Apple Watch must steal this feature from Oura and Fitbit


Apple Watch’s activity rings help with fitness tracking, but they don’t let you know when to take it slow.

Scott Stein / CNET

My Apple watch knows how many calories I burned yesterday, if my heart is beating at a normal rate, and how many hours I slept last night. However, he can’t make sense of the numbers he collects by telling me whether I should go to the gym or take a day off.

Smartwatches and fitness bracelets have been able to track activity, heart rate, and sleep data for years. But it is only recently that there has been more focus on using this information to make broader observations about our well-being.

Fitbit launched its Premium Subscriber Readiness Score last month, a metric that indicates whether you should prioritize recovery or exercise. More specialized devices like the Oura ring and Shout The group has been offering similar scores for years and is considered a pioneer in this field.

I recently wore an Oura ring over the course of a week and briefly tried Fitbit’s readiness score when it launched in November. The Apple Watch is still my go-to fitness tracker, but I liked wearing an Oura ring next to it, mostly because of the readiness score. Apple Watch users can get a similar rating through the third-party AutoSleep sleep tracker app, but Apple doesn’t have its own answer on that yet.

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The Oura Ring Readiness Score helps you know when you should train a little harder or easier.

Scott Stein / CNET

Why the Readiness Score is so useful

I have become obsessed with closing the activity rings on my Apple Watch, especially since I started working from home during the pandemic. If I don’t close at least two rings (but ideally all three), my day is incomplete. This encouragement has been especially helpful now that I don’t regularly start my day with a brisk 10-minute walk to the metro.

But this fixation on my rings also means that I often push myself to exercise when I probably shouldn’t. This includes the times when I didn’t sleep well, as well as the days when I still have a lot of pain from yesterday’s training.

Oura’s readiness score was very helpful in this regard. When I wear the Oura ring, my readiness score is one of the first things I check when I pick up my phone each morning. And more often than not, Oura’s rating is what I feel.

For example, my readiness score was low over the weekend when I was up until around 3 a.m. to greet a few friends. But it was optimal throughout the week when I had a consistent bedtime and didn’t drink alcohol.

The Oura app home screen has tips next to these scores to help you understand them. A score of 60, for example, came with a warning to be careful how I feel and take it easy today. Oura also lowered my activity goal below average on a day I received a readiness score of 65 to motivate myself to prioritize rest. Fitbit’s equivalent feature similarly adjusts goals and suggests specific workouts or programs based on your score.

I know what you are probably thinking. You don’t need a $ 300 ring to tell you you’re more tired after a late night partying with friends; it’s just common sense. However, incorporating this context into your goals is more helpful than you might think. I don’t feel guilty about trading my HIIT workout for a brisk walk when my fitness app tells me to slow things down. Not to mention, it also provides additional motivation to go to bed early.

Fitbit Daily Readiness Score

Fitbit’s Readiness Score gives you handy tips on when you shouldn’t overdo your workout.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides / CNET

There are slight variations in how these scores are calculated between Oura and Fitbit, but the general idea is the same. Oura’s readiness score is based on activity, sleep patterns, resting heart rate, body temperature, and heart rate variability. A score of 85 or more is considered optimal, while a score between 70 and 84 is good. A score below 70 means you are not fully recovered.

Fitbit’s scale is a little different. A score of 30 or more means you’re ready for a workout, while a score of 29 or less means you need to prioritize rest and recovery. Fitbit collects data on the variability of sleep, activity, and resting heart rate to calculate this score.

The faults of the Apple Watch

Apple Watch can get you moving, cheer you up after a particularly active day, remind you to take a few moments to relax, and push you to bed on time. But those notifications don’t seem as personal or actionable as a readiness score.

I feel like these reminders are mostly based on my activity trends, while Fitbit and Oura combine them with body signals to offer more individualized advice. Besides the general utility of having more focused goals, rest days are an essential part of any health exercise program. They allow your body to recover and can be essential in preventing injury.

Apple already knows the importance of listening to your body and making sure you don’t strain yourself too much. There is evidence of this in the latest Apple Watch software update and Apple Fitness Plus.

Apple’s fitness program classes, for example, include modification options for those who might need a gentler workout. Apple has also extended the Apple Watch meditation tools in WatchOS 8 with the launch of the new Mindfulness app. It also offers mindful cooldowns after workouts for those who need to spend more time stretching and meditating to lower their heart rate.

It’s good that Apple offers these options. But companies like Oura, Fitbit, and Whoop have proven that Apple can do a lot more in this space. My theory is that part of the reason Apple doesn’t have its own version of a readiness score is because the Apple Watch doesn’t track as much sleep data natively as other fitness trackers.

Apple Watch monitors sleep duration, but doesn’t measure time spent at different stages of sleep like its competitors. Since sleep is a factor in Oura and Fitbit’s respective readiness scores, it’s possible that this is part of the answer. But this is only speculation of course. Only Apple knows the answer for sure.

The bottom line is that health metrics are only useful when accompanied by some context that can help you understand what to do with those numbers. The Readiness Score is the most promising way fitness trackers are putting this into practice today, and hopefully Apple will do it soon, too.


Evelyn C. Tobin