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What watchOS 7 might have in store

Posted in Apple and Design

I was pretty pleased with watchOS 6 when it landed last autumn. WWDC 2020’s still a while off but a recent article by Matt Birchler got me thinking about what watchOS 7 might have in store, and a couple of features on his wish list really stand out to me.

Sleep tracking

I’m going to keep asking for this until it happens, but I think Apple should add native sleep tracking into watchOS.

Sleep tracking would be a huge addition to watchOS. I would love a simple built-in sleep tracker to show me patterns in my bedtime and wake up time, keep tabs on the quality of my sleep, and do it all in a privacy-first manner.

I want it to hook up to my Health app, so that when I look at Sleep I get a real view of how I’ve been sleeping – relying on the Clock app for that data, as I currently do, is next to useless.

Like workout-detection, sleep tracking should happen automatically. Currently, I have to adjust my Bedtime in the Clock app, which is clunky and easily forgotten about.

I imagine one of the big hurdles with a sleep tracking app is battery. I place my watch on its charger every night when I go to bed and put it on when I wake up, but sleep tracking would mean finding another time to charge the watch. Even if I were to forget to charge it overnight, the battery lasts more than two days of normal wear so running out of charge isn’t an issue.

With sleep tracking running all night, not only is resource being used, but the phone isn’t being charged. So the battery life wouldn’t be as long and I’d have to find a new window (or windows) to charge the watch. It takes about half an hour get a decent amount of charge, so I could do while in the shower, half an hour before bed time, when I get in from work. But what if I forget to put the watch on after that short charge…?

A less tricky design consideration is Theatre Mode activation, so that rolling over in bed doesn’t come with the risk of Watch’s screen lighting up and disturbing sleep. It could be that Theatre Mode gets a timer, along the lines of Do Not Disturb, or it might just be that it activates automatically when the watch knows its owner is in bed. Also, should it continue to be called ‘Theatre Mode’ if it’s going to be more often used at night than in the Cinema?

Manage Workouts from the iPhone

One of the things I run into on a semi-regular basis is forgetting to stop a workout after I’m done, and then getting a 60 minute workout on the books when I actually just walked for 20 minutes. Auto-stop should catch this, but it doesn’t always

This is infuriating. I can’t count the number of fast-walks to work that I’ve forgotten to stop because I took a couple of minutes to say good morning to someone in the office. Those workouts generally get deleted. And it has gotten to the point where I’ve stopped logging Outdoor Walks as often. If I could edit the workout and find the point where I arrived at my destination, so that the data was accurate, I’d be very pleased.

Other times, I wish I could tell my watch I started walking or running a few minutes ago. There is a workout detection feature that was added a couple years ago, but it waits up to 10 minutes to ask you if you’re working out, so sometimes I’m 5 minutes into a walk, want to get credit for the walk, and have to decide, “do I start the workout now and lose the last 5 minutes, or do I wait and hope it asks me in a few minutes and potentially lose even more?”

This is the other side of the coin. I couldn’t have said it better.

Things I don’t think Apple will ever do

From the list, there are a few things I definitely don’t think Apple will have on their product roadmap:

  • Third Party Watch Faces – Apple care deeply about how things look, and the watch face is one central place they’ll never relinquish control beyond Complications
  • Customise Your Activity Rings – the three rings they chose (Move, Exercise and Stand) feel very deliberate, and how else will people in Sharing compare their rings like-for-like?
  • Data Export – Apple want you to stay with them. They won’t allow fitness data export, much in the same way they’ll never offer iMessage export

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