The Apple Watch has grown into an impressive web of hardware and software in recent years, despite a clunky “0-series” and the tech giant is throwing a lot of it at the wall to see what sticks. However, despite all its accomplishments, it’s far from the best sleep tracking watch.
While not all of the innovations have stuck (remember turning the Digital Crown into a “time travel” through your schedule?), the Apple Watch and watchOS have become a key product for anyone interested in physical fitness, health or well-being.
With awesome sensors and workouts, third-party fitness apps, and everything else that works seamlessly with the Health app, there’s a lot to like — and yet, despite being constantly curious about sleep, I’m not with it. my Apple Watch.
For all Apple Watch and watchOS new features year after year, sleep tracking has been an oversight. Here is what needs to change.
What will watchOS 9 add?
As of this writing, we’re about two and a half months away from the full release of watchOS 9, which admittedly has some improvements planned for sleep tracking.
Apple says watchOS 9 will not only track sleep duration (which can be done with Apple Watch right now), but it will also map the different stages of sleep (REM, Core, and Deep sleep). This will link to your Health app, which will then link to your heart and respiratory rate to help diagnose potential conditions like apnea.
Apple says the tools will also continue to evolve, with additional studies being conducted on a regular basis.
So what’s the problem ?
The biggest hurdle for many users using their Apple Watch for sleep tracking is actually hardware – the battery just doesn’t last long enough.
Apple’s inclusion of fast charging on the Apple Watch 7 feels like a tacit admission of that. As you get closer to the end of the day, your Apple Watch will let you know it’s time to charge it before you go to bed.
I have a Series 7, and while it can regularly hit around two days of battery life, it depends on me not tracking workouts, minimizing time spent using apps on it, and most of all, disable always-on display (keeping that screen on takes a huge bite out of battery, understandably).
Unfortunately, anyone with an older watch is out of luck when it comes to fast charging, and needing to charge for an hour and a half to two hours on the admittedly now long-in-the-tooth Series 3 puts everything hoping to reload quickly before bed to rest – especially if, like me, you like to hit your “Stand” goal late in the evening.
If you have little or no interest in sleep tracking, that’s fine, but for a device that’s arguably the best in the world at helping users learn more about their bodies and their rhythms, it is a big lack.
What about competitors?
To make this even worse, Apple’s competition in the space revolves around them. Whether you look to Fitbit, Amazfit, Samsung or even newer entries like Honor, they all achieve several days of battery life across the price spectrum.
Take the Fitbit Inspire 2, for example. It’ll set you back around $100 in the US, £89 in the UK and AU$120 in Australia, and boasts an incredible ten-day battery life.
Of course, this isn’t an “apples to apples” comparison (if you’ll pardon the pun) since Fitbit offers much more expensive smartwatches with a fraction of the functionality of the Apple Watch (more on that in a moment), but it’s still something to consider – it’s not impossible to buy a second, cheaper fitness tracker so you can track sleep alongside your Apple Watch tracking everything else.
It doesn’t hurt that Fitbit’s sleep tracking is incredibly detailed, even at the price of the Inspire 2, and is already part of what watchOS 9 will add. While Apple Watch takes your sleep data and stores it for later review, Fitbit also helps feed it into a “daily readiness score” (as part of Fitbit Premium) for a more tangible way to explore your data.
Why hasn’t Apple addressed this issue yet?
It’s worth noting though that watchOS remains a step ahead of the competition, well, in just about every way except battery life.
As I mentioned earlier, it had some growing pains with some features that just didn’t work, but it’s also the most flexible portable OS out there.
A lot of that comes down to Apple owning the hardware and software stacks, of course, but adding a built-in App Store to instantly put apps on the watch, or using your Apple Watch to unlock a Mac still feels like magic moments of everyday use.
So there is an argument that Apple may not have worked to improve the battery life of the Apple Watch because they know that if you are an iPhone user looking for a fitness tracker, you’ll probably opt for one anyway. “Captive audience” may be too strong a phrase, but surely there is some logic to it.
Apple Watch 7 was rumored to offer a drastic redesign which didn’t happen as Apple chose to wrap the display around the case instead. A new battery will almost certainly require a hardware refit, so the Apple Watch may get a power boost when a hardware overhaul arrives.
With Apple pushing sleep tracking as part of the watchOS update, it looks like the amount of time the device spends on your wrist is likely to gain in importance – here’s hoping Apple can minimize sleep times soon. stop.