Oura Ring vs. Apple Watch: A side-by-side comparison – SFGATE

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The Oura Ring (starting at $299) vs. Apple Watch (starting at $249)
While choosing between the plethora of fitness trackers out there, my search boiled down to two options: Oura Ring vs Apple Watch. I’m a hypochondriac who’s trying to give myself fewer reasons to freak out over my health, so I like keeping an eye on my daily step count, heart rate, and sleep quality. Both of these products cover those bases (and more), but which one is best?
I bought the Apple Watch SE first, but quickly found a few bumps in the road. I have a tattoo on my wrist that I didn’t love covering up, and I was even more worried it was messing with the metrics. When the Oura Ring Gen3 came out with expanded activity-tracking functions, it seemed like a perfect solution. Before deciding on which one to stick with, though, I decided to use them both at the same time and see which one worked best.
After about a month of wearing them, there’s a clear winner in my mind. 
Let’s start with the price of each product. My Apple Watch SE cost about $300 (currently on sale for $249), but the Apple Watch 8 currently starts at $399 to $499. The pricier option here accounts for two extra functions: blood oxygen and ECG apps. All models will also link to your iPhone’s Health app for things like heart rate, step count, activity, and sleep data. 
The Oura Ring Gen3 currently ranges between $299 and $449. The only difference in cost here is the different styles. (They also partnered with Gucci to make a $950 ring for any extra bougie folks out there.) Regardless of appearance, each ring includes the same sleep, heart rate, blood oxygen, and more wellness tracking. However, you have to pay an extra $5.99 monthly membership fee to access all of that data on the app. The first month is free, at least.
Without the membership, you can still use the app to get daily readiness, sleep, and activity scores, but the information is incredibly limited. This is one of the biggest complaints most users have with the Oura ring.
Another important thing to keep in mind with the cost of the ring vs. the watch: Oura is known to be pretty stingy about exchanges. They offer one exchange or refund for any reason within the first 30 days of ordering. I did this when the original size I requested was a bit too big. 
The issue here is that I’m almost afraid to get healthier and possibly lose more weight (which are obviously the main reasons for wearing a fitness tracker) because the ring might not fit as snugly on any of my other fingers — and I don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for a new one. The Apple Watch, of course, avoids this problem easily with adjustable watch bands. 
Although the Apple Watch senses the levels of sleep I have and whether I’ve hit my goal, it’s not as fine-tuned as the ring
Wearing these products simultaneously gave me some surprising insight into their tracking. The first thing I noticed was how annoying it was to charge my Apple Watch every single day. Depending on how low it was, it could take well over an hour or two to get back to fully charged. That’s a lot of time to go without it gathering my step count, heart rate, and activity levels. 
For comparison, I can wear my Oura Ring for three days without having to charge it. The Oura Ring charger also only takes about 30 minutes to go from dead to fully juiced up. 
I know the watch features other battery-draining functions as a mini-version of my phone on my wrist, but it’s still frustrating. Most of my friends who wear the watch told me they charge theirs at night for this reason, but I wanted to keep mine on for sleep tracking. To be honest, though, that function is pretty lame – especially when compared to Oura’s abilities.
Although the Apple Watch senses the levels of sleep I have and whether I’ve hit my goal, it’s not as fine-tuned as the ring. The main difference is how Oura senses body temperature changes along with the level of sleep and blood oxygen. It then uses that to give daily sleep and readiness scores, which also go into adjusting the daily activity goal. Even after a month of wearing the watch, it still hasn’t picked up an Average Wrist Temperature for me.
Michael Breus, Ph.D., founder of TheSleepDoctor.com, explains, “Sleep follows the core body temperature cycle, therefore it would stand to reason that the Oura ring would be more accurate than any watch or wrist-worn device.”
I’ve definitely experienced this firsthand. For example, say I spent a night out with friends, got to bed late, didn’t sleep all that restfully, and woke up feeling rough. My Apple Watch would greet me in the morning with a congratulations on technically still hitting my sleep goal and encourage me to “keep it going” by closing my rings. 
The Oura Ring app would instead say, “Seems like you didn’t sleep that well last night, and it’s taking a toll on your readiness. To get back on track, try to do something relaxing today and make sleep a priority tonight.” It would also lower my active calorie goal for the day and maybe even suggest going into Rest Mode to focus on recovery. (Side note: I actually find Rest Mode annoying, even when I am in need of it because I still want to see my step count. Even if you toggle Rest Mode off because you change your mind, it “eases you back in” rather than immediately going back to normal.)
Plus, on top of normal nighttime sleep tracking, Oura can tell when you take a nap. It will update your readiness scores and activity goals based on how refreshed you likely feel after one. The Apple Watch has never detected my naps (and trust me, I gave it plenty of opportunities). 
My watch saying I burned 595 active calories with 7,014 steps. My ring tracked only 492 active calories burned with 9,574 steps
Everyone I know with an Apple Watch obsesses over closing those dang rings — and yes, I got caught up in as well over the last month. As nice as it always feels to hit my active calorie goal on the Oura app, it’s not the same as seeing a shiny fireworks-like ring celebrating the fact that I did enough standing, moving, and exercising. 
Again, the time it takes to charge the watch every day does put a damper on that, though. While wearing them at the same time, my step count on the Apple Watch was always at least 1,000 less than the Oura Ring.
Interestingly, the watch was still counting more calories burned in the day. They both use the same photoplethysmography or “green light” technology to sense movement and heart rate, so I’m honestly not sure how they come up with such different numbers here. 
For instance, I closed all my rings yesterday with my watch saying I burned 595 active calories with 7,014 steps. My ring tracked only 492 active calories burned with 9,574 steps. 
The companies offer similar explanations for calculating the calorie burn: 
With all that in mind, it seems a lot easier to hit daily goals on Apple Watch and feel gratified with your achievements, especially with flashy graphics. That said, I personally feel like the Oura Ring is a more accurate assessment. Not only am I able to wear it more consistently, but it’s also situated in a more stable place on the body for gathering the data. My watch is constantly sliding around my wrist, but the ring stays nice and snug. 
I’m also not a fan of how often the watch prompts me to pause my workout while getting my most frequent exercise — taking my dog on long walks. He stops a lot to sniff stuff and do his business, sure, but pausing and starting again really gets on my nerves. That, or I pause it and forget to start again and lose out on closing my exercise ring. 
My search boiled down to two options: Oura Ring vs Apple Watch
Jayne Morgan, MD, Cardiologist and the Clinical Director of the Covid Task Force at the Piedmont Healthcare Corporation in Atlanta, GA, points out another major flaw in the way both of these products work. “They emit light continuously that penetrates the skin and works to provide health data based on the amount of light that is either absorbed or reflected by the skin,” she tells me. “The darker the skin, the less able is the green light to penetrate, thereby risking providing inaccurate information to people of color including African Americans.”
Dr. Morgan adds that she’s done several lectures on the similar inaccuracy in pulse oximeters on darker skin tones. “Concerning arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) or even low oxygen levels may be more likely to alert a person with white or lighter skin tone, than a user with darker skin tone with serious consequences, including failure of the (darker skinned) subject to realize that they should seek medical care in a timely fashion.” She also mentioned there is currently a class action lawsuit against Apple over this issue.
The problem can be present for people with tattoos, too. I have a black snake tattoo on my wrist, so if the watch isn’t situated just so, the sensors easily malfunction. As a hypochondriac, that often leads to a lot of stress and anxiety. Most recently, I had the Apple Watch in workout mode and after barely taking a few steps, it told me my heart rate was at 169. It then greyed out, I paused it, adjusted the band, resumed the workout, and it went back down to a normal number. My Oura Ring was running in workout mode at the exact same time and never registered a spike that high.  
The only con I have for Oura Ring’s workout tracking is that you cannot see your heart rate while it’s running — just a timer. This makes it extra frustrating when you finish exercising and it tells you it couldn’t record your heart rate, likely because it slipped or something. If the heart rate were visible, it would be easier to fix that while exercising and get a more accurate overall reading. 
Both products have their pros and cons, but for me, the Oura Ring wins the battle of the fitness trackers. I know this is a fairly controversial take considering the Google reviews for each: 1.6 stars for the Oura Ring and 4.7 for the Apple Watch.
Aside from my tattoo issue with the watch, though, the placement of the ring on my finger feels like a more accurate source for data anyway. The charge lasts longer and the information is more insightful. I also don’t really want all of my phone alerts sent to my wrist with the Apple Watch. The number of jump scares from Hinge notifications alone nearly made me throw it away. 
It’s different for everyone, of course, but I hope this comparison helps you figure out which one is best for you before spending any money. Fun fact: The Oura app will also work on the Apple Watch, so you can get the best of both worlds if you want. Or check out our review of the Fitbit Luxe and go with that instead!
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