Is now the time to ditch your Apple Watch for the Oura Ring?

I regularly wear the Oura Ring and the Apple Watch Series 7 together, as one fills in the other’s gaps in its feature arsenal. Thanks to two recent updates, the Oura smart ring has increased its ability to monitor health and fitness with the addition of simple fitness tracker and SpO2 blood oxygen monitoring. Is the Oura Ring now a full-fledged health and fitness tracker ready to be worn on its own, without any compromises?

New features

Workout tracking and SpO2 blood oxygen monitoring have been promised since the launch of the third generation ring in 2021, so their arrival is late. The workout mode uses in-ring heart rate tracking and hit the ring in late May, while the Sp02 feature arrived in late July. Once you set up the feature, it works automatically.

Oura ring standing.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The workout mode is pretty straightforward as it only looks at your heart rate to gauge intensity and doesn’t seem to use the accelerometer to cover movement, making it relatively basic compared to other wearables. SpO2 monitoring works when you sleep. Along with it, the Oura Ring also tracks the regularity of breathing, which helps identify changes in your breathing patterns during the night, which can indicate sleep-related issues like sleep apnea.

There’s also no reason per se to buy an Oura Ring, but when considered as overall capability upgrades, they make the Smart Ring more tempting for those interested in moving away from it. a wrist-worn health and fitness tracker. I’ve always worn the Oura Ring with a smartwatch because it gives the most complete picture of my sleep and activity. But with these new features, the Oura Ring is one step closer to a capable, self-contained wearable.

Training HR tracking

Getting the Oura Ring to track exercise on demand is crucial if it’s going to be worn without any other activity tracker, and the Workout HR mode is a step in the right direction. However, it’s not quite ready to take on the Apple Watch or any other dedicated fitness group for now as options are too limited.

It’s manually activated most of the time, but it also works with the automatic ring activity detection feature, which I find reliable. In the Oura Ring app, you press the More symbol, select Workout HR to start tracking, then manually end the workout when you’re done. The resulting graph shows your heart rate throughout your exercise, identifying the lowest and highest readings, and also giving an average. It also estimates the total number of calories burned.

If you’re using the feature outdoors and location tracking is active, it also shows a map plotting your route, along with some graphs to better visualize your performance. It’s very well presented in the app, which is still one of the best wearable device apps I’ve used. At the moment, you can only choose certain activities to monitor – walking, running or cycling – and with a choice of indoor or outdoor shots.

That’s right, there’s no exercise mode for things like HIIT or cross-training, or even another catch-all option. Oura, in typical fashion, states that the workouts are coming – but doesn’t say when. It seems like an odd oversight not to include a base mode for people who don’t always walk, run, or ride a bike. I am one of those people and I demand that my tracker of choice take into account all my activity. Given Oura’s lack of speed when it comes to introducing Workout HR mode in the first place, I have no idea how long it will take to see more modes added.

Workout tracking compared to the Apple Watch

How do the Oura Ring results compare to those of the Apple Watch Series 7? They are usually very close. One 25-minute session saw the two agree on average heart rate and total calories burned, while another showed a slight difference of 10 beats per minute (bpm) in average heart rate . Although not medical devices either, in my experience the Apple Watch is very accurate and provides a good metric against which other devices can be measured.

Oura ring workout data screen on an iphone 13 pro.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Where the Oura Ring impresses are its graphics and the presentation of data in the app. The intensity graph clearly shows where your maximum heart rate occurred, and the graph showing your average rate also identifies the lowest and highest rate. Apple’s Fitness app provides much of the same data, but it’s not presented as logically, and the lack of searchable granular information is a downside.

However, if you’re doing a HIIT workout using one of the Oura Ring’s current walk, bike, or run modes, the results will vary more and won’t necessarily be accurate. It also introduces new differences between the Oura Ring and the Apple Watch, and it really makes me want Oura to add additional activity tracking modes soon. The Apple Watch has dozens of workout modes for just about any activity you can think of, plus highly accurate GPS for location tracking and a more motivating system to push you towards your daily goals. .

Apple watch and iphone 13 pro displaying workout data.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Some workout tracking is better than nothing, but as someone who doesn’t run or ride a bike, the Oura Ring’s modes don’t really concern me. Oura’s app takes activity tracking data from the Apple Watch into account, so it seems like continuing to track workouts with the Apple Watch is the way to go for me – and I suspect a few other people as well .

Sleep tracking compared to the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch has a basic sleep tracking mode, while the Oura Ring provides a much higher level of information about your sleep and how it sleeps, as well as your activity levels. , affect your health. However, the Apple Watch still uses all of its sensors to track sleep, including monitoring blood oxygen levels.

Oura ring blood oxygen mode displayed on an iphone 13 pro.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Like the workout data presentation, the Apple Watch’s Health app isn’t as well presented as the Oura Ring data, where it’s very obvious how you slept and simple to see quickly. the data it has collected. The Apple Watch tends to simplify data into trends, looking for anomalies over time, as long as it doesn’t need to highlight something that needs urgent attention. The health platform on iOS also pulls data from the Oura Ring to back up what it measures with the watch.

Apple provides more information about breathing rhythms than the Oura Ring, putting an actual number on the rhythm instead of just reporting any changes or disturbances overnight like the Oura Ring, but it’s debatable how much it is more useful. I just want to know if it’s bad, and Oura’s ring quickly tells me. The Apple Watch agrees with the Oura Ring’s blood oxygen readings, although it presents more data as it also monitors levels throughout the day.

Apple watch and iphone 13 pro showing respiratory rate.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Although the numbers in general between the two are consistent – ​​HRV tends to be about the same as an average, as are resting heart rate and sleep time – but there is a considerable difference between the two when it comes to visualizing this data. The Oura Ring isolates individual stats, while iOS’s health platform hides or obfuscates much of it, instead focusing on a snapshot of your health over a daily, weekly, or monthly time frame.

The Oura Ring is the best sleep tracker I’ve used, and charging the Apple Watch overnight instead of wearing it makes best use of the device’s time and capabilities.

Ready for prime time?

Is it time to wear the Oura Ring as your only health tracking tool? No, not quite. SpO2 measurements and a basic training mode really should have been introduced to the Oura Ring much earlier, and they only bring it in line with other wearables, rather than pushing it forward. Moreover, there are still compromises to be made.

Oura ring, iphone 13 pro and apple watch series 7.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Restrictive workout mode options mean it won’t suit everyone, and simply choosing a tracking mode to monitor a different workout has varying results. Using the workout tracker and SpO2 sensor overnight decreases battery life, so expect battery life to drop from around seven days to four or five between the charges. It’s still good (and longer than the Apple Watch), but you’ll have to change up your charging routine. The addition of blood oxygen detection only makes the Oura Ring better as a sleep tracker.

The Oura app is excellent and I find the breakdown between sleep, activity and preparation informative and easy to understand. Plus, the way it presents data is clearer and quicker to find than in Apple Health and Fitness apps. The scores assigned to each category help me understand how my body works and whether I need to do more or sleep more (the answer is usually yes to both), while the Apple Watch’s “close the rings” method is more motivating but less immediately informative.

All of this means that I will continue to wear the Apple Watch and Oura Ring together. Updates to the Oura Ring have increased its capacity, but it’s still perfectly complemented by the more generally capable Apple Watch. It’s not a slam against either product, it’s just that one does certain things better than the other. wear them together means you get more information, more features and the best of both worlds in activity tracking, health monitoring and data presentation.

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