Apple has taken the wrappers off watchOS 7 at WWDC 20, and as expected, the company has unveiled native sleep tracking for the first time.
As is traditional, watchOS 7 will land in the fall, when we could see the Apple Watch Series 6. It will be compatible with Series 3 onwards, so Series 1 and 2 miss out for the first time.
As we predicted, Apple has taken a different approach to its sleep tracking skills, and the company said it’s a more “holistic” approach to sleep.
The Apple Watch focuses on sleep and wake time consistency. Expanding the existing Bedtime features in iOS, both your Apple Watch and iPhone now work together when it’s time to hit the hay.
Native sleep tracking
Before bedtime your iPhone will start Wind Down, where it attempts to minimise distractions by entering do not disturb, dims the screen, switches into Night Mode and adds shortcuts to apps such as Calm, Headspace and bedtime playlists on Apple Music. The Apple Watch will also dim the screen and enter sleep mode, where the display is turned off and shows a sleep timer when tapped.
When you fall asleep the Sleep App will track your slumber using machine learning to track movement from the wrist, and it looks for micro signals for your breath.
The data will be fed into a newly revamped Sleep section of Apple Health, where your sleep and sleep schedules are tracked with an aim to promote bedtime consistency.
When you wake up, you can set subtle alarms on the Apple Watch that takes advantage of the Taptic Engine. You’ll get Good Morning screens on iPhone and Apple Watch – the latter will show you the battery level to remind you to charge.
Details are still a little scant on the kind of data that will be tracked, but as we predicted, Apple is putting less emphasis on hard data and more emphasis on promoting sleep hygiene. We did think there would be a bigger emphasis on goals, but looks to be a good starting point for native sleep tracking, and of course, there are still excellent third party apps for those hungry for sleep data.
New complications and Face Sharing
Another change headed to watchOS 7 is the ability to get multiple complications from a single app.
Previously you only got one per app, but now you can have your watch face submersed in data from your favourite app. That could be multiple data points from a Strava workout, or a full set of stats from parenting app.
There’s a new Chronograph face with a tachometer (above) and an X-Large face.
And Apple is promoting Face Sharing, which does what it says on the tin. Face Sharing means you’ll be able to download brands’ watch faces from the web and apps, as well as ones your friends and family have made.
There’s also a new way to edit watch faces, making the whole process a little less fiddly.
New Workout activities
The Workout app has grown again, adding support for more ways to get sweaty.
Those who love to dance are getting the biggest boost, with workout tagging for the most popular fitness dance classes, including hip hop, latin, Bollywood and cardio.
And it’s more than just a simple timer and heart rate tracker. It uses the accelerometer and gyroscope to measure movement, as well tracking your heart rate throughout the session.
And it’s not just dance. Apple is adding core training, functional strength training and cooldown modes.
And Apple has redesigned Activity app, and given it a new name: Fitness.
To mimic iOS 14 you’ll get widgets of your current fitness data and trends and summaries of recent activity.
Better on-watch Maps and cycling directions
Apple Maps has been given plenty of love at WWDC, and Apple Watch gets in on the action.
Cycling directions is a big part of the Maps overhaul, and in watchOS 7 you will get cycle-centric information including time, distance, availability of bike lanes, elevation data and whether you’ll need to dismount or carry your bicycle.
Automatic hand-washing detection
In the wake of the global pandemic, the Apple Watch gets a new handwashing feature in watchOS 7 and, as you’d expect, a big dose of Apple ingenuity.
It will automatic detect hand washing using motion and the sound of running water.
Once detected a timer starts so you can ensure you wash your hands for the appropriate time. If you stop short, you get a polite reminder to keep washing. And when time’s up, you get a well done.
We have to say we’re fans of the soap-suddy countdown.
Wareable’s watchOS 7 verdict:
Until we get watchOS 7 on our wrists it’s impossible to say how much this adds to the experience, but we got what we really wanted: native sleep tracking.
We’re big fans of the holistic experience, and it’s something we asked for in our watchOS 7 things we want to see round-up.
We’d probably say we wanted a bit more from sleep, but Apple’s less is more approach has worked before and we’d say it puts its focus in the right areas.
Elsewhere, watchOS 7 has materially improved – and while few other features on our wishlist made the final cut, we’re sure we’ll see more innovation in September when we hope to see the Apple Watch Series 6.