3 Ways Samsung’s Galaxy Ring Could Blow the Oura Away

The Oura Ring was relatively early to the smart ring game, but Samsung’s upcoming wearable could have some major advantages.

Samsung Galaxy Ring was announced at Unpacked 2024 in January alongside the Galaxy S24 series Androi...

Smart rings are about to have a moment. Much like Apple’s Vision Pro is pouring some gasoline on people’s interest in virtual reality headsets, Samsung’s decision to release the Galaxy Ring is set to do the same thing to this new class of wearables. When a giant, global electronics company moves into a new product category, people watch and things change.

The Oura Ring marked a moment for smart rings in terms of quality and acceptance. I’d argue it’s one of the reasons devices like the Evie Ring and the Galaxy Ring exist in the first place. Not necessarily because of what Oura’s been able to achieve technically, because while impressive, smart rings like the Motiv Ring existed before it. It’s more because Oura is uniquely good at communicating what it’s learning about your health. Well, that and celebrities seem to love the Oura Ring Gen 3.

Samsung’s smart ring is interesting because rumors are lining up in a way that suggests that all of its experience developing smartphones and smartwatches will lead to a very different kind of first-generation loop you wear around your finger. One that will do the excellent health and fitness tracking of the Oura Ring, but otherwise might be closer to a smartwatch without a screen. Those differentiations could pose a real problem for Oura.

No Subscription Required

Oura gives you a lot of thoughtful software features for your monthly subscription.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

After reviewing the Oura Ring Gen 3, I came away convinced that the $5.99 per month subscription was worth it, but less convinced if people would feel comfortable paying for it. One obvious advantage that Samsung’s Galaxy Ring could have over the competition is not requiring a subscription at all. Currently, Samsung offers the health features of the Galaxy Watch, including a system of sleep profiles that shares some similarities to Oura’s, at no additional cost. Unlike Apple and Google, Samsung doesn’t even sell an add-on subscription for video workouts or nutrition plans. It just gives you access to the features you’d expect to have.

It’s possible introducing another wearable in the mix will be an opportunity for Samsung to start experimenting with subscriptions, but the scale at which it does business might mean it doesn’t have to, especially if owning a Galaxy Ring is an on-ramp to buying even more Samsung products. The reality is that some people own and wear two wearables at once. There’s an Oura Apple Watch app for a reason. Plenty of people wear their smart rings to bed for comfort, but otherwise wear a smartwatch during the day. I have to imagine Samsung wants to make the idea of you owning two wearables as simple as possible.

Even More Convenient Mobile Payments

Contactless payments could be a hugely useful feature on a smart ring.

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Samsung selling some version of the Oura Ring’s health features for “free” could very well be enough on its own, but Samsung likes to make a splash when it enters a new product category. Early reports about the Galaxy Ring suggest it could do more than just track your body temperature, movement, and heart rate. ETNews writes (via translation) that the Galaxy Ring will “support remote control of other devices and wireless payments.”

The Samsung Wallet app comes pre-installed on Galaxy smartphones and smartwatches and does all of the things that you’d expect a modern payment app to do: storing debit and credit card info, driver’s licenses, car and home keys, and offering the ability to send and receive payments. Essentially, everywhere tapping a card is available, you can use a service like Samsung Wallet or Apple Pay, and CNBC reports that more than half of Americans are already using some form of contactless payment.

It’s not unreasonable to assume the Galaxy Ring has some miniature version of the NFC radio and biometric identification that Galaxy Watches and Apple Watches already use for payments. Tapping a ring to a register or subway turnstile seems even easier than pulling out your phone or pressing a button on your smartwatch, it would probably be very convenient. And it’s not the kind of feature competing smart rings could pull off without building a relationship with payment providers or developing their own payment system.

Smart Home or Headset Controller?

The mention of controlling other devices with the Galaxy Ring in that ETNews report is worth considering, too. Samsung tries to leverage the same kind of ecosystem advantage Apple does by making all of its products, whether it’s a SmartThings hub or a speaker shaped like a picture frame, work well together. So far, that’s mostly been expressed by how easy it is to toggle virtual switches and move media from one device to another, but what if Samsung took it a step further? What if you could use a gesture on your Galaxy Ring to scroll through your phone or dim a light? What if the Galaxy Ring is the next great wearable controller for whatever Samsung’s mixed reality headset ends up being? The Elec has reported on patents Samsung has that use a smart ring as a way to track hand and finger movements in a mixed reality environment. As a third-party accessory maker, that’s the kind of integration that will probably never be open to Oura or any other company, whether it’s useful or not.

The advantages Samsung has are great, and something Oura will obviously try and counter, but they’re even more interesting because of where they could take smart rings. Until now, smart rings have been accessories, and occasionally, accessories to accessories. But with more functionality, like the ability to make payments or control the other electronics in your life, they could be proper replacements for the smartwatch as opposed to also-rans. That’s the kind of option I want to have when I’m considering wearing sensors on my body all day, and I’m glad it seems like it’s coming.

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