company says that for sport tracking specifically, it tends to work best on your index finger. And more generally, if the ring is loose, then accuracy will be impacted (just like any other sport sensor). The sensors are within the ring, and thus need good connectivity to you.
Pairing up the ring to the app is quick and easy, and takes just a few minutes, including any required firmware updates that are needed. It’ll ask you a couple of quick questions about your life situation and goals, and then you’re done.
Once that’s done, there’s very little for you to do, except wear the ring. In many ways, that’s honestly the best part of Oura – I don’t even think about it, it’s the smallest, most lightweight, most out-of-mind device I’ve worn from a daily tracking standpoint. I mean, I suppose technically something like Supersapiens is potentially more out of sight, but practically speaking I’m constantly worried about tearing that sensor out of my arm/skin (for good historical reasons). So the Oura Ring having an extremely high ‘just works’ factor is huge.
Turning to the app, as noted, all your interactions with the ring occur here. First up we’ve got the main dashboard showing your day. You can see here it says I’ve burned 1,347 calories of my (default) 500 calorie goal, which was helped along with a 45-minute run this evening. You’ll see both my activity score and inactive time. Most of my time today was spent at the computer, as seen in that ‘Inactive Time’. Below that is my daily heart rate graph widget. I can tap on that to get more details about the day too (with further expanding chunks shown, at right):
You’ll notice above that it splits apart my different sleep times. Interestingly, on this day I gave up on morning work, and after walking the two older girls to school, and then cycling the youngest girl to daycare, I went back to sleep for 2 more hours. It viewed that entire time as my sleep (so did Whoop 4.0), though it did properly show the portions I was very much awake (about 75 or so minutes). For comparison, the Garmin FR745 properly caught my initial wake-up, but since that doesn’t record naps, didn’t record that last few hours going back to bed.
I bring that up, merely as a good example of one of the few areas where Oura and Whoop have an advantage over Garmin in the sleep department, and likely why some Garmin users still use an Oura device too, for sleep tracking. But more on sleep later.
Now back on that main dashboard you can tap on the little heart icon that’s supposed to show your real-time heart rate. As you can quite obviously see, real-time is all relative. It’s usually delayed about 10-20 minutes. Now, once you tap on it, then it does go and gather your current/instant heart rate, for about 20 seconds or so. And it’ll return that value:
What’s notable though is that when it does this it’s not using its higher power LEDs to gather this, so this won’t work for sport usage. Trust me, I tried (it fails miserably, showing values like 75bpm when you’re doing 170bpm). Oura says this is as planned, since the sport features won’t arrive till December.
Sliding below the real-time heart rate are any activities/workouts you’ve done. But the entire next section covers that, so let’s skip that for a second.
Next is arguably the heart of Oura, the “Readiness Score”. This is looking back at yesterday and then your sleep last night, to form a picture of how ready you are today to ‘take on the day’. It’s Oura’s equivalent of a recovery score, except with a longer data trail taken into account. Meaning that if we look at the Readiness tab, we’ll see our score, but also all the components that make up that score. And in particular, you’ll notice the ‘Activity Balance’ and ‘Sleep Balance’ data lines, which look at your historical data to see if what you’re doing is historically normal. This same concept extends to things like body temperature and HRV too (most other companies do this piece too).
I asked exactly how many days the ‘Activity Balance’ accounts for. Oura refused to say exactly, but implied that Fitbit mostly mirrored it here for their new Daily Readiness. At the announcement of Daily Readiness, Fitbit had stated this being a 3-day average. However, in recent weeks they have amended that language to a 7-day average. Either way, I guess that gives you some rough gauge.
Towards the bottom, you’ll see both your resting heart rate throughout the night, as well as your HRV values throughout the night. I think this is a pretty good example of showing just how much variability there is in HRV values throughout the night (or even, as a spot check). And a reason why the deeper I look at data from many of these devices, I start to question more and more the reliance on using HRV as the predominant factor in determining readiness or recovery. You can tap on either chart to see daily/weekly/monthly trends, inclusive of tags or activities.
After the Readiness tab, we’ve got the Sleep tab. As you might guess, this is where all things sleep hang out. The structure here is the same as the Readiness tab, with a date slider along the top. In fact, I like that if you change the day (as I did here to Saturday), it’ll stay changed as you change the tabs. It’s a tiny detail, but appreciated.
At the top you’ve got your summary stats for the night, followed by the sleep score contributors (showing you a breakout of what’s impact your sleep score).
And then down lower on you get the heart rate data throughout the night as well as HRV data throughout the night. Sampling of this data at nighttime as 250hz (250 times a second), which Oura says helps them get better accuracy than other wearables.
Most of the things on the sleep page can be tapped for further daily/weekly/monthly charts, and also sometimes explanations. For example, here’s the sleep stages weekly chart, as well as an explanation of REM sleep.
Next, we’ve got the ‘Activity’ tab. Again, the same formats as the other tabs, starting first with the summary at the top, which includes a breakout of workout calories versus total calories, as well as steps vs walking equivalency. Below that is the breakout of the day. This is where things get a bit iffy right now, as this page isn’t really giving a true ‘sports training load’ view as it might seem at first glance. Because that would require it to get intensity correct, as I’ll show down below; at this stage that’s not happening yet (that update is still pending). So I’d look at this more like Steps Plus, than a true encapsulation of your workouts.
Which isn’t to say I don’t like it. I do, I actually think that kind of breakout graph is really clever and really well done. But at the moment, those bottom three are pretty wishy-washy.
Below that, you’ve got your daily movement chart, which basically counts any casual walk to the coffee machine as ‘Medium’. Though, it got my run right as ‘High’. In general, I’d say the Oura V3 ring vastly overestimates intensity levels (in both HR and activity). Followed by that are all the ‘workouts’, or in my case, anytime I step on my bike (which, is an e-cargo bike, always incredibly easy pedaling).
Finally, there’s the ‘Explore’ tab. This is where they have a handful of meditation audio tracks, sleep tracks, as well as breathing exercises. Further, there’s a handful of help videos in here.
If you do a session, it’ll track the details during that session, including your lowest heart rate, skin temperature, and HRV data.
Now, for lack of anywhere else to mention it, the battery. I’ve been tracking this pretty closely for the past month, and super consistently I’m getting 5-6 days of battery life between charges, while wearing the ring 100% of the time (since there’s no workout mode yet, there’s no impact on whether I’m doing activities or not). For example (I took screenshots each time), I took it off the charger at 2:44PM on Friday, Nov 12th at 100%, then it drained down to 1% battery by Thursday, Nov 18th at 11:46PM. So about 6+ days. The previous time I charged it was Nov 3rd at 3:32PM, then I put it back on the charger at 13% on Nov 8th at 11:57PM (so 5.5ish days, plus a bit extra).
In terms of charging the battery, you can see below that this one started charging form 1% at 9:16PM, reached 71% by 10:05PM, and finished at 99% (when it alerted me) at 10:43PM:
I’ve also found that if I realize I’m short on battery for my sleep, that I can fast charge it to about 20% in 14 minutes. Here’s that, at 11:49PM at 1%, and then at 12:03AM at 21%:
So, I’m actually pretty happy with the charging and battery life. The official spec is 7 days, but hey, I’ll take 6+ days. Oura says the reason their battery life is so good, despite having an update frequency of 4x a second, is that they say the finger is 2x easier to measure blood flow from, than your wrist. Certainly, 2X can translate to a lot less power draw for sensors, since measuring blood flow using optical HR sensors is mostly a case of increasing brightness in sensors.
Last but certainly not least, is period prediction features. Obviously, I’m not a female, so I can’t test that myself. Maybe I’ll be able to convince my wife to test it for a number of months and see how accurate it is. Right now, it’s just a beta feature, but the way it works is that it first establishes a baseline over the course of two months, specifically looking at temperature data it collects. Technically speaking it’s not so much two months, as it is two cycles, so if you have a longer cycle, then it’ll be longer.
Oura is specifically measuring your body temperature patterns here, which data has shown vary based on which part of the cycle you’re in, allowing companies to use that data (if accurate) and predict where in the cycle someone is. They outline this in more depth on their site.
During this time you don’t actually need to log anything according to Oura, but ideally, if you do log within the app it’ll teach the algorithm faster and more accurately. Oura will then give you a notification/prediction 30 days out from your next period (showing which days your period is), followed by 3 days out. They also state they can predict irregular cycles, and specifically that in their testing they are 95% correlated to the actual dates.
On the app itself, you’ll see a red dot on the calendar, as well as the predicted dates lower down. You’ll also get the notification shown below (this PR screenshot shows 5-7 days, but Oura says it’s now 3 days).
This type of data, again, if accurate, is incredibly useful to women – especially those with irregular cycles. I suspect this won’t be the last we see of this type of feature. Whoop just started rolling this feature out to some users with Whoop 4.0, and I’m sure others will follow too.
[Update – January 2022: Two notables here. First, is that a number of weeks ago my wife bought a unit, and has started to use it 24×7 as well, including the women’s health portions. Obviously, those features take at least a few months to stabilize, but once they do, I’ll be doing either a separate piece or addendum here on how they work in real-life. Secondly though, as of late January 2022, the period tracking is still not yet available on Android, only iOS.]
Oura has already done some pilot study data here, and says they plan to publish a paper with their results. Of course, usual caveats apply when companies publish papers themselves, but in general, there are very few companies in this space that actually publish proper papers supported by data (even if their own data). So that’s a good start.
Sport and Workout Usage:
This section will be shorter for now, but extended later on, once Oura adds in the promised sport features. At this time, the app can detect ‘exercise’ (a term it defines quite broadly, as you’ll see), and allows you to edit it. However, the ability to manually create a workout and have it track isn’t coming till sometime in December. And most importantly, at this time Oura isn’t fully lighting up their green LED optical HR sensors, at either the full workout brightness or frequency. Without those pieces lit up, that the heart rate data simply won’t be accurate (as they’ll readily admit). This is actually no different than what any other wearable in the market does for workout/activity modes.
I’m easily able to demonstrate this by doing a side by side with a HR sensor during a workout. Here’s an Apple Watch Series 7 measuring 171bpm (accurately as confirmed by a chest strap and three other sensors at the same time), compared to Oura V3 measuring 80bpm. In this case, since the Oura Gen 3 doesn’t have a workout mode yet, I’m showing how the daytime real-time reading isn’t correct/accurate. Oura says this is to be expected at this stage.
My point here is simple: I’ll wait to judge them on this once this feature is lit up. Though, I’d note that it typically takes most companies a few years to get accurate heart rate during workouts. But, perhaps Oura’s unique placement position will make that easier (or not).
Still, some pieces of what they do now are pretty cool and totally unique. While other pieces are annoying (but easily fixed). Now as noted today there’s no option to start tracking a workout. Instead, everything is ‘after the fact’, when the ring and app sync, it uses algorithms to try and figure out what you were doing. At which point it surfaces up these periods of exercise as a card on your dashboard, one per exercise:
You’ll see on the cards it lists the start time and duration, as well as guesstimated activity type. You can (in most cases) tap to modify these, though sometimes for reasons that aren’t clear to me, there’s no modification allowed – it’s just a confirmation. But most times there is indeed the option to ‘Edit’.
Once you choose to edit, you can change the activity type, start/end times, and intensity (easy/moderate/hard). There’s nothing else to change. In my experience, it’s exceptionally good at figuring out the activity type as well as the timing. The intensity though? It literally rates everything as ‘moderate’.
And this is where things get kinda annoying. While Oura correctly detects every time I walk the kids a few hundred meters to school, commute around the city on my bike, and other actual workouts: It always requires me to confirm all of them.
Which, if you live in a city like Amsterdam and ride your bike (easy-pedaling) everywhere, means I get a slate of these darn things to clear out every day. While Oura says it’s learning from my editing each night, at this point it’s…well…pointless. The company says down the road they’ll stop asking me these questions, but for now, it is what it is.
This is in contrast with Whoop which does the same detection, but skipping over silly couple-minute walks with 4-5-year-old kids a few hundred meters to school, and skipping easy e-bike pedaling. And when it does detect something, Whoop doesn’t curiously ask whether it got it right. It knows it got it right. As should Oura. It’s never been wrong on sport or timing, albeit its always-moderate option is perplexing.
Now, ignoring my annoyance with it being needy, the one thing that’s absolutely awesome is the GPS route creation behind the scenes. This is SO EFFING COOL, and I’m not aware of any major sports wearable company doing it. Essentially, for every one of those exercises, it’ll actually automatically create a GPS route map of your exercise. And the kicker? It’s actually accurate.
None of these are delayed 3-5 minutes or such from the start points, they’re pretty much exactly where I started for every ride, run, and walk. It’s so cool. Now, I will note that there are a few times where no map is shown (at all). I don’t understand when that happens, why it happens. It seems to be 1-2 times per week (out of perhaps 25-30 ‘exercises’ tracked, meaning walks/rides/runs/etc…).
Yes, this is using your phone’s GPS. But why can’t Apple, Garmin, Fitbit, and others do that? All those companies will detect when you’re doing an activity, and automatically create exercise logs in your apps. But only Apple will (with far less accuracy) backport the GPS starting points, and even when it does, it’s often a number of minutes late.
About now you might be wondering about how much this impacts your phone’s battery, since GPS often drains the battery. The answer, surprisingly: Not much. Here’s the battery stats from my phone. Looking at the last 24hrs it uses a whopping 2%. And the last 10 days? Also 2%. Mind you – the real kicker is that no app in my entire list has had as many hours of background usage as the Oura ring app (showing the 10-day view below).
So whatever background black magic this app does battery-wise is darn impressive.
Now the downside to this, and it’s an annoyingly big one, is that you can’t actually export these workouts to anything. Oura doesn’t write them to Apple Health themselves (or Google Fit). So they’re kinda useless. Nor do they link up or export to Strava.
I’d love for this data to be piped to Strava automatically, set to private as usual, and then just build up my heatmap. Right now my Strava heatmap is really only just my workouts. Whereas this would capture my actual day-to-day walking/cycling/running, which is far more interesting to me, given I spend an inordinate amount of time pedaling around the city doing errands and such daily.
Oura says that Strava linkage is coming down the road, but doesn’t sound like it’ll happen anytime soon. That’s too bad, and I think a pretty big missed opportunity. If looking at the big picture of Oura V3, it’s supposed to be sports. And with 90 million users, there’s no bigger target platform or focus area than Strava. Any sports device that doesn’t connect to Strava is kinda a non-starter for most people. Why should it be different here?
Today, with a Gen3 ring, this is what it writes to Apple Health based on my testing:
1) Respiratory rate is written only once per day (to match how it displays in app).
2) Sleep is written in ‘chunks’ as each chunk of asleep time (just like how other companies and Apple themselves do it).
3) Calories are written every 5 mins typically
4) Mindful Minutes are also written
Within that, the calories are specifically written under the ‘Active Energy’ data set, at those typically 5-minute intervals. But, this doesn’t close any rings (as that requires an Apple Watch in my experience). Note that steps are *NOT* written by Oura to Apple Health.
Now switching topics slightly, inversely, the app *today* imports workouts from Apple Health and Google Fit. This is actually pretty fascinating and allows for better accountability of workouts if using a 3rd party app. For example, I can link my Garmin account to Apple Health in a few quick taps, and it’ll export out those workouts automatically to Apple Health, which Oura then pulls into the app. These will override the Oura automatically detected workouts, providing higher quality data for now (since Oura isn’t turning on their higher power workout sensors at this point yet).
To turn this on, go into the settings and then toggle either Apple Health or Google Fit to allow imports:
Then, go do your workouts as normal. You’ll now see these show up in the dashboard afterward.
At this point, there’s no real tangible impact that I can discern between having imported workouts and inaccurate HR Oura workouts. Which isn’t to say there won’t be down the road, but that’ll depend on once they light up that functionality in December.
Ultimately, at this point with the sports pieces half-finished, it’s hard to figure out how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. For example, in theory, Oura will be looking at your activity levels to determine recovery needs. And while it can do that today using imported workouts, the definitions of all these parts are super fuzzy. Especially when you start talking higher intensity activities, and defining exactly what that is. At this point, Fitbit is far more clear than Oura here.
For the last month I’ve been tracking the times I went to sleep and woke up, alongside how I felt each morning. In the case of Oura, they give you two specific ‘scores’ each morning, the Readiness Score, and the Sleep score. The sleep score, as it implies, grades your specific sleep that night. Whereas the recovery score looks beyond sleep and includes factors like how much activity you did yesterday and how that relates to your norm.
Now when it comes to Oura and my testing, there are four key things I’m looking at:
A) Did it track when I went to sleep correctly?
B) Did it track when I woke up correctly?
C) Did it track any obvious awake periods?
D) How does their readiness score match how my body feels (perceived effort)?
You’ll note I’m not tracking sleep phases. Frankly, there’s little user actionable data there for the majority of people – and even less ability to truly measure/compare it. Even the best scientific sleep-phase devices only average 90% accuracy, and the best consumer-available devices are in the 80’s. And while that might sound high, we’d never accept a device that’s blatantly wrong 10-20% of the time for heart rate data (e.g. 70bpm vs 160bpm), would we? Thus, while I think it’s interesting, I can’t reasonably judge any reviewed device against something that’s just not accurate enough by itself. Make sense?
But what I can do is start with the basics, which is can it figure out when I’m asleep. And most simply put: Yes, the Oura ring is the most accurate device I’ve tested if I look at this data set from the past month across 6 different devices (Apple Watch Series 7, Garmin Forerunner 745, Whoop 4.0, Fitbit Charge 5, and Oura Ring V3). It near-perfectly detected the times I went to sleep and woke up each time. If I were to give any critique, I’d say that it seems a hair bit less accurate in the last 3 or so days since the most recent firmware update. Before it was scary-accurate, and now it’s just really good accurate (specifically on the ‘falling asleep time’). I didn’t formally track my sleep times in my first week with the device, so I didn’t include the below.
There’s a lot of data, so here’s that giant, mostly ugly, probably hard to read chart:
One thing that’s most notable is that both Whoop and Oura are very good at sleep continuity, and recovering from brief awake periods. For example, some mornings at 7AM I’ll wake up when the youngest peanut wakes up. I’ll get them initially sorted, and then hand-off to my wife a few minutes later, at which point I fall back asleep for 30-45 minutes. Oura and Whoop properly detect me falling back asleep every single time. Whereas the Garmin almost never does. Once I walk to the fridge for that bottle of milk, it’s all over. In Garmin’s eyes, my sleep is done for the day and I should just grab a cup of coffee and get it over with.
This may be because Garmin doesn’t support a nap concept, whereas Whoop/Oura do, and thus can seemingly recover from that situation better. Either way, I thought it’s notable. Mainly because Garmin does properly nail the time I initially wake-up, but doesn’t catch me going back to sleep when it’s in that 7-8AM range (whereas it will at 3AM). Also, notably there are two surprising errors by the Garmin FR745. The first time in a year I’ve seen it totally miss the boat. Garmin has dug into those pretty deep, and believe both are actually related to my flight back, and the unit getting in a weird state sleep-wise. Fwiw, I haven’t seen that since.
So, what about readiness/recovery scores? Well, each device has different algorithms that drive what makes up a recovery score. There is no international standard here. It’s sorta like a burrito, everyone does it differently. One person might like more beans, whereas another prefers it with less beans and more cheese. As long as everyone understands carnitas is the way to go, we can keep things civil. In terms of these scores, companies generally weight a few core things: Sleep duration, HRV values, and some aspects of sleep phases. From there, they may apply scoring that looks at previous days’ sleep (Fitbit Readiness, Oura Ring) or at how much activity you did the day prior (Garmin Body Battery).
While there is no international standard, that doesn’t mean they aren’t comparable. Ultimately, they’re all telling you roughly the same thing: How recovered are you, and to what extent should you work out today? Some companies split these up slightly. For example, Garmin/Fitbit/Oura split up sleep scores from readiness scores, whereas Whoop just gives you one score. Further, while occasionally our bodies give us mixed signals on how we feel, in general, we know our own bodies pretty well. If we feel like crap, the data should (hopefully) reflect that. Thus when I get 10 hours of sleep and a device says my recovery score is 35%, while inversely when I get 4hrs of sleep and my device says recovery score is 90%, then I know the device is likely incorrect.
So with that in mind, here’s how these scores compared over the last few weeks with how I felt. Each morning I’d record how I felt before I looked at the data, thus ensuring I wasn’t biasing the data. I usually waited about an hour or so after waking up, simply to not confuse my desire to lie in bed forever, with how my body actually felt. Note that I didn’t think to start recording my perceived levels until a few weeks ago. Sorry!
Note above that R = Readiness/Recovery, S = Sleep Score, and BB = Body Battery. I could spend forever in Excel trying to make this prettier, but for the folks that want to look at the data, it’s above.
Obviously, there are some limitations in my own brain’s ability to nail how I felt each day, but in general, Oura seemed to be very close. Yesterday though, none of the wearables really captured how strong I felt after going back to bed for 2-3 more hours. They got closer of course, but my brain/body felt better. Some of that is a potentially valid disconnect in that my brain probably overestimating that extra sleep surge. Either way, scores of 80-90 by Oura correlated well with a beastly hard interval workout last night that I nailed.
Finally, my challenge with the recovery algorithms is that like Whoop, the recovery algorithms on Oura don’t really take into account your true workload from the day prior. In fact, as it stands here in November 2021, it’s worse, because Oura hasn’t lit up the sport-capable LEDs during workouts, so it vastly underestimates effort during these activities (e.g. usually showing a HR of 70bpm when I’m throwing down 160-170bpm for an hour).
Beyond that, my larger industry concern is some wearables weight HRV data too heavily in their recovery/readiness calculations: It’s often not the panacea that companies think it is (or even consumers think it is). Oura seems to understand this better than some, as their readiness calculations are more swayed by factors like your recent activity trends and sleep trends, rather than a single night’s HRV values. It’s not perfect, but it seems better positioned. An example of when it’s less ideal is the Readiness and Sleep scores of 60-70 on Nov 2nd through 4th despite 3 out of 4 nights sleep under 4 hours of sleep (and one night no hours).
Still, a few quirks aside, Oura V3 consistently has given me both the most accurate sleep data as well as the most accurate assessment of how I actually feel each day.
To existing Oura users, the company put themselves in a substantial pickle. To the majority of new users, the monthly fee, while disappointing in conjunction with the high price of the hardware, is unlikely to be a major show-stopper.
The challenge though is that Oura completely fumbled the announcement and execution here. Ultimately managing to upset both groups. Existing users got confusion on announcement day, which like any first impression, set the soured the tone irrevocably (even if Oura tried to quickly make up for it in the subsequent hours and days). But in some ways, the bigger issue is actually for new users.
See, as great as Oura’s new hardware might be, the new features promised with that hardware largely aren’t here. That’s especially so if you’re male, and thus wouldn’t utilize the new period tracking features. Don’t get me wrong, I think the period-tracking feature sounds (and technically looks) tremendously useful, and potentially incredible for women (especially those with irregular cycles). But at this juncture, as I write this review, that’s pretty close to the only new feature that’s live. Things like a so-called real-time heart rate (which isn’t really real-time anyway) are hardly worth a subscription cost, let alone new hardware. I can get real-time heart rate from just about any wearable today for a fraction the total cost of ownership.
About this point, Oura employees and customers are probably reading this thinking I’m upset about the subscription. But here’s the thing: I’m actually not. I just think they need to pause and re-think how they do this. Because right now the incentive for both buying the $300 hardware and $6/month subscription is incredibly low. They’ve literally thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
I’d suggest that Oura delay the new subscription to take effect somewhere around June of next year. That gives them time to finish all the features they announced, and let people start to enjoy those features. Perhaps even become addicted to them. Further, let existing V2 users put a small non-refundable deposit down for a V3 ring until December 31st, which lets them order the ring until next summer with the included lifetime of service (versus the current Nov 30th).
While this might sound unusual, it’s hardly unprecedented. Companies have long-delayed starting to charge on beta platforms, and frankly, this is beta. I mean, the period tracking literally says it’s beta at the top of the banner displayed to both males and females. And the other features – they aren’t even here today. So it’s like pre-beta, or un-beta.
Finally, I’m sure Oura’s investors won’t be a fan of this method. And that’s fine, but short-sighted. But the alternative is continued strong unrest in various forums and other places (including a number of the reviews that have been released thus far). As I remind companies on a frequent basis: The vast majority of reviews that matter in terms of solidifying search rankings will be those released shortly after launch. Do you want those reviews showing poorly for the next 2-3 years, long after the product has actually been implemented and changed for the better? So far, a quick glance at virtually all mainstream reviews published to date are hardly positive (and many of those reviews are at best, very thin, which is even more telling that they’re also picking up on the numerous disconnects in pricing and features).
Food for thought.
I don’t think I’ve used a wearable that’s as fit and forget as the Oura ring. In terms of usability, once you get past the chunkier ring (which only took a few days for me), then it’s arguably one of the most low-profile devices there is. It just sits there silently, without bright lights or fanfare, and measures your day 24×7, for just shy of a week. In that respect, it’s very good. And more importantly, its sleep tracking is very good.
But those aspects aren’t any different than in the previous V2 iteration. It’s identical there. And that’s where the challenge is for V3. As good as my user experience has been on V3, I struggle to see how any V2 user would upgrade unless they wanted period tracking. All the promised features aren’t here yet, and almost none of the new hardware is utilized yet. Everything from a new sleep algorithm, to SpO2 tracking, to workout tracking, and all the supporting athletic features you’d expect – are all at timeframes ranging from a hopeful next month to an unknown time in 2022.
Further complicating my relationship with Oura Ring is that in many ways, sleep tracking is largely table stakes for activity trackers these days. The degree of accuracy for the core metric of when you fell asleep and when you woke up, tends to be pretty similar across all devices I test – with only rare instances where something is horrifically off (and in all cases, easily editable). And as noted earlier, I’m unconvinced about the accuracy or even actual actionability of sleep phase detection.
So at the moment, the jury is still out in my mind. Despite my hesitance (for years) on testing an Oura ring due to the ring form factor (and my general dislike for rings), I’ve made the switch from wedding ring to Oura ring fairly smoothly. Though, I’m admittedly not sure how much I’ll like it on my index finger once workout-tracking comes. My challenge is at this point is a price point of $300-$400 for hardware plus a required $6/month for the software ($72/year). Sure, there’s a free 6-month trial of the service, but given the ring is size-specific to you, re-selling the hardware if you don’t like it is more difficult than other wearables.
I’m looking forward to updating things once workout tracking is in, and then again once other promised features have arrived. But I still think the package isn’t quite nailed here in terms of the value that comes from these subscription features, relative to what every other $300-$400 wearable on the market delivers for free (which, is all of these features and plenty more).
With that – thanks for reading!
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