We love big, round numbers here in hardware land. Hitting one million of anything is an impressive feat, let alone one million $399 smart rings. It’s too soon to suggest that Oura has permanently transformed the wearables space, but in a time when things have calcified around the smartwatch form factor – and one specific smartwatch in particular – it’s worth noting when a startup arrives on the scene to shake things up.
It’s safe to say that Oura was among those startups that managed to get a boost from the pandemic, in spite of a high price tag. The device is less of an active fitness tracker than it is a health monitor. Its vitals tracking and unobtrusive form factor earned the company deals with a number of sports leagues, ranging from NBA to NASCAR. There are few higher profile fingers you’d want your product on.
Those partnerships coupled well with some research studies around things like the product’s built-in temperature tracking. At the end of 2020, Nature published a study titled “Feasibility of continuous fever monitoring using wearable devices,” highlighting how the device might be used to detect changes in body temperature – and potentially spot a Covid infection early on.
The company also used today’s news to highlight the device’s sleep tracking – another thing many of us have no doubt spent a lot of time thinking about a little over two years after the pandemic changed the world and our ability to sleep through the night.
“Oura was the first wearable to focus on sleep because we knew from Day 1 how much it impacts other aspects of our health,” says COO Michael Chapp in a blog post. “And what we measure, we can improve. Research shows a direct correlation between chronic sleep deprivation and disease. Good sleep improves nearly all aspects of life, including immunity, performance, and mental health.”
Oura wasn’t the first smart ring, nor is it the last. It was beat to the punch by Motiv, though that company has been largely silent since shifting from health tracking to biometrics at the height of the pandemic (rough timing, to say the least). Since then, companies like Movano and Circular have merged, in hopes of capturing some of the newfound interest in a form factor that had initially failed to gain traction (for the record, I’m still not a ring guy). Google-owned Fitbit is rumored to be working on its own ring, per the recent discovery of some published patents.
Oura has also courted some negative feedback. As I noted in a largely positive review of the Ring 3, the company recently moved some key metrics behind a monthly subscription paywall. It’s an understandably hard pill for some to swallow after paying the steep upfront fee for the hardware. Though – at least thus far – such pushback doesn’t appear to have impact solid growth on the back of good reviews and general hype.