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Samsung’s $399 Galaxy Ring offers health tracking and phone control

Samsung’s 9 Galaxy Ring offers health tracking and phone control

For people looking for a more discreet – and perhaps more stylish – way to keep track of their health, a ring might be just the thing.

At least that is Samsung’s hope.

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

That’s partly because Samsung is breaking new ground. The company recently highlighted its interest in artificial intelligence and home robotics. But it’s also the first major technology company to tackle a class of healthcare devices that haven’t yet fully entered the mainstream.

Over the past five years, smart rings have become increasingly popular because they can monitor important aspects of a user’s health—such as heart rate and sleep quality—without requiring the user to wear a full-fledged smartwatch. (The fact that their batteries last nearly a full week on a single charge certainly doesn’t hurt.)

However, these devices can’t offer the full range of health features that companies have been able to pack into larger devices like smartwatches. For example, Samsung’s new Galaxy Watches have a feature that alerts users when signs of moderate to severe sleep apnea are detected – something that is completely missing from the Galaxy Ring.

Despite the challenges of squeezing batteries and health sensors into extremely small packages, at least half a dozen companies — including Oura, Ultrahuman and Movano — are actively developing and selling smart rings. Even Apple, which is all too keen to highlight the health features of its smartwatches, is said to have considered the idea, although such a device is not in development, according to Bloomberg News.

The Galaxy Ring differs from competing models in a few key ways, although not all of them are great.

For example, unlike the competition, Samsung’s new wearable is only compatible with Android devices – sorry, iPhone owners. But there are some new nuances here, assuming that’s not a deal-breaker.

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Samsung’s Smart Ring is one of the few that’s easy to find if you misplace it, because the company’s Samsung Find app logs the wearable’s last known location. (It also glows red and green to help you find it.)

To a certain extent, the Galaxy Ring can also control the company’s smartphones: If you squeeze the ring on your finger twice, a connected phone will turn off the early morning alarm or take a photo if the camera app is open.

Aside from the initial cost, there are no additional costs to use the Galaxy Ring. (Oura, perhaps the best-known smart ring company right now, charges $5.99 per month for access to advanced features like viewing health data trends over time.)

“The fact that such a large technology company as Samsung is entering the smart ring market is a real asset for the industry,” said Amaury Kosman, CEO of smart ring manufacturer Circular, when Samsung’s competing model was first introduced in January.