As someone who has perpetually poor sleep, I was really happy when I heard that Apple is actively developing sleep tracking features for the Apple Watch. Why does that excite me? It’s one area where I think they’re lacking in terms of their app development. They have apps for just about everything else, but they don’t have one to track your sleep. (As a side note, they also don’t have one to help you in terms of the food that you’re consuming. MyFitnessPal seems to be the big player, but Apple doesn’t have an equivalent yet.) Now I’m not saying that Apple needs to have an app for everything, but in this case, I kind of think they do.
What’s interesting is that this new sleep app would be tied to new hardware, rather than a watchOS software update. Which is what we normally see. They would, in theory, release a new app, and this would coincide with a watchOS update. Once you got that update and presuming you had a more recent version of the Watch itself, you would get access to that particular app. But this time it might be different. According to Bloomberg, Apple employees have been testing sleep tracking features on campus for several months with an aim to launch these new features sometime next year. Why is this important? Apple typically releases new versions of the Watch in the fall.
In 2017 Apple acquired the sleep monitoring hardware company Beddit, and of course, they sell Beddit monitors in their Apple Stores. They even released a minor hardware update to that sensor late last year. Ever since Apple acquired Beddit, people have assumed that the hardware was going to be integrated into the Watch, but we don’t think so.
As you’re probably aware (and something that I’ve mentioned), Apple doesn’t currently offer a built-in functionality for sleep tracking. Third party Watch apps, like AutoSleep, work reasonably well and can sync data to the Health app on the iPhone. The iPhone Clock app’s Bedtime Alarm can contribute to a user’s Health data based on the alarm time set and detected phone activity, as a rough approximation of sleep hours.
As much as I love AutoSleep, it doesn’t always track my sleep properly. I’ve noticed that it doesn’t always detect some of my sleep hours. Which means it gives me a false sense of progress. For example, it will say that it couldn’t record an hours worth of sleep that I actually got. Thus lowering my sleep values and making me think that I’m not sleeping enough and then I will try to increase or improve those values. That’s why I think an Apple app would be beneficial. Especially when Apple’s competitor FitBit has a natively supported sleep tracking feature. And they have for years.
Will Apple build their own app to support sleep? That seems likely, but why will it take them so long? Apple might be delayed with this development because they would have to figure out a way to improve battery life. Currently, Apple recommends charging the Apple Watch overnight, which would exclude it from tracking your sleep. But, if you have a newer generation of Watch, then you don’t need to charge it for that long. In fact, I charge mine for about an hour in the morning and an hour before bed. This will give me 24 hours worth of use and includes a couple of daily workouts.
All that said, I am looking forward to Apple releasing their own sleep app. I hope they bring us something sooner than later, but it’s looking like the announcement might come in 2020.