According to estimates of the Statista Digital Market Outlook, In 2021, the number of users in the smartwatch market worldwide was approximately two hundred and two million individuals. which is expected to increase in the coming years, reaching more than two hundred and thirty users in 2026.
While smartwatches and fitness bands are the most common devices for tracking health metrics, there’s a niche that’s completely unexplored by the big wearable players, which is “smart rings.” Products like the Oura Ring flawlessly track the usual metrics like calorie burn, steps, heart rate, and sleep, and rivals like the Ultrahuman ring even claim to keep tabs on metabolism. They do this while offering the kind of battery life that most smartwatches can only dream of, on account of having no screen to power, always on or otherwise.
Smart rings have become so popular that Samsung is considering getting muscling in on the niche with a smart ring of its own. On the other hand, Amazon has its Echo loop, which puts the power of an assistant right within your fingers or the heart and blood oxygen wellness monitor from Walmart. While so many manufacturers are developing and offering smart rings, why hasn’t it become the norm? Is it the next big thing in wearable Tech? Well, let’s explore.
This fall, Smartwatches stole the spotlight from phones. You see, Phones are becoming boring. Each year brings an incremental, iterative update, but the general idea of what a phone is hasn’t changed in ages. Apple, Google, and Samsung have released the most iterative updates to their top-tier phones this fall. But all three have also released new smartwatches that are more interesting than they’ve ever been, reinvigorating a category that’s been stagnant for more than half a decade. But there’s another wearable form factor waiting in the wings.
Korean outlet Naver recently reported that Samsung has filed a patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office for a smart ring of its own, complete with EKG and smart home control. The usual caveats with patent applications apply: these only indicate the research and development projects happening inside a company, and don’t guarantee the appearance of an actual device. However, it seems Samsung is at least exploring its options when it comes to smart rings.
Smart Ring vs Smartwatch
If you’ve not come across the idea of a smart ring before, it may seem a bit of an oddity. However, these wearables can beat smartwatches in several areas, not least battery life – the Oura ring can last for a whole week between charges.
A ring is also a more discreet device compared with smartwatches or even more basic fitness trackers that are worn around the wrist. If you engage in intense sports and workouts, then you might find you prefer the more lightweight and fixed feel of a smart ring compared to the alternatives.
When it comes to sleep monitoring, again, the more unobtrusive the device, the better. Many of us are already used to wearing rings – whether for engagements, marriages or just decoration – and so a smart ring isn’t all that much more to wear, though we’d be surprised if anyone proposed using one.
At the moment, the biggest name in the smart ring game is Oura. In March of 2022, Oura revealed that it had sold one million smart rings with an increasing number of sporting leagues from NBA to NASCAR. Also embracing the next wave of wearable tech that promises to better measure athletic performance and recovery. Celebrities from Gwyneth Paltrow to Jack Dorsey, Cristiano Ronaldo, and even Prince Harry are early adopters of the Ōura ring. But now, it has also got some competition.
At CES 2022, we saw a few ambitious competitors, including startup Movano, which plans to beat Oura on both price and features. The Movano tracks sleep and activity metrics and are working to gain FDA clearance to monitor vital signs such as body temperature. Which is something even the latest Oura can’t provide yet. Movano’s companion app is focused on combining these metrics to predict how you’ll be feeling on any given day.
Tracking body temperature isn’t just good for figuring out when you have a fever. Oura and Movano aren’t the only smart ring options. Walmart recently began selling a $299 “heart and blood oxygen wellness monitor” made by Prevention “a magazine and healthcare company” called the circul+ Smart Ring. It’s substantially bulkier and less smart than its rival, but if Walmart is getting into the game, you know something’s up.
Smart rings are notoriously tricky to get right, as the Logbar Ring, Amazon Echo Loop, and Ringly proved. If none of those names sound familiar, it’s because none of them quite struck the right balance of style, features, and price to earning a place in customers’ hands. It’s also still not entirely clear how safe keeping a battery and a bunch of sensors attached to a person is. Set aside all of the issues of manufacture and safety.
Let’s say the perfect smart ring you’ve been dreaming about arrives. What kind of role will it play in your life? Is it the best solution for interfacing with a broad ecology of other devices? What will life with that ring actually look like?
You wake up and put it on. You take it off to wash your hands and put it back on and you take it off to shower and put it back on. You take it off when you make breakfast, lunch, or dinner really, and every time, there’s the merest trace of moisture involved. You’re inevitably going to lose it. Even when you are wearing it, it’s massive compared to an actual ring, and, more than likely, pretty annoying. You can’t comfortably hold hands, write, or ride a bike. That’s a lot of trouble, for a device that’s supposed to make life easier. This is where smartwatches make a lot of sense.
Are Smart Rings Going To Smartwatches?
Don’t bet on smart rings replacing smartwatches any time soon. But they are increasingly looking like a complimentary gadget for tech lovers and tastemakers with extra money on their hands. When tech giants like Amazon with a big pile of cash are on the field, a market with many more players like Apple and Samsung is bound to happen. Samsung has already shown interest and if any one of them could create an ecosystem where the ring works flawlessly with other devices, it’ll be a game changer. With 2022 shaping up to be a battle between Oura, Movano, and a host of Hobbit-like underdogs, we could easily end the year with one smart ring to rule them all.