The best smart rings of 2024 to help track sleep, wellness and more – The Independent

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With Samsung due to release the Galaxy Ring this year, the smart ring market is about to get very busy
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It’s been a slow march to relevancy for the smart ring. For years, the Oura Ring has stood as the only go-to smart ring for tech enthusiasts and celebrities wanting to track their sleep and wellness, with the device adorning the fingers of everyone from Kim Kardashian to Will Smith and Mark Zuckerberg, who all swear by the Finnish company’s wearable.
While the Oura has seen off competition from rival Motiv (which launched its ring in 2017 and canned it three years later), the market is about to get a bit busier for 2024. In January, Samsung announced the launch of a new wearable called the Galaxy Ring, putting Oura on notice.
A week prior to the announcement, a whole swathe of tech firms, from Amazfit to Movano, unveiled their own smart rings at the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, in the background, companies such as Ultrahuman and Circular have been plugging away at their own smart rings, successfully bringing second-generation models to market.
Tech firms are betting big on what they believe is the next big innovation with smart rings – wearable devices that can monitor your health metrics, provide real-time sleep analysis, and introduce a convenient way to make payments, all in a sleek, unobtrusive form factor that fits around your finger. Even Apple is rumoured to be working on a smart ring that could work with the Apple Vision Pro.
If all of that has piqued your interest, we’ve been busy testing a range of smart rings over the past few months, to bring you a list of the best currently available on the market.
Every smart ring on the market required us to size the ring for our finger – usually with a sizing kit the brand sends out before a purchase. This ensured we got the correct fit, so the rings fit snugly against our skin and didn’t slide off our finger in the middle of the night. All rings are different, so, being a size 8 in one ring doesn’t mean you’re the same size in another smart ring.
Smart rings require weeks and weeks of data before they pay off, in terms of accuracy, so, we’ve been wearing the devices for months, to see how well they track our sleep – both restless and sound. We’ve also worn the rings during runs and sessions at the gym, looking at how well the devices track our steps, activity and recovery, as well as stress tracking.
Plus, we looked at other features, such as haptic vibrations and NFC payments. On top of that, we’ve paid close attention to battery life (no one wants their ring dying on them super quickly), and, of course, we took note of all the times we received compliments on the designs – it’s a ring, after all, so we want it to look nice on our hand.
A selection of the smart rings we tested
Alex Lee
The Independent
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While the smart ring market is getting busier, no one has quite yet managed to knock Oura off its perch. The third-generation Oura Ring, which launched at the end of 2021, is still the best smart ring you can buy right now.
With its fashionable design, Oura’s ring doesn’t merely track your sleep, activity, heart rate and a whole bunch of health metrics, including period predictions, it also earned us a wealth of compliments, thanks to its bulk-free titanium design that felt weightless on our finger.
Oura sells two different styles of its third-generation ring. There’s the heritage ring, which comes in four different finishes and has a plateau design with a distinctive flat top; and there’s the horizon ring, which comes in six different finishes and is completely round. The horizon ring is also slightly more expensive than the heritage. The latter starts at $299 (£235), while the horizon starts at $349 (£275) for the silver and black versions and goes all the way up to $549 (£435) for the rose-gold finish.
Both styles have all the same features, but differ in fit and design. We tested the horizon style with the brushed titanium finish, which is a beautiful matte silver, and is incredibly comfortable to wear (even with the inside sensor bumps nudging up against our skin).
What’s neat about the Oura is it crunches all your activity and sleep into a readiness score, so you know how hard you can go at the gym or whether you need to take a break. Oura also gives you a sleep score based on how well you’ve slept that week. While it can track 30 different workouts automatically and give you a calorie-burn breakdown, it really only detected runs and walks. It didn’t detected our HIIT classes, so, we had to input them manually.
The Oura was originally designed to track sleep alone, and the third-gen excels here – accurately tracking the four stages of sleep, as well as blood-oxygen levels and heart-rate variability (HRV). There was more detailed sleep data here than on any wrist-based smartwatch or fitness tracker we’ve tested, while HRV enabled the Oura to track daytime stress.
Another really cool feature is that it can track your temperature. If you’ve got a fever, it will suggest changing the Oura to rest mode. Daily guidance is also a nice addition, and it lasts a huge seven days – longer than any other smart ring.
The only real downside is Oura uses a subscription model, so, on top of the cost of the ring, you also have to shell out for a £5.99 membership, otherwise, it’s pretty much useless.
Ultrahuman is one of the latest smart ring companies on the market. The brand launched its first ever R1 smart ring in 2022, and replaced it with the Ultrahuman air – a lighter, thinner smart ring – in 2023.
The Ultrahuman air comes in matte black, a mirrored aster black (the one we’ve been testing), gold and silver. It features a bump on the inside to help you position it on your finger, so it captures your data, and, while it is comfortable to wear, that extra 0.2mm of width did occasionally feel like it was getting in the way whenever we were using or holding our phone.
The ring looks sleek, minimalistic and is made from a durable titanium. It is kitted out with a heart-rate sensor, temperature sensor and accelerometer, and it can monitor everything from steps to sleep to blood-oxygen levels.
The device will also give you a movement score, which is based on how much you’ve moved on a daily basis, rather than a weekly one. We’re not sure if this is better or worse, because we were inevitably going to be less mobile after a few consecutive days of intense workouts.
Ultrahuman is able to track workouts, but it’s currently in beta, and it can’t detect workouts automatically like the Oura ring, so, you need to start a workout from inside the app to get it to track. Once you do start tracking your workouts (there are a list of sports and activities in the app), you’ll get a cardio fitness score, using your VO2 max, which is the amount of oxygen your body uses while training. It’s a pretty cool feature.
Like the Oura, the Ultrahuman is better at sleep tracking – accurately identifying all our stages of sleep, heart-rate variability, time asleep and more, showing the data in a nice graph inside the app and giving us a sleep index score. It also put our movement and sleep into an overall readiness score, so we knew when we were good to go harder at the gym. It is also waterproof up to 100m.
We are big fans of the charging base, too, as the Ultrahuman air fits nice and securely onto it. However, this ring’s charge doesn’t last as long as the Oura – you’ll get around six days of use before the Ultrahuman needs charging again.
The best part? You don’t have to pay an ongoing subscription to access (pretty much) all the same features as the Oura.
This isn’t a smart ring in the traditional sense – it doesn’t track your sleep, or your workouts, or even your steps. What it does do, however, is let you pay for things at an NFC terminal with just your hand – which makes this device feel far more futuristic than smart ring that merely act as a less invasive version of a fitness tracker.
The McLear RingPay 2 is made out of high-purity zirconia ceramic, and comes in either black, white or the limited-edition matte stealth colourway. It’s thinner than the Oura, and looks really nice.
This device works like a pre-paid top-up card. Whenever you’re at a payment terminal, you just make a knocking gesture on the NFC chip, with your fist facing down. It works like magic – although, it might take a bit of awkward practising at your local supermarket – and you never need to charge it.
You can set up auto-top-ups in the app, which will transfer funds to the ring whenever it falls below a certain amount. There are also cashback rewards at certain retailers, but you need to have charity giving turned on (a feature that gives a specific amount to your chosen charity whenever you make a payment).
You’re also asked to set up a Ring pin, which you’ll have to use on the terminal whenever your purchase is over the contactless limit. For added security, if you lose your ring, you can suspend payments in the app, blocking the ring from working.
It’s a really cool bit of tech, but it only does one thing, and there are some very annoying limits and fees. You can only top up £200 per day and £6,000 per month, and there’s a three per cent foreign exchange transaction fee, so, we won’t be using it abroad. You’ll also pay a £1.50 fee if you want to transfer money in your McLear wallet back to your original funding source. The most egregious thing, however, is that, once you’ve had your ring for 36 months, it will stop working, meaning you only get to use it for three years before having to buy a new one. No one likes having a time limit on their tech.
Circular has been going for quite a while, having been founded in 2016, but the French firm only released its first smart ring in 2020. Last year, it also launched the Circular ring slim – the thinnest smart ring on the market.
Design-wise, it’s not the nicest-looking smart ring. It’s made from aluminium and carbon fibre rather than titanium like other smart rings we’ve tested, meaning it’s not only less durable, but also just looks a lot cheaper. While it’s the lightest, thinnest model around, it’s also a whole lot wider. After testing for a few months, we definitely preferred titanium-based smart rings over Circular’s aluminium-based design, which feels and looks a little plasticky, and isn’t swim-proof.
Where Circular differs from its competition is in its feature set. The Circular smart ring slim features a green, infrared and red optical pulse sensor, a three-axis accelerometer for steps and a haptic vibration motor. That motor is really neat. Unlike other smart rings, you can set up alarms, so your ring vibrates to gently wake you up. To snooze your alarm or turn it off, you just tap on the capacitive touch sensor built into the logo on the ring. It’s cool, and not something we’ve seen other smart rings try before.
While it can track your steps and VO2 max, based on your blood-oxygen levels, you can’t track specific exercises. We also found some accuracy issues with the Circular ring slim’s data. It’s definitely better at sleep tracking, though – managing to figure out our sleep cycles and stages of sleep, but it did occasionally miss spots that our fitness tracker, Oura and Ultrahuman picked up.
While the app is a little bit messy, we were actually quite fond of Circular’s circles, which puts all of its core features at the top of the app. You can view your alarms, see how you slept, how much energy you have to take on during the day, and there are even circles for guided breathing, medication reminders and stress tracking. We also liked the little digital assistant, who asked us questions and helped us keep track of our sleep and energy levels.
The Circular ring slim is far from perfect. We absolutely hated the way it charged via a weird USB-C contraption, and it lacks exercise tracking, but there are features here that you won’t find on the Oura, such as haptic alarms and medication reminders.
The smart ring market is still evolving. While we’re all waiting for Samsung and Apple to enter the field, Oura remains the best smart ring out there right now. Its sleep tracking is class-leading, it looks gorgeous, fits really well, and its battery life is the longest out of all the fitness-tracking smart rings we’ve tested. If you don’t like the idea of paying a monthly subscription fee, the Ultrahuman is also worth a look. If you want something a bit more novelty, McLear’s RingPay 2 lets you pay for things with just your hand, but that’s all it does.
For more new and exciting tech products, check out our review of the best virtual reality headsets
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