Saturday, July 13, 2024

Samsung launches Galaxy ring at Unpacked 2024: Here’s our early review

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Tech giant Samsung is about to leap headfirst into the smart ring race, but does it have a winner on its newly bejewelled hands? First teased by Samsung in January, the company has just taken the cloak off the Galaxy ring at its summer Unpacked event in Paris, and we got a first look.   

The company has reportedly been working on the Galaxy ring since 2021, and if it lives up to the hype, it could challenge the celebrity-adored, market-dominating Oura ring in a big way when the wearable launches at the end of July.   

Like the Oura ring, the durable, unobtrusive AI-powered Galaxy ring can track your sleep, walks and runs, and monitor your heart rate, skin temperature and menstrual cycles. It can then crunch all your metrics to give you an overall score about your energy levels and provide personalised health insights. 

But neat design choices, such as a charging case, and features like gesture support, plus a subscription-free model, could just tip it over the edge. We’ve gone hands-on with the Galaxy ring – here are our initial thoughts, plus details on its official release date and pricing.

First impressions review of Samsung Galaxy Ring

Samsung Galaxy ring release date and price: When will it launch in the UK and how much will it cost?

The Samsung Galaxy ring will cost £399

The Samsung Galaxy ring will cost £399 (Alex Lee/The Independent)

Unveiled at Galaxy Unpacked in July, the Samsung Galaxy ring will be released on 24 July and costs £399. Interestingly, Samsung has announced that none of its features, such as your sleep metrics and AI-based energy score, will be locked behind a membership or subscription fee. You’ll pay for the ring, and that’s all.

To put that into perspective, the Oura ring requires a £5.99 monthly subscription for the ring to be of any real use. Without it, you won’t get personalised health insights or sleep analysis – just daily scores, which is why we were pleased to see Samsung didn’t slap on an extra fee.

That said, the Oura ring is cheaper than the Galaxy ring, with prices starting from £299 for the Oura gen 3 heritage ring and £349 for the Oura gen 3 in the horizon ring style.

Samsung Galaxy ring design

One of the best things about the ring is its design

One of the best things about the ring is its design (Alex Lee/The Independent)

One of the best things about the Galaxy ring on first look is its design. Made out of titanium, it comes in three different colours – black, gold and silver, and features a concave design to protect it from scratches and knocks. Though we don’t know whether it will survive weightlifting sessions until we get to test it in the real world (we’re doubtful), but it is durable enough to survive dips in the ocean.

Like other smart rings on the market, there are lots of different ring sizes to choose from and you can get a sizing kit to figure out the best one for you. Samsung recommends wearing the plastic test ring for 24 hours to find the best fit for your finger as you sleep and go about your day.

It comes in US sizes 5 to 13. I was between a size 8 and 9 on the Galaxy ring, and am a size 8 on the Oura ring, so the sizes are fairly similar. Samsung says the ideal finger for the ring is the index finger, so make sure to fit the ring based on your index finger size. 

There are lots of different ring sizes to choose from

There are lots of different ring sizes to choose from (Alex Lee/The Independent)

The real game-changing design choice, however, is that the Galaxy ring sits inside an earbuds-like charging case with a lid. It looks a bit like the old Samsung Galaxy Buds clamshell case, with the lid flipping up like a ring jewellery box. This is just a much more convenient way of charging and storing your ring when not in use to anything we’ve seen before.

The Oura ring sits on a cradle, which we found was easy to lose and tip over onto the floor, while the Circular ring had a very fiddly charging cable attachment in our tests. The Galaxy ring case, however, is the most seamless way of charging a smart ring we’ve seen yet. Plus, it can be charged wirelessly or through USB-C. While it’s not the most durable – the ring fell out of the plastic case when dropped on the floor – Samsung doesn’t expect you to keep the case in your pocket like a pair of earbuds.

The ring’s primarily going to be on your finger unless you’re charging it, which you shouldn’t need to do too frequently. Samsung says you’ll get seven days of use out of a single charge, it’s just a really great storage solution. 

Samsung Galaxy ring features

Samsung’s suite of upcoming products are all powered by artificial intelligence, including the Galaxy ring. While we haven’t had any time to test out the features, we’ve got a good overview from Samsung. The Galaxy ring can monitor your heart rate, exercise and sleep quality to give you an overall energy score (previously called a vitality score), which appears in the Samsung Health app.

You’ll also find wellbeing tips based on your goals inside the app, whether you want to improve your overall fitness, get a better night’s sleep or lose weight. If you want to improve your sleep, for example, you’ll see your sleep data right at the top of the app. Samsung also has a sleep coaching program, which will crunch all your sleep data and vitals to give you a sleep score, telling you how well you slept and how you can improve.

One thing we got from our short time with the Galaxy ring was that Samsung emphasised it was a passive health tracker, rather than a full-on fitness and wellbeing tracker like the Galaxy Watch 7 or the all-new Galaxy Watch Ultra. While it can automatically track exercise, it can only track walks and runs – a deficiency we’ve seen with most smart rings on the market. Though good at tracking sleep, none so far have been any good at tracking exercise. Keep your smartwatch for that.

The design of the ring up close

The design of the ring up close (Alex Lee/The Independent)

As well as sleep, you can also see your live heart rate directly inside the app, which might help when you’re at the gym. Imagine yourself propping your phone on a rower so you can see how high or low your heart rate is – though, it’s way easier to access this live data on a smartwatch screen.

There’s also a skin temperature sensor, which lets you track your menstrual cycle and fertility windows, as well as inactive alerts straight to your Galaxy phone if you’ve been sitting down for too long.

But the most exciting feature is the inclusion of gestures – you’ll be able to pinch your index finger and thumb together twice to take a picture on your Galaxy phone remotely or cancel an alarm. It’s really neat and a nice implementation that we’ve not seen on a smart ring before.

The Galaxy ring is also compatible with Samsung’s Find My service, so if you lose it somewhere, and someone with a Galaxy phone is in the vicinity, you’ll be able to find its location. These are all game-changing features that trump the Oura massively – better-finding features, neat gesture features and no subscription fee. Plus, Samsung says that the Galaxy ring will work with all Android phones running Android 11 and above, but will work best with Samsung phones.

Early verdict: Samsung Galaxy ring

While it’s too early to say, the Samsung Galaxy ring might be the best smart ring released so far, and it is certainly going to give Oura a run for its money. Well-built, really pretty and stacked with features that better the Oura ring on first look, the Galaxy ring is going to shake up the market. Without an ongoing monthly subscription fee, access to in-depth sleep data and coaching, plus really neat gesture support, we’re really excited to see what the Galaxy ring has to offer. Our full review will be coming soon.

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