watchOS 7: ​Apple Watch gets native sleep tracking at WWDC

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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

watchOS 7 native sleep tracking apple watch

Before bedtime your iDevices will start Wind Down, and attempt to minimise distractions by entering do not disturb, screens are dimmed, Night Mode minimises blue light and shortcuts to apps such as Calm, Headspace and bedtime playlists on Apple Music are displayed.

The Apple Watch will also dim the screen and enter sleep mode, where the display is turned off and a sleep timer is shown when tapped.

When you fall asleep the Sleep app will track your slumber using machine learning to monitor movement from the wrist, and it analyses for micro-signals such as breathing.

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 it’s time to wake up, you can set subtle alarms on the Apple Watch that take advantage of the Taptic Engine to gently rouse you.

You’ll then see Good Morning screens on both 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

watchOS 7: Apple Watch gets native sleep tracking at WWDC

Another change headed to watchOS 7 is the ability to display multiple complications from a single app.

Previously, you could only display one per app, but now you can have your watch face submersed in data. That could be multiple data points from a Strava workout, or a full set of baby stats from a parenting app.

There’s a new Chronograph face with a tachometer (above) and an X-Large face which can also display a complication.

And Apple is promoting Face Sharing, which does what it says on the tin. Face Sharing means you’ll be able to download watch faces from the web, 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

watchOS 7: Apple Watch gets native sleep tracking at WWDC

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 your body’s movement, as well tracking your heart rate throughout the session.

And it’s not just dance. Apple is added modes for core training, functional strength training and cool down.

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

watchOS 7: Apple Watch gets native sleep tracking at WWDC

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

watchOS 7: Apple Watch gets native sleep tracking at WWDC

In the wake of the global pandemic, the Apple Watch gets a new hand washing 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 approach to sleep, and it’s something we specifically 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.

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