Apple Watch’s Biggest WatchOS 7 Innovations Include Cool Sleep Tracking

Apple Watch Series 5 is a tremendous smartwatch. And this Fall, it will get a software update, watchOS 7, that adds a lot of new features. The same applies to Apple Watch Series 4 and Apple Watch Series 3, which are also compatible. In other words, if you have an Apple Watch released in 2017 or later, you’re golden.

Of course, earlier Watches will still work, but they won’t get all the latest extras that come with watchOS 7. Here are the seven best features just announced.

1. Sleep Tracking

Regular readers (and most Apple execs) will know that I have been asking for this feature in an increasingly urgent voice ever since Apple bought Beddit, the sleep monitor company in May 2017. Well, now I can shut up.

With watchOS 7, Apple is introducing sleep tracking so you’re not reliant on third-party Watch apps to measure your sleep.

You have to set certain parameters: how long you ideally want to sleep and when you want to wake up.

This creates a time when you need to go to bed and the Watch will remind you ahead of time that you need to start winding down now. That’s it, you don’t have to tell it you’re going to bed or anything like that, it’ll work it out.

If, when you retire, your battery level is less than 30%, it’ll tell you, or remind you before you go to bed to charge it up.

In the morning, the Health app on your iPhone will tell you how long you slept.

As I understand, it divides the night into time you were in bed, and time you were asleep. Some monitors divide your slumbers into light, deep and REM sleep, but Apple has gone for something more light-touch and accessible.

Some other products, like several Fitbits, can also set smart alarms, where in the half hour before the alarm time, the device starts looking to see if you move from deep to light sleep and if so, will wake you a little early as this is the optimum moment in the sleep cycle.

Apple’s alarm, a gentle tap on your wrist, is insistent enough to wake you, but will only do so at the set alarm time.

Despite all that, this is a brilliant upgrade.

2. Wash your hands

We all know that hand washing is crucial just now. But Apple has been working on its new hand-washing app for long before Covid-19 was known about.

It has been in development for a long time, years, in fact. This being Apple, and because this app involves machine learning and data, it’s taken time to build models, test them and so on. The impetus came from wanting to look at how the Watch can support people through their day. When Apple realized that nobody, really nobody, washed their hands for long enough, the chance to improve things became irresistible.

The Watch senses when your wrist is moving in a way that corresponds to hand washing and listens for the sounds of water and soap being squished. It gives you credit for the second you’ve already been washing before it shows the jaunty hand-washing animation and it coaches you through the experience. It even asks you to continue if you stop.

Other smartwatches have handwashing apps, but they are basically just timers. This is something different and it’s pretty cool.

3. There’s a public beta of watchOS 7

Maybe I should have put this as number one. This is the first time there’s been a Public Beta for Apple Watch and it means we don’t need to wait until the Fall for the public release to try out the features. By the time the Public Betas arrive, the software is that bit more stable, though Apple will doubtless still suggest we don’t put the new software on our main device.

To get the public beta on the Watch, you’ll also need to sign up to the iOS 14 public beta on the iPhone it’s companioned with.

4. New Watch faces

There are two new Watch faces coming, an updated extra-large face and a Chronograph with a built-in tachymeter. Both look great, but just as important as the new faces is the fact that complications, the little bitty apps that you can drop onto the Watch face have changed.

Previously, you could only have one instance of a particular complication on the face, now you can have multiple. The example Apple gave was of Glow Baby, so instead of one baby-related complication you can have multiple. One to track bottle-feeding, one for nap times and so on.

Or if you’re keen on surfing, then Dawn Patrol complications can festoon your Watch face.

Share Apple Watch faces or download them from websites.

5. It’s good to share

The other big innovation for Watch faces is the arrival of shareable ones. If you see a Watch face on a friend’s Apple Watch, they can share it with you very simply. Just by long-pressing the Watch, choosing Share and picking a contact to share it with.

There will be Watch faces that you can download from websites, too, which is a radically different way of doing things. It’ll be especially interesting to see where this leads.

6. Dance, dance, dance

The Workout app is pretty cool and there are plenty of exercise types. If your favorite isn’t there, you can add it, but custom workouts only offer the same calorie credit as walking. When Apple creates carefully researched workouts, things change. So, for instance, the yoga workout I created gave me many more active calories than the much more accurate official Yoga workout when it came along.

If you like dancing to exercise, the new Dance workout may inspire you. It uses the Watch’s accelerometer, gyroscope and heart rate sensor to accurately monitor your exercise as you throw some shapes. It was tested with four kinds of dance: Bollywood, cardio dance, hip-hop and Latin. Though, really, just dance like nobody’s watching and you’ll be fine.

Other new Workouts are Core Training, Functional Strength Training and Cooldown.

7. Hearing

The Apple Watch can already let you know when you’re exposed to noises so loud they are potentially harmful. Now, there are headphone audio notifications which monitor your listening and let you know when you’ve reached your full weekly listening amount, based on World Health Organization recommendations. The amount of exposure to high decibel levels is recorded in the Health app.

There’s lots more

I could have fastened on the improvements to Maps including, hurrah, detailed bike routes, using Siri, to translate between languages on your wrist, complications for Sleep, Shortcuts and the Camera Remote.

I’ll come back to some of the other innovations in the coming weeks and please check back when the Public Beta goes live to find out if there are any further changes and how to install it.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: