These days, when someone thinks of a “fitness tracker” or “wearable tech,” the first thing that you probably think of is a smartwatch, like the Apple Watch Series 9. It’s pretty fantastic, after all; slap it on your wrist, and you not only get your notifications and apps, but you get 24/7 health and fitness tracking.
But there are other ways to wear your health tech. One of the rising categories is smart jewelry, specifically smart rings. One of the most popular smart rings that you might have heard of is the Oura Ring, which I also wear alongside my Apple Watch Ultra.
However, as much as I like my Oura Ring, a big flaw of it is that it requires a premium subscription to see any valuable information. But what if Apple were to enter the market of smart rings?
It turns out that Apple has already had some patents for an “electronic ring computing device” since around 2019, at least, if not earlier. This first patent that popped up suggests that rather than another health monitor or input device for another machine, it could be something like a mini Apple Watch, complete with a mini touch screen and haptic feedback.
However, more recent patents seem to suggest other purposes for an Apple “smart ring,” which would possibly tie in with Apple’s mixed reality headset, the Vision Pro. These patents include introducing a self-mixing interferometry (SMI) sensor-based gesture input system, another that would control aspects of a user interface on multiple devices (Mac, Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, Vision Pro), and one that would deliver Apple Watch-like haptic notifications to your finger.
While the patents that Apple currently has filed are a bit different than what I’m envisioning, it isn’t impossible. Apple and other major tech companies spend years doing research into new products and can file for patents that may never even see the light of day, even if they are actively working on it.
Though Apple launched the Apple Watch in 2015, unlike other fitness trackers, it lacked sleep tracking up until 2020. If you wanted to track your sleep with your Apple Watch, you’d have to rely on a third-party app to do it. With watchOS 7, the Apple Watch was finally able to track your sleep without the aid of a separate app.
I’m sure plenty of people actually do wear their Apple Watches to sleep. However, I can’t. With my Apple Watch Ultra; it’s just too bulky for wearing overnight while I’m catching my Z’s. When I go to bed, I like to wear something more minimal, and a smart ring is perfect. That’s why I rely on my Oura Ring when I sleep, though I do keep it on all day — the Oura Ring can also detect when I take a nap in the middle of the day, which is something that the Apple Watch also fails at (as well as rest days).
But my complaint with the Oura Ring is that it more closely resembles a men’s ring, which is wider and thicker than I’d typically like. I’m not a huge jewelry person, but I definitely prefer thinner, more feminine rings like my engagement and wedding band.
I feel like if Apple were to make a smart ring, it may get it right in terms of aesthetics or style. I mean, it does have a partnership with Hermès for the Apple Watch that turns the smartwatch into a fashion accessory.
Some of the patents that were mentioned above also don’t mean rings, specifically, but could also be used for jewelry like necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Though I personally just stick with rings, other forms of smart jewelry would be an interesting direction for Apple.
Another thing that would make an Apple smart ring appealing is the fact that it could integrate directly with the Fitness or Health app, which would mean no subscription. Even though I like the data I get with Oura, the need for a subscription to access that valuable data is annoying. And if you don’t subscribe, the ring is pretty much useless — despite costing a few hundred dollars to begin with.
At this point, while it may be possible that Apple could release a smart ring at some point, it seems more likely to be used for input with something like the Vision Pro or other Apple hardware. Still, if Apple does make an input-only ring device, it could look into adding small health tracking sensors into that later down the road.
After all, the Apple Watch wasn’t the first fitness tracker on the market, but it definitely paved the path ahead for smartwatches. Of course, just because Apple has patents for a new type of wearable also doesn’t mean it has to ever come to fruition.
I’ll keep my fingers crossed that maybe someday I’ll be able to purchase a smart ring from Apple that would be easier to wear to sleep than an Apple Watch. And sometimes, well, I just don’t want a screen — I just want to put it on and forget about it.