“Your power ring is lighting up!” my co-worker exclaimed, his eyes wide. A new text message came in, causing a tiny purple light to wink on the side of my finger. I was testing the Ringly smart ring. I smiled.
For months I’ve been bombarded with Ringly ads, in browser banners and in my Facebook feed. It’s the latest piece of technology marketed to women—yay?—but Ringly caught my eye as a wearable I could actually see myself wearing. I liked its claim: that I could put my phone down and enjoy time away from that tiny, tyrannical screen, while still receiving select notifications. The fact that it was a shiny ring, not a watch or wristband, was important to me. I had to try it.
I wasted no time setting up my test Ringly upon arrival. Ringly is pretty intuitive to start: you just download the app (for iOS and Android), then pair the ring to your smartphone via Bluetooth when the app prompts. The app tells you when it’s connected and displays the current battery life. It’s sleek, colorful and easy to use.
Ringly itself turned out to be a large yet stylish ring—think finely-made costume jewelry — that comes in a range of stone and band colors. On its right side it has a tiny light that flashes in an array of colors (yellow, green, blue, red, or purple) to indicate different kinds of notifications. The ring can also be set to vibrate in varying patterns. You can customize the vibrations—one vibe for a text, say, and four vibes when you’ve missed a work-based notification. I set up alerts for text messages, email, phone calls, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Slack. Ringly’s FAQ mentions support for Twitter, Tinder, Whatsapp and Uber as well.
If you turn off LED notifications, there’s no obvious indication that you’re wearing a piece of tech, which is pretty cool. Sometimes, people would notice the subtle flashing side-light unprompted. “What the hell?” was a common reaction. I’d also sometimes prompt them by casually mentioning my “smart” jewelry. I’d tell them my ring just informed me of an upcoming calendar event. “Oooh,” they’d squeal. It’s definitely a conversation-starter.
Ringly is a hefty ring, but it’s gracefully made. The polished, faceted gemstone (which comes in semi-precious and precious options) and band (18 carat plated heavy gold or rhodium plated brass) are beautifully crafted and highly noticeable. With the side light turned off, there’s no indication that you’re wearing a smart ring and not a regular piece of statement jewelry. The ring is solid and able to withstand everyday wear and washing your hands.
I wore Ringly on the middle finger of my left hand, where I normally wear a heavy ring, and Ringly felt lighter. If you’re not used to rings, however, Ringly might feel bulky. Even for a ring, it’s large. I found it comfortable and missed wearing it when I took it off at night, but you might easily have varying mileage.
Ringly charges via a USB-connected ring box, which is clever and ensures the ring has a cradle to go to every night. The box itself is also a portable battery that can charge the ring for a while. I got battery life between 24 and 48 hours depending on the notification settings I had running and how popular I was that day. Generally, Ringly got through a day and a half before needing a charge, so if you wake up in the morning and realize you forgot, you can just take the box with you and use the portable battery feature.
On the app, a simple, rainbow-hued interface lets you change notification status on various apps and alter the notification colors and vibration. It’s snazzy and accessible. I’m pretty sure my mother could figure it out, and I have to re-teach her how to upload pictures to Facebook on a monthly basis.
Ringly also has a cool feature it calls “Inner Circle,” that allows you to set special notifications—specific colors and vibes—assigned to specific people. You can also set it to only receive notifications from your “Inner Circle.” This is handy.
However, I found myself craving the opposite feature: the ability to turn off notifications from a select person or group. I’m in a few group chats that are constantly buzzing, but I couldn’t keep them from buzzing my Ringly without turning off text message notifications entirely.
And I didn’t want to do that, because I’d already gotten so used to having Ringly’s assistance in my life. When I took off Ringly for the last time, I realized just how strange it was to use my phone without it. Looking at the screen without Ringly was a dizzying scroll of notifications I hadn’t been pre-warned about. My constant phone anxiety and screen-checking habits came back.
Once I got the hang of which colors and vibes meant what kind of notification, Ringly meant that I could keep my phone tucked away, without being haunted by the phantom fear that I was missing something important. Ringly kept me informed of exactly what was up. When Ringly was quiet, there was no reason for me to hunt for my phone at all. When I pulled off my power ring, I gave that up.
Should you buy a Ringly? Well, that depends on whether you have $200 to spend on smart jewelry. Ringly isn’t cheap. The least expensive version is the price of a full smartwatch (though maybe not the Apple Watch), and yet Ringly doesn’t even have an interface. But that’s kind of the point. Ringly isn’t meant to let you get news blurbs or unlock your hotel room door—though the company promises continuing innovation in that regard.
Ringly does what it was built to do—act as a prompt, subtle notifier of your business and social activity—quickly and efficiently. It often alerted me to a message or email before it popped up on my phone screen, so there’s no lag time, and I found myself able to relax and sit through a TV show, dinner or a conversation without my phone. Knowing is half the battle.
The truth is I miss the test Ringly. If I had one I’m not sure I’d wear it all day every day, but for special occasions and busy days, the Ringly is ideal. It’s also a funky piece of jewelry if you’re into statement rings, and a conversation starter whenever it flashes its tiny light. If the price were lower, I’d buy them as gifts, and give Ringlys to two kinds of people in my life: the ones who are disorganized and never seem to remember to check their messages, and the obsessive screen addicts whose phones need to be pried from their hands so they can remember what uninterrupted human interaction is like.
Being a little both of column A and B myself, I’m a Ringly fan. Here’s hoping future iterations will see a bargain version too.
Ringly may be a shiny, high-tech bauble, but it’s a worthy one: the price seems more reasonable when you consider just how much life you’re snatching back from the tyranny of your phone.