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The Oura smart ring's brilliant new features outshine even its titanium finish

Lovely and comfortable, the Oura Ring Gen3 Horizon works with your smartphone to provide a distraction-free way of improving your health and wellness.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
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Matthew Miller/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The brushed titanium Oura Ring Gen3 Horizon is available now for $449.
  • The sleep and activity tracker has a matte finish, the battery lasts for a week, and new features take it to the next level.
  • The smart ring's new finish is expensive, but there are minimal costs for full access to the suite of innovative features.

I've been wearing an Oura Gen3 Ring for more than two years and -- for the past couple of months -- I've been wearing the newest Gen3 Horizon model in brushed titanium. With the Apple Watch Ultra and the new iPhone 15 Pro series sporting titanium materials, this is the favored color/material of 2023.

Also: The best fitness rings to track your health metrics without the bulk

Sleep is one of the most important factors in optimal recovery, performance, and good health, but is often neglected. In the past, I have worn watches to capture sleep data, but they can lead to inaccurate data due to their size and fit. The Oura Ring is perfect for capturing data without impacting your sleep, while also tracking and capturing a growing amount of metrics from your daily life. This includes heart rate, blood oxygen levels, skin temperature, and more.

View at Oura Ring

The brushed titanium ring has a matte surface with vertical brush lines. The chromium nitride coating reflects light differently as you move your finger and view it from different angles. I was wearing the shiny silver Horizon 3 ring, but prefer the subtle color finish of the brushed titanium ring. 

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Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The brush titanium finish is lovely, but over the past year, there has been a lot more added to the Oura Ring than just an expanded color palette. New features -- coupled with health studies validating the ring -- make it certain that the Oura Ring will remain on my finger as an easy way to record data with little required interaction.

For just $5.99 per month (cost of a cup of coffee), Oura membership provides full access to the Oura App for daily health insights, personalized recommendations, an ever-growing suite of innovative features, and more. If you are a new member, your first month is free. Non-paying members have access to three simple daily scores: Sleep, Readiness, and Activity.

New features that have been added over the past year include Daytime Stress, Reflections, Oura Circles, Share Report, and Cycle Insights. Garmin is my primary GPS sports watch, thanks in large part to the LED flashlight and useful data ecosystem, and one feature I have enabled as a widget on my watch is stress tracking. Oura has added a Daytime Stress feature that will help you understand your body's response to the world around you and what events or situations stress you out. It was interesting to talk with Shyamal Patel, head of science at Oura, about stress and realize that not all stress is bad for you.

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Matthew Miller/ZDNET

I've seen days in the Daytime Stress tracking results show I have had stressful days, restorative days, and normal days over the past month. It is interesting to check my calendar of events against the stress tracking results to see what ends up falling in the engaged or stressed zones.

Also: Oura Ring gets stress management features and a new colorway

Related to Daytime Stress is another feature called Reflections, an AI-powered journal function in the Oura app that is available in beta form for iOS. In Oura Reflections, you simply speak and record a journal entry, then use a gesture to record your mood and mental state. It's an interesting new feature that I continue to test out.

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Matthew Miller/ZDNET

One last stress-related feature coming this winter -- Stress Resilience -- will create an assessment of your ability to withstand physiological stress using daytime stress, daytime recovery, and recovery during sleep metrics. Recommendations for managing stress will be provided with this feature.

One of the primary reasons that Fitbit was popular back at the start of the digital health and wellness era was its ability to build a community and support system. The new Oura Circles feature lets you connect with friends and family members in the Oura app to share high-level data for readiness, sleep, and activity scores. Data from the past two weeks can be shared in your circle with the ability to be a part of 10 circles with 20 members in each circle. 

Also: The 30 best Cyber Monday Fitbit and fitness tracker deals you can buy

With the Share Report feature, you can choose to collect your Oura Ring metrics for the past week, month, or 90 days and then share that data in PDF format with your medical provider, coach, or other party. This is a nice feature since an occasional visit to your provider doesn't give an accurate overall assessment of your health and wellness.

Another aspect of this sharing capability is the partnership with Talkspace. Your data can be shared with a licensed therapist through the Talkspace secure, encrypted platform.

The Cycle Insights feature is an upgraded version of Period Prediction. One new element of this feature is that an Oura Ring user can indicate pregnancy in the app so that the Cycle Insights functionality will be disabled for the duration of the pregnancy.

In a recent study published in Nature Partner Journals Digital Medicine, data showed that the Oura Ring can predict the onset of labor with greater accuracy than clinical characteristics and symptoms of labor. In particular, skin temperature changes, metabolic activity, physical activity levels, and sleep were able to help predict labor onset with 71% accuracy.

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Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Data shows that more than 90% of babies are born within two weeks on either side of their estimated delivery date, which simply assumes a 28-day cycle for every person. It turns out that just 5% of babies are born on their due date, so it is helpful to have other indicators regarding labor.

Improving the accuracy of due dates can be important when there are high-risk pregnancies or other circumstances that make understanding the due date a critical piece of information that could help make the event safer for the baby and mother.

Also: The best smartwatches you can buy: Apple, Samsung, Google, and more compared

I highly recommend visiting the Oura blog as there are some very interesting and informative articles on ways to understand and improve your health. A recent article on why you get tired after Thanksgiving dinner was a great read, while another one helped confirm that I am already sleeping more as winter starts here in the Pacific Northwest.

ZDNET's buying advice

While smartwatches offer advanced health and wellness tracking, as well as sleep tracking, they typically last for a day or two and often result in an overabundance of notifications and distractions. The Oura Ring captures key data from a comfortable position on your finger and -- after a few days -- you won't even notice it is there. The ring, smartphone application, and Oura algorithms work together to provide you with a holistic view of your body while offering ways to improve your health and wellness, with no distractions during your awake and asleep hours.

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