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HomeTechHealth tracking rings are getting more popular. Samsung wants in.

Health tracking rings are getting more popular. Samsung wants in.

Chris Velazco

For people looking for a more discreet — and perhaps more stylish — way to keep tabs on their health, a ring might be just the thing.

At least that’s what Samsung is hoping.

On Wednesday, the consumer electronics giant revealed a slew of new devices at a splashy event in Paris, including a pair of new foldable phones and updated smartwatches. But it’s the company’s “smart” ring — the $399 Galaxy Ring — that seems to have garnered the most attention.

That’s in part because it is new ground for Samsung, a company that has most recently highlighted its interest in artificial intelligence and home robotics. But it’s also the first big tech company to embrace of a class of health devices that haven’t yet gone fully mainstream.

Over the last five years, smart rings have grown in popularity for their ability to monitor key facets of a user’s health — like their heart rate and sleep quality — without requiring people to wear a full-blown smartwatch. (The fact that their batteries can run for close to a full week on a single charge certainly doesn’t hurt.)

These devices, however, can’t offer the full spate of health features companies have been able to cram into larger devices like smartwatches. Samsung’s new Galaxy Watches, for example, include a feature that can alert users when it detects signs of moderate to severe sleep apnea — something lacking from the Galaxy Ring entirely.

Despite the challenges that come with squeezing batteries and health tracking sensors into extremely tiny packages, at least half a dozen companies — including Oura, Ultrahumanand Movano — are actively developing and selling smart rings. Even Apple, which is all too keen to play up the health features in its smartwatches, has reportedly contemplated the idea, though such a device isn’t in development, according to Bloomberg News.

The Galaxy Ring comes with a few key differences from competing models, but not all of them great.

Unlike rivals, for instance, Samsung’s new wearable is only compatible with Android devices — sorry, iPhone owners. But there are some novel niceties here, assuming that’s not a dealbreaker.

Samsung’s is among the few smart rings you can easily find if you misplace it, as the company’s Samsung Find app logs the wearable’s last known location. (It’ll also light up in red and green to make spotting it easier.)

The Galaxy Ring can also control the company’s own smartphones, to an extent — double-pinching the ring on your finger will prompt a connected phone to shut off early morning alarms or snap a picture when the camera app is open.

Apart from the upfront cost, the Galaxy Ring doesn’t cost anything additional to use, either. (Oura, perhaps the highest-profile smart ring company operating right now, charges $5.99 per month for access to more advanced features like viewing health data trends over time.)

“Having a large technology player such as Samsung join the smart ring market, really adds validation to the industry,” said Amaury Kosman, CEO of the smart ring maker Circular, when Samsung’s rival model was first teased in January.

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