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Technology has transformed the watch from a traditional timepiece to a smart tracking device straight out of a James Bond movie. And more recently, rings are the latest jewelry staple to get a smart makeover.
The best smart rings, like smartwatches, house a comprehensive suite of health and sleep tracking features. They take a more discrete and less hindering approach ahead of summer activities. Some options even include non-health related NFC features like contactless payment.
Also: The best sleep headphones: Bose, Anker, and QuietOn compared
With the Oura ring becoming an established market leader, ZDNET tested it for ourselves and was impressed with its blood oxygen and continuous heart rate monitoring, along with its sleek design and durability. To learn more about the perks of the Oura and how other rings stack up, ZDNET compiled a list of the best smart rings on the market.
Oura Ring 3 specs: Material: Lightweight titanium with non-allergenic, non-metallic inner molding | Battery life: 4-7 days | Charging: Full charge in 20 to 80 minutes | Compatible with: iOS and Android | Durability: Water-resistant up to 328 feet | Sizing: Free sizing kit with purchase on their site
I purchased a Heritage Oura Ring and tested it with weekly activities, like strength training, cycling, yoga, and more. Not only did it sufficiently track my activity, sleep, and daily readiness, but I also didn't get lost in overwhelming data. Rather, my morning sleep scores are actionable, giving insight as to how I can improve my nighttime habits.
For example, the over 50 guided meditation options have helped me immediately alleviate stress and set myself up for sleeping success. The simplified overall score appears with a detailed chart monitoring heart rate, body temperature, and blood oxygen levels through the night. Additionally, the ring can automatically sense when you're stressed and adjust what Oura calls your "daily readiness score" for activity, accordingly.
Review: Oura Ring 3
This comprehensive but simple approach is evident in the ring's form factor and integrations. I'm also amazed at how all the (accurate) tech fits in such a small, sleek device. Plus, I don't notice the red and green sensor lights even when my lights are off at night. The ring syncs with Apple Health, and Google Fit, as well as iOS and Android apps. This compatibility means that you can see daily, weekly, and monthly views of your activity and other metrics.
The downside is that there's a $5.99 per month membership cost to unlock the features that make this ring worth it, like in-depth morning sleep analysis, blood oxygen monitoring, live heart rate, and temperature trend monitoring (which can even predict early stages of illness), and overall personalized insights. Non-paying members, however, only have access to sleep, readiness, and activity insights.
McLear RingPay specs: Material: Hypoallergenic ceramic | Compatible with: iOS and Android | Charging: No charging required | Durability: Waterproof | Sizing: Sizes 4.5-16 available; ring sizer available at checkout; free size exchanges
The minimalistic, polished RingPay integrates the ever-helpful contactless payment technology. You can securely pay for items by connecting your debit or credit card and earn cashback when you use it. The ring is faster to use than contactless alternatives, like unlocking your phone wallet or using a credit card. You can wash your hands while wearing it because the smart ring is water-resistant, scratch-resistant, and stress-tested. It's made of hypoallergenic ceramic, so no glues or plastics are involved, either.
The RingPay comes from McLear, the company that built the first NFC (near-field communication or wireless data transfer) ring to unlock doors digitally. Similarly, McLear promises that the ring can unlock your NFC-enabled Android phones and tablets with just a touch from ring to device. You can store and securely share information, including Wi-Fi information, website links, and contact information to your friends' devices.
Also: The best Android phones
McClear's website says the ring is set to release in the UK first but will quickly launch in other areas, offering an option to join the waitlist.
Circular Ring specs: Material: Hypoallergenic material with interchangeable outer shells | Battery life: Four days | Charging: 60 minutes | Compatible with: iOS and Android | Durability: Water resistant | Sizing: Sizing kit available for purchase
The Circular Ring launched last year, and the company markets the ring as "the most advanced wearable tracking device."
The ring focuses on three main components: Sleep, activity, and health. The device tracks precise heart rate, breathing rate, blood oxygen levels, temperature, and motion during sleep with emphasis on quality, duration, and circadian rhythm. You'll even get notifications about irregular heart rates and blood oxygen levels. Plus, the ring promises 10 days of built-in data storage without Bluetooth connection.
Also: Best Fitness trackers
For fitness, you'll get an energy score that tells you how much energy you've exerted throughout the day, and the ring automatically tracks your workouts. The technology organizes data in an easy-to-read app so you can better understand your habits and make better health decisions.
Hecere NFC Ring specs: Material: Zirconia ceramic and epoxy resin | Chip: NFC 215 | Compatible with: Android and iOS | Battery: N/A | Charging: N/A | Durability: Waterproof | Sizing features: Sizes 5-14; follow sizing guide before placing your order
The Hecere NFC ring is the best smart ring for tech-savvy people who may want to use your ring to open your phone, or even as a networking tool. It's delivered blank with a built-in rewritable chip. You can download an NFC app for free and program the ring to function however you want, whether you want the ring to turn on Wi-Fi, make a call, or share a contact.
Also: Why this $23 remote control is a must-have for productive workouts (and more)
The sensing technology in this ring is more advanced than that in comparable products. If you want a fun, customizable project, this could be the ring for you.
Go2sleep Ring specs: Material: Acrylic/PC+ABS plastics | Battery life: Three days | Sizing: Three sizes of silicone finger covers | Compatible with: iOS and Android: | Durability: Waterproof | Charging: Two-hour magnetic charging
The Go2sleep ring is dedicated to one function: Tracking your sleep based on heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and heart rate variability. If you or anyone in your family lives with a sleep condition, this ring could be a useful tool.
Also: The best sleep trackers
You can share data with family members on the app to learn more about their sleep habits, and even download your sleep reports as Excel files to show your medical provider.
The advanced technology can wake you up during your lightest sleep phase in the morning, so you won't feel disoriented right when it's time to get up. The Go2sleep ring automatically syncs with the Health app on iOS devices, and it features a ring-finding function so you can locate the device if it's misplaced.
I recommend the Oura Ring 3 as the best smart ring based on its extensive capabilities. However, there are other great choices out there, too. This table compares the best smart rings based on price, battery life, and materials.
Oura Ring 3
Titanium with non-allergenic interior
No charging required
Up to four days
Hypoallergenic inner material with interchangeable external shells
Hecere NFC Ring
No charging required
Zirconia ceramic material and epoxy resin
Up to four days
It depends on your needs and your budget. For example, if you want a smart ring that primarily tracks your sleeping habits, then the Go2sleep ring is a wise choice. Or if you want the most durable option, the titanium body of the Oura Ring 3 will hold up to your wildest adventures. Below, our table helps you determine the right ring for you based on specific uses:
Choose this smart ring…
If you want…
Oura Ring 3
The best smart ring overall with a titanium body, full charging in 20 to 80 minutes, and automatic firmware updates. Health tracking is accurate and comprehensive without overwhelming you with data.
A smart ring for payments that can also unlock devices with no charging required. Sign up to join the waitlist for when it ships to the United States.
A waterproof smart ring to track your fitness levels with blood oxygen and heart rate monitoring. You can also use the ring as a smart alarm clock or remote smart control, as well as set timers and reminders.
Hecere NFC Ring
A customizable tracking smart ring that doubles as an NFC business card. There's no battery or charging to keep track of, allowing for smooth transfer of information, worry-free.
To consistently track your sleep habits based on heart rate and blood oxygen levels. You can even download sleep reports and data as Excel files to share with your medical provider.
I analyzed the overall quality and functionality of smart rings on the market right now. I took into account factors such as pricing, specific purposes, durability, and device compatibility.
Other ZDNET experts also assessed the Oura Ring 3 as the best overall smart ring in the fitness wearable market. If your goal is to specifically track exercise and workout recovery, the Oura Ring 3 is your best option. Effectively measuring heart rate variability (HRV), the Oura Ring 3 has also proven to show early signs of sickness. Wake Forest University's Dr. Jason Fanning, for example, saw that his "heart rate variability went through the floor" thanks to his Oura Ring data, days before he tested positive for COVID-19.
Oura even partnered with the NBA to help players train during the pandemic. The NBA purchased 2,000 Oura rings to track signs of COVID-19 symptoms using body temperature data. Plus, the smart rings gave players personalized insights into their health.
So, in terms of fitness reliability, Oura has proven to be a solid option.
Smart rings can provide more accurate readings than smartwatches because they are worn close to large blood vessels located in the fingers. In contrast, smartwatch sensors utilize small capillaries for readings.
Smart rings can be useful for a variety of functions. A ring like the McLear RingPay is ideal if contactless payments are your top priority. If you want 24/7 monitoring of your blood oxygen and heart rate, go with the Circular Ring. Smart rings can go as far as you need, and you can even program your own with the Hecere NFC Ring.
Smart rings also tend to have long battery lives, while some don't require charging at all.
There are various smart rings on the market that didn't make the cut for my top five. However, I've included a few other smart rings that receive honorable mentions:
A comprehensive health smart ring capable of measuring sleep quality, menstrual cycles, and physical activity that's coming in September 2023.
A smart ring that doubles as a keycard for your Tesla Model 3.