Full disclosure: A fitness tracker is not usually my thing.
Reasons: First, the aesthetics are often terrible: Gold-plated plastic, lots of rubber, and clunky casings that I never care for. Second, I’m a bit of a minimalist when it comes to jewelry. I barely want to wear real bracelets, let alone layer “smart” ones in into the accessory story. Third, comfort is always an issue: Wear them too lose and they can’t capture your heart rate or sleep patterns; tighten them, and… they’re too tight and sweaty and I tug them all day. Sleeping in them? Forget about it. Too bulky to be comfortable.
This is coming from someone who has bought (and sold/returned) two Apple Watches, and tested several others, never being able to fully enjoy wearing them daily, in spite of all the perks of notifications and apps on my wrist. I should note that I’ve also tried the trackers you clip to your clothes. And have accidentally killed too many of them in the laundry to count.
Here’s the final reason I don’t love them: There’s something about wearing one’s preoccupation with fitness on one’s wrist that triggers me. I don’t really want people to know that I’m counting my steps all day or so obsessed with my physical fitness that I wear a thing. I’m sure that’s not at all an issue for most people, it just seems excessive to me, or perhaps it’s never been very motivating for me.
In spite of all this fitness-tracker-bashing, I remain open to new ideas. So when I was offered the chance to try Motiv, a smart ring that does everything other fitness and sleep trackers can do, I was intrigued. After all, maybe a smaller accessory would be less offensive to my fashion sense and more comfortable and accurate, too? I was down to give it a try.
And because Motiv quite literally wrapped around my finger, I felt like it would get a more accurate reading of things like my resting heart rate, not to mention be a little more subtle than a pink rubber bracelet or hulking smart watch.
First, the fit
To that end, Motiv wants to make sure you’re buying a ring that fits you perfectly, so they send a ring sizing kit—gratis—when you order, so you can be 100 percent confident that you’re choosing the right size. A nice touch.
So, let’s talk about the design. The titanium shell made the ring super lightweight, which meant it didn’t take long for me to get used to it on my finger. It is a much thicker ring than I’d typically wear, but how they managed to fit that much technology in such a tiny package is beyond me! Titanium metal is very light, but can be prone to more wear and tear than other harder metals. I wore my ring for a couple weeks, and it looked great, but if I had purchased it and was going to wear it for longer, I’d be concerned about scratches.
Motiv is waterproof (aka you can wear it in the pool, ocean, shower, washing your hands) and it has an internal memory that stores up to three days of data. This means you can ditch your phone while you head into hot yoga or go for that jog, and it will log and sync all your data to your smartphone the second it’s back in range.
As for the look of it? My socks were not knocked off, but it didn’t offend me as so many other fitness trackers do. The ring comes in rose gold or slate grey; I opted for rose gold, but was a bit disappointed to see that it was more copper-colored IRL. DIdn’t exactly work with my other accessories. Both of them look a bit masculine to me (some of my male friends have titanium wedding bands— looked a bit like those), but again, so much less bulky and showy than a bracelet, and I wasn’t constantly fidgeting with it. Bonus points for that.
How to charge a device this small has been thought out beautifully. There’s no trap door to open or cable that you have to shove inside. Simply place the Motiv on USB stick that comes with the device, and it clicks into place with magnets. I wore my ring 24 hours a day, and the battery lasted nearly four days before it required a charge (the Motiv website promises three). I simply charged it when I woke up, and by the time I was showered and ready to start the day, it was topped up (it only takes 90 minutes to get fully juiced).
Motiv’s app shows you your daily snapshot in the form of Fitness, Sleep and Resting Heart Rate “cards”. The app is beautifully designed; Click into a “card” to get more information, say, detailed step and heart rate data for each activity. Help the app clarify your activities by assigning types (like rowing, spinning or dog-walking) and level of exertion. Once you add descriptors, the activity shows up in your activity “timeline,” which is very visual and nice to behold at the end of each day.
Other fitness trackers tend to be built around 10,000-step-a-day goals, but I like the idea of “active minutes” much better. The ring was much better at sensing activity when I was moving through space, like walking vs. when I was on a stationary bike, but that’s a common problem with most trackers. As soon as I jumped into the app and labelled my activity period, it was counted toward my daily active minutes.
In terms of logging detail, it definitely doesn’t go as granular as other fitness trackers I’ve seen, but I kinda like that— too much detail usually frustrates me, or I end up ignoring it. Also, Motiv also won’t track continuous heart rate throughout the day, only your resting heart rate (RHR) and while doing activities.
One of my biggest pet peeves with other sleep trackers is that you have to tell it you’re going to sleep. I never remembered to do it, and was frustrated in the morning when it had logged nothing about my night. Motiv knows exactly when you fall asleep—you don’t have to input a thing—and it will keep tabs on your resting heart rate while you snooze, along with your wakefulness, and restlessness throughout the night. That’s it for detail though; Motiv won’t let you know when you were in deep, light or REM sleep like other fitness trackers.
I did find that on some nights where my sleep was disturbed—for example, when I had to let my dog out in the middle of the night—that it wasn’t able to detect that I had fallen back asleep. So, that night, it thought that I went to bed at 10:30 p.m. and woke up—and stayed up—from 2:30 a.m. on. Oops. There was no way that I could find to easily add my second leg of sleep, either, so it messed with my weekly sleep average and messed up my data.
I also learned that taking a reading from your finger, where people tend to have less hair and fewer tattoos than their wrists, makes for a more accurate heart rate reading. Who knew?
The ring has no vibrations, no indicators, no screen or data you can read while you’re wearing it— just a simple LED light to let you know it’s syncing to the app, or charging. I personally like this: I can live my life, not be preoccupied with my fitness, and not look at the data until I’m ready to. Again, because it has room to store data for up to 3 days without syncing, I don’t even have to have my phone with me to know that it’s capturing my every move, so I can enjoy nature, go for a swim in the ocean, all while being disconnected.
Motiv is $199 available for iPhone, and recently added Apple Health integration; though Motiv’s “active minutes” metric doesn’t exactly translate, other things like Heart Rate will transfer over. It’s also been recently made available for Android, which is a good thing. Whatever phone you use, you have 45 days to try it out with it’s money-back guarantee.
Overall, I was impressed with my experience and am excited to see how much smaller/subtler it can get with future design iterations.
What do you think: How do you feel about fitness trackers? And would you trade yours for a ring? Let me know in the comments.