Though Apple was definitely not the first company to start the wearable health tech market, it certainly is the one that seems to have nailed it. Before the first Apple Watch, people had fitness trackers like Fitbit, but after the Apple Watch, everything seems to have shifted towards smartwatches. But let's face it — not everyone wants to wear a smartwatch.
While most people wearing wearable tech tend to go for things like the best Apple Watch, there has been a recent trend towards something smaller in recent years. I'm talking about smart jewelry, in particular, the smart ring.
For the past few years, I've been using the leading player in the smart ring industry, the Oura Ring. Even though Oura just launched the third generation of its popular Smart Ring about half a year ago, it has been receiving some negative criticism due to the slow rollout of advanced features that the new hardware was supposed to be capable of delivering. Unfortunately, those interested in a smart ring don't have a lot of other options at the moment.
That's why I think Apple needs to enter the market.
It's like an Apple Watch, but much smaller and less noticeable
As much as I love my Apple Watch for tracking my daily activity and health goals, it's something that I notice on my wrist every day. Granted, I'm used to it at this point, but it really isn't the most feminine-looking thing out there, and it definitely screams "smartwatch" when you see it. Some people don't always wear their Apple Watch because they don't like wearing a watch every day; it would look out of place with their outfit or something along those lines. Also, I'm not particularly eager to wear my Apple Watch to sleep, even though it can track sleep — my Oura Ring is better for that, in my opinion.
If Apple were to make a smart ring, it might be more appealing to some people than an Apple Watch. After all, I think the primary reason why many people use the Watch is because of the health stuff, and all of that is reliant on sensors. The sensors themselves are not very large, and I believe Apple could easily fit them into a smart ring instead. After all, Oura Ring has managed to include sensors for continuous heart rate, SpO2 levels, sleep tracking, and even body temperature into its third-generation ring, which didn't change in size from its predecessor. If a company like Oura can figure out how to make it work, a company like Apple can do it too, and perhaps even do it better.
Honestly, smart rings like Oura are tiny and lightweight compared to watches, but they're still bulkier than I'd like. After all, the Oura Ring is about the size of a man's wedding band versus a woman's. However, once you wear them, they're less noticeable, I think, though that depends on which finger you wear it on. But as we've learned with other tech, things get smaller over time, so I'd imagine by the time Apple could ever develop a smart ring, its sensors could be even smaller than they are now, which would mean a thinner ring. In the meantime, I'll keep dreaming of a smart ring that is comparable to a female wedding band.
Apple filed for a new wearable patent a few years ago
If you think that Apple would never do this, that may be true. But according to a report from back in 2019, Apple had indeed filed for an "electronic ring computing device" patent. However, that report seems to indicate that whatever Apple may be working on for a new wearable will just be like a smaller Apple Watch.
While all of that may be cool, I would prefer Apple not to go that route. That sounds like a bulky ring if it has a tiny little screen and has some user input method and all that. My favorite thing about my Oura Ring is that it doesn't have a screen or anything like that — it's simply a ring that I wear and forget about.
Still, with Apple holding such a patent, an Apple smart ring could be a thing at some point. I'm just hoping that it will be more than just a smaller version of an Apple Watch, and instead, be more like the competition. I think Apple could dominate the market if done right. And perhaps this would make more sense for a blood glucose sensor versus having it on the wrist with an Apple Watch. One can dream, right?
Again, it's just a patent, and not every patent becomes a reality. Still, it's just one possibility, and if Apple does make a smart ring, I'd be very eager to see how it stacks up.
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Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.
When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.
I like this idea although I don't see it happening anytime soon. I seriously doubt that the technology is really there yet. All of Apple Watch's sensors require specific frequencies of light or other radiation to be beamed into your skin and a significant amount of processing and calculation to determine the result. That's all quite bulky in fact and too large to fit into the ring. It also requires a lot of power. I doubt that Oura's SpO2 sensor is very accurate at all considering Apple's much larger one has taken years to get off the drawing board and still isn't very accurate. Heart rate is probably the easiest measurement of all and "Sleep tracking" is just an off the shelf motion sensor so it's likely that Oura uses some significantly simpler and less accurate sensors and doesn't require the heavy calculation of Apple's sensors, nor the "always on" measurements. Finally, rings are more complimentary devices since not everyone is going to wear a ring. It only makes sense as a product if the company makes rings as well as wrist bands or watches really. IMO the best uses would be for sleep tracking and perhaps "kid tracking." The health angle is just not there yet.
Why do I think that if Jony Ive designed it, he wouldn't want a big hole in the center.
“Granted, I'm used to it at this point, but it really isn't the most feminine-looking thing out there, and it definitely screams "smartwatch" when you see it.” Whereas that huge black ring IS feminine-looking? That definitely screams “I’m a Geek” when you see it. I’m a guy, and I wouldn’t wear that hideous thing.
It's an improvement over what the first generation Oura ring looked like.
I wouldn't say "hideous." That's over the top. Could be they make a white one, or various colours? Nothing says "tech bro" like all black devices, but it doesn't seem like they *have* to make it any particular colour. When these things go mainstream, the look of it will change.
Well, Oura does offer different colors and finishes for their ring. The other three colors are silver, gold, and a glossy black. But I picked the matte stealth color because I prefer not having to see my ring all scratched up. If Oura makes different finishes like that for the ring, I'm sure Apple could do the same like with the Watch. Still a long way to go but I wouldn't doubt that it would be more than just a black ring.
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