Your Apple Watch will finally track your sleep this fall

This week was a busy week for those in the tech world, including myself. Apple held its annual WWDC 2020 keynote on Monday and I’ve been trying to cover every big announcement that I can, including iOS 14, macOS Big Sur, Apple’s shift to ARM processors for future Macs, and iPadOS 14. This article focuses in on another big announcement from the show: watchOS 7.

Granted, we haven’t seen a ground-breaking update to the Apple Watch since the early days of the device. Back then, Apple was trying to figure out what the Watch’s sole purpose in life would be. As it turns out, it’s great at tracking your fitness activities while also serving as a companion piece to your iPhone. It took six generations of the Watch’s software, watchOS, to really hone in on this philosophy. And now, with version 7 shipping this fall, Apple has started to build on top the foundation it’s laid by listening to user feedback.

The biggest piece of user feedback that Apple has likely received is a request for one single feature: sleep tracking. The Apple Watch can do so much stuff with apps, complications, and a cellular connection. However, up until now, it’s never been able to track your sleep natively. That all changes with watchOS 7. With the new system, Apple will finally provide a first-party way to keep tabs on your sleeping habits.

It’s all built into a new app called Sleep. You get ordinary sleep tracking built in, but to take things up a notch, Apple includes a new Sleep Mode which will automatically turn on Do Not Disturb and prevent your screen from automatically waking up. Your Watch can also alert you when it’s time for bed so you can stick to your sleep goal. You get a sleep chart when you wake up directly in the Health app along with the option to disable your alarm if you get up earlier than anticipated. And in case you’re wondering when you should charge your Apple Watch, it seems that Apple thinks when you wake up is appropriate. After all, it built a feature to alert you via your iPhone that your Watch has reached 100 percent and is ready for the day.

With this feature set, I’m pretty sure a lot of the current sleep tracking apps for Apple Watch are gonna die off. Maybe not all of them, but at least a good majority. watchOS 7 is heavily centered around the functionality and it’s the principal reason why many will take the time to upgrade their Watches in September. Don’t be surprised if the sleep-tracking-on-Apple-Watch market begins to decrease in size.

Of course, watchOS 7 doesn’t just include sleep tracking. As is the case with almost every new version of watchOS, this version comes with some new watch faces. There’s a new Chronograph Pro face with a tachymeter, a new X-Large face with complications, a new Photos face with color filters, and more Pride faces. You can customize each face on the Watch to your liking and, for the first time ever, Apple will let you share your work with friends. You can create a link to your watch face configuration and send it out to the world. That means third-parties can build watch faces and create links they can share. This isn’t exactly what users meant when they said “we want third-party watch faces on our Apple Watches,” but I guess it’s close enough.

A cool tweak Apple made to how complications work is letting a single app drive multiple complications on the same watch face. That means if your favorite weather app can show both the temperature and the time the sun will set, you can have both of those complications on your face at the same time. I think this is really smart, especially since sometimes it’s hard to decide which complications you want. (Some might say making the right decision is complicated.)

On the fitness side of things, Apple has introduced a handful of new workout trackers with watchOS 7. You can now track Functional Strength Training, Core Training, your post-workout Cooldown, and even Dance. You can get a summary of all your fitness data on a single page within the Activity app, and you can now compare all of your stats with the stats of your friends.

A classic Apple Watch-tracking activity is bicycling, and now, watchOS 7 can guide you along a cycling route thanks to Apple Maps. Falling in line with iOS 14, your Watch can now provide a route in select cities with the best directions for someone on a bike. You’ll even know when you have to climb a flight of stairs or dismount your bike when the route gets tricky.

Siri is also getting upgraded as a part of watchOS 7. Now, you can ask Siri to translate words for you right from your watch. You can also utilize Siri Shortcuts you make on your iPhone. Finally, all of Siri’s voice processing will be done directly on your Apple Watch, making the voice assistant much faster than before.

With watchOS 6, Apple introduced new measures to protect your hearing health. With watchOS 7, the company is taking things up a notch by giving you a weekly report in the Health app as to how often you listened to high-decibel sounds. You can now also set a max headphone volume on your Apple Watch. Rounding things off, when you reach the World Health Organization’s recommended safe weekly listening dose in terms of decibels, you’ll be alerted and your volume will be reduced.

Oh, and in case you forgot that watchOS 7 was coming out in 2020, your Apple Watch can now guide you as you wash your hands. If your Watch detects your hands moving and water running, it’ll start up a prompt and not disappear until you’ve cleaned your hands for at least 20 seconds.

Overall, watchOS 7 builds on top of previous watchOS versions with features that have more than likely been requested by users. Well, either that or Apple has just witnessed the world we live in and has built features to adapt to it (I honestly never thought washing your hands would become a fundamental part of the watchOS operating system). It seems like a solid upgrade, one that isn’t entirely striking or ground-breaking but is certainly welcome. I’m looking forward to installing it on my Watch come the fall.