I find it very difficult to believe that multiple phones, from multiple manufacturers, owned by multiple people are all "broken". Normal NFC tags read just fine within the expected tolerances, with all tests done.
from what i've been able to see, the ring is working as it was designed and so are all the phones. The ring has just been engineered in a way that makes it's operational tolerances SO sensitive that it doesn't properly account for differences in handsets and use in the real world.
I guess I was just expecting too much.