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

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

For those looking for a more discreet and perhaps more stylish way to track their health, a ring may be just the thing.

At least that’s Samsung’s hope.

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

That’s partly because it’s new territory for Samsung, a company that has recently emphasized its interest in artificial intelligence and home robots, but it’s also the first major tech company to embrace a class of health devices that has yet to fully enter the mainstream.

Over the last five years, smart rings have gained popularity for their ability to track key aspects of a wearer’s health, like heart rate and sleep quality, without requiring people to wear a full-fledged smartwatch. (It certainly doesn’t hurt that their batteries can last nearly a week on a single charge.)

But these devices don’t offer the full range of health features that companies have managed to cram into larger devices like smartwatches. For example, Samsung’s new Galaxy Watches include a feature that can alert users if it detects signs of moderate to severe sleep apnea; that feature is completely absent from the Galaxy Ring.

Despite the challenges of cramming batteries and health-monitoring sensors into extremely small packages, at least half a dozen companies are actively developing and selling smart rings, including Oura, Ultrahuman, and Movano. Even Apple, which is keen to highlight health features on its smartwatches, is reportedly considering the idea, but such a device under developmentAccording to Bloomberg News.

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

For example, unlike its rivals, Samsung’s new wearable is only compatible with Android devices—sorry, iPhone owners. But assuming that’s not a dealbreaker, there are some new subtleties here.

Samsung’s smart ring is one of the few that’s easy to find if you lose it, because the company’s Samsung Find app records the wearable’s last known location. (It also lights up red and green to make it easier to find.)

The Galaxy Ring can also control the company’s own smartphones to some extent; pinch the ring on your finger twice and the connected phone will turn off early morning alarms or take a photo when the camera app is open.

Aside from the upfront cost of the Galaxy Ring, you don’t have to pay any additional fees to use it. (Oura, the highest-profile smart ring company currently operating, charges $5.99 per month for access to more advanced features, such as viewing trends in health data over time.)

“The entry of a major technology player like Samsung into the smart ring market really brings validity to the industry,” Amaury Kosman, CEO of smart ring maker Circular, said when Samsung’s rival model was first introduced in January.