The Oura Ring was a sleep-tracking hit. Can the next one be even more?

Oura wants to be a media company, an activity tracker and even a way to know you're sick before you feel sick.

Oura Ring

Over the last few years, the Oura Ring has become one of the most recognizable wearables this side of the Apple Watch.

Photo: Oura

Oura CEO Harpreet Rai swears he didn't know Kim Kardashian was a fan. He was as surprised as anyone when she started posting screenshots from the Oura app to her Instagram story, and got into a sleep battle with fellow Oura user Gwyneth Paltrow. Or when Jennifer Aniston revealed that Jimmy Kimmel got her hooked on Oura … and how her ring fell off in a salad. "I am addicted to it," Aniston said, "and it's ruining my life" by shaming her about her lack of sleep. "I think we're definitely seeing traction outside of tech," Rai said. "Which is cool."

Over the last couple of years, Oura's ring (imaginatively named the Oura Ring) has become one of the most recognizable wearables this side of the Apple Watch. The company started with a Kickstarter campaign in 2015, but really started to find traction with its second-generation model in 2018. It's not exactly a mainstream device — Oura said it has sold more than 500,000 rings, up from 150,000 in March 2020 but still not exactly Apple Watch levels — but it has reached some of the most successful, influential and probably sleep-deprived people in the industry. Jack Dorsey is a professed fan, as is Marc Benioff.

Now, with its third-generation ring, Oura is attempting to go big. The new model looks virtually identical to the last, but has more temperature sensors and memory, and includes new features like period prediction and ongoing heart-rate monitoring that will appeal to people who care about more than just their sleep. It also comes with a new library of content, meant to help users make more sense of all that data and actually live a little better.

"When we talk to customers," Rai said, "we have to boil it down. One, is this stuff accurate? In the early days of wearables, activity tracking wasn't really accurate. It's gotten better. But the more important thing is, OK, what do I do with all this data?" He cited Larry Page's famous Toothbrush Test, which says a great product is something you use twice a day that makes your life better. But not everyone cares about the same things, so Oura's working on expanding its feature set. "We think wearables are moving from activity and steps into health," he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic was something of an inflection point for Oura, which spent much of the last year or so working on studies to see if its rings could be a tool for early detection of the virus. "Most people are seeing they're getting sick two, three days before they feel symptoms," Rai said. He said the same is true for tracking periods and fertility. In this carefully regulated industry, he's careful not to use words like "diagnose" or "treat," and instead likens the Oura Ring to a check-engine light. "It doesn't say you have a flat tire, it doesn't say you can't drive," he said. "It's a warning light." Still, over time, Rai said he hopes to be more proactive and more helpful.

Even without diagnosing or treating anything, Oura's working on turning that data into action. The "so what?" question has plagued activity trackers for years, as they've struggled to be useful beyond telling users what they largely already know. For Oura, that starts with content. "We have some meditations and sleep sounds" in the Oura app, Rai said, "but you're going to see that library expand dramatically." Oura has a content team now, and is working with partners on everything from guided walks to straightforward educational videos. "The half-life of caffeine is eight hours, right?" Rai said. "So let's tell you what that means, and why drinking coffee after 2 p.m. is a bad idea … your heart rate is jacked, and you're not going to sleep."

Rai would like Oura to ultimately be even more prescriptive, to tell users exactly what to do and when to be healthier. Every health and wearables company wants that. But until the data and algorithms are good enough — and crucially, in that early stage where users are still deciding whether to commit to using a device long term — educational content can bridge the gap.

Increasingly, though, Rai said he's finding that people are willing to do the work to be healthier. "I think better health matters for all of us, you know?" he said. COVID-19 made personal and public health front of mind for virtually everyone, while also changing many people's routines and lives for good.

With the new Ring comes a new business model for Oura. Its service now costs $5.99 a month, though buyers will get six free months with their purchase. (Existing owners get free memberships for life.) This is an increasingly common approach, both in the industry in general and in wearables in particular: Amazon's Halo comes with a $3.99 monthly subscription, Fitbit Premium is $9.99 a month, and Apple's Fitness+ is $9.99 a month and requires an Apple Watch. Rai said this approach means Oura doesn't have to rush to put out new hardware, and can focus on the whole experience. "I don't think of us as a hardware or software company," he said. "I think of us as a health company enabled by technology."

Sleep tracking is still the thing Rai and Oura care most about, and the thing the new ring purports to do best. But as more people begin to understand how health affects their life — and how their life affects their health — Rai thinks Oura has a chance to put a ring on many more fingers. He has long believed that the ring is better, both aesthetically and functionally, than a wristband. The last ring won design awards, and for Rai's money there's still nothing better out there. Now the question is how much Oura can do with it.

Protocol | Workplace

Google contractor says she was fired for 'ungoogley' behavior

According to a charge filed with the National Labor Relations Board, "ungoogley" is Google's term for having a bad attitude.

A contractor at Google staffing firm Modis claims she was fired from her job after asking about pay.

Photo: Future Publishing/Getty Images

A contractor at Google staffing firm Modis claims she was fired from her job for "ungoogley" behavior after asking about holiday pay at a meeting with management, according to a charge filed with the National Labor Relations Board by a lawyer for the Alphabet Workers Union.

Tuesday Carne said in an interview with Protocol that she was fired after just nine days of working in the data contracting facility in South Carolina. Carne's termination letter (which Protocol reviewed) called her behavior at the meeting "unacceptable and 'ungoogley'" and claimed that her behavior was the reason for her firing.

Keep Reading Show less
Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email:, where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

The fintech developers who made mobile banking as routine as texting or online shopping aren't done. The next frontier for innovation is open banking – fintech builders are enabling consumers to be at the center of where and how their data is used to provide the services they want and need.

Most people don't even realize they're using open banking services today. If they connected their investment and banking accounts in a personal financial management solution or app, they're using open banking. Perhaps they've seen ads about how they can improve their credit score by uploading pay stubs or utility records to that same app – this is also powered by open banking.

Keep Reading Show less
Bob Schukai
Bob Schukai is Executive Vice President of Technology Development, New Digital Infrastructure & Fintech at Mastercard, where he leads the technical design, execution and support of innovative open banking and fintech solutions, as well as next generation technologies to support global payment and data capabilities. Prior to Mastercard, Schukai’s work focused on cognitive computing, financial technology, blockchain, user experience and digital identity. He is also a member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Protocol | Policy

Biden FCC nominee Sohn is walking a tightrope with Republicans

Gigi Sohn faces plenty of GOP opposition, but the longtime net-neutrality advocate is hoping to pick up a little Republican support as she deals with Democrats’ narrow margins.

Gigi Sohn’s work for net neutrality has become an issue in her confirmation hearings for the FCC.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Gigi Sohn wouldn’t mind getting support from a Republican or two, and it’d certainly make her path back to the Federal Communications Commission easier.

During her Senate Commerce Committee confirmation on Wednesday, Sohn, a progressive favorite and longtime net-neutrality advocate, touted her commitment to ensuring a diversity of voices on the airwaves, her past fights for small conservative networks she personally disagrees with and her habit of socializing with those she battles on policy.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Protocol | Workplace

Microsoft Teams is going after small businesses

Microsoft Teams Essentials offers longer, bigger meetings for a relatively small price tag.

Companies can now buy a standalone version of Teams.

Photo: Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

Microsoft announced Wednesday that companies can now buy a standalone version of Teams — one of its most important products and a major player in work messaging and video chat, alongside Slack and Zoom. The product, called Microsoft Teams Essentials, aims to give small or medium-sized businesses a communication hub that costs less than its competitors'.

Microsoft will charge small businesses $4 per user per month for Microsoft Teams Essentials, while Zoom’s cheapest paid plan is $14.99 per user per month and Slack’s is $6.67 per user each month, when billed annually. The free version of Microsoft Teams still exists, as do the various other Microsoft 365 plans that include Teams. Teams Essentials offers longer meeting times, larger group meetings and more cloud storage.

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at

Protocol | Policy

5 things to know about NTIA nominee Alan Davidson

If confirmed, the former Googler will play a key role in shaping the unprecedented expansion of broadband across the country.

Alan Davidson has been nominated to lead the NTIA.

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee is holding a hearing to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the National Telecommunications and Information Administration — a traditionally somewhat-sleepy role that is taking on new prominence in the wake of the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

That law gives the NTIA authority to write the rules and oversee the distribution of $42.5 billion in broadband infrastructure grants to states, a duty that will require it to massively scale its internal resources. To lead the charge, Biden has nominated Alan Davidson, a well-known figure in Washington who has spent his career cycling through government, industry and advocacy groups. If confirmed, Davidson would have perhaps the most important role in guiding an unprecedented expansion of internet access in America.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Latest Stories