Oura runs loops around other fitness trackers

Oura runs loops around other fitness trackers

An inconspicuous design hides one of the world’s most powerful fitness trackers.

Image courtesy of Ora’s Ring

There are few true status symbols in the tech world. Half the world seems to be using beautiful but interchangeable Apple products. The rest of us are piecing together a toolkit from regular Android devices and regular Windows PCs. In this market, the aura ring standing alone. It signifies that you are part of the elite group of metric body trackers in the know.

I have been wearing Oura for over four years. At the time, Oura went from being a subtle hallmark of technical cognoscenti to decorating the fingers of celebrities including Prince Harry, Shaquille O’Nia, Jack Dorsey, Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow. Oh, and also will Smith. (Fortunately, Oura is plastic.)

Oura ring is so modest that you might know someone who uses it and hasn’t even noticed. (Probably not, Oura users tend to proselytize.) This unobtrusive profile is a big part of its appeal but make no mistake; Oura is one of the most advanced fitness trackers on the market. And with upgrades coming around every three months, it keeps getting better.

The ring looks like a basic wedding ring, referenced multiple times as I routinely switch my left and right hands. That means I can still wear Shinola Wristwatch without looking like I’m wearing a lot of jewelry. Although it looks like metal, it is plastic and completely waterproof. Inside there are two infrared sensors, two body temperature sensors with a negative thermal coefficient, a 3D accelerometer and a gyroscope.

Like most fitness trackers, the $299 Oura will report your daily activity, heart rate, body temperature, sleep times, sleep quality, and more. Unlike a lot of trackers, Oura measures your heart rate variability, which is a great indicator of your overall preparedness. (Turns out, when you sleep, you want your heart rate to change more, not less.) The company just released an update that tracks your blood oxygen levels when you sleep.

Fitness tracking started with a simple step count, but this information is only very useful. We know when we were active and when we spend the day sitting at our desks. Sleep time, quality, and heart rate variability are all the more beneficial to living a healthier life. Seeing the statistical consequences of your decisions, whether staying up late or drinking a little – or a lot – a lot, helps us get back on the path to a better life.

Perhaps most importantly, Oura gives me actionable information regarding sleep quality. I recently took an overnight flight from Newark to Paris. I boarded the plane at 10pm, and after the meal service, it wasn’t until midnight the cabin lights were off. During these nighttime trips, it’s hard to know exactly how much sleep you’re getting. Ora was clear: I got less than three hours of sleep, and my sleep and readiness scores were pretty poor. Worse, even though I quickly fell into deep sleep, I didn’t get REM sleep, which tends to come at the end of the sleep cycle. I was a mess, confirmed by Ora’s ring. After arriving at my hotel and taking a nap, I can rack up those scores and have a lovely dinner on the Seine before going back to bed at a reasonable time in Paris. (See the sad details in the screenshot.)

Oura is a commitment. Like many previous hardware companies, Oura now has a monthly subscription plan of $6 per month. Comes with software updates and brokerage apps. The company also recently announced a partnership with Strava, so that activity and readiness data can be automatically exported to this app.

When it launched, it was hateful to recommend Oura because it was hard to come by, and no one knew if this little-known tech vendor would survive. Today, Oura looks like a sure bet for consumers and an attractive acquisition target for big tech companies like Apple and Google that want state-of-the-art fitness technology for gamers.

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