Great’s Apple’s three operating systems, watchOS arguably the least popular. That number doubled in a year that saw macOS get the biggest memory overhaul recently. Overall, Apple The watch’s software is often overlooked, as smartwatch users tend to focus their attention on the addition of new hardware sensors and the like. However, watchOS 7, which launches today in public beta, does bring some important additions, as Apple doesn’t seem too complacent at the top of the list of smartwatch manufacturers.
After all, the company has seen increasing competition, especially overseas from companies like Huawei and Samsung. Likely just updating the software isn̵7;t enough to make smartwatch skeptics eventually start to dive in, but with hardware updates and focus on keeping cheaper models on the market , it will help the company maintain a comfortable position.
The updates include new hand washing features, cycling directions, new workouts and, most importantly, some sleep tracking features. The last, undeniably, is the most requested addition to the watch – and equally important to Apple’s bottom line, a category the company has lagged behind in comparison. However, that is not due to the lack of available technology. The sleep monitoring here works with sensors already on existing devices and incorporates some third-party solutions.
That doesn’t mean the company won’t introduce additional sleep-tracking hardware on the Watch 6 later this year (in fact, that sounds pretty viable), but it does mean the feature gets. Multiple requests will be available for Series 5, 4 and 3 Watches, which launched late 2017 and are still growing in the market for $ 200.
The Sleep feature has many faces. Its core, of course, is standard tracking, which uses the accelerometer to determine when you’ve slept, based on movement, including more subtle cues like changes in breathing, slowing down as you go. entered non-REM sleep. The stats aren’t too deep, but include important information like sleep time and heart rate, all of which are saved in Apple’s Health app.
One of the more prominent parts of the puzzle is Sleep Mode, in which the watch enters Do Not Disturb mode, turns off all notifications, and pauses the wake-up function when the wrist is lifted. You can turn it off by turning the digital knob and it will go back into mode when you sleep again.
Among other things, it will help save battery life – which will be an important issue as the company gets very serious about sleep. According to the Apple account, the watch is currently rated at 18 hours, which is an issue if you plan to use it for day and night monitoring. The Extended Battery is another feature to watch out for with the arrival of Series 6, but in the meantime a new Charge prompt will pop up when you wake up, reminding you to charge your watch before going. It will also alert you if the level drops below 30% before bedtime.
Another important factor is your sleep schedule, goal setting, and sleep and wake times. By default, it’s set to 8 o’clock – which makes me feel overly optimistic in my own experience, but that’s the goal score, I guess. Wind Down creates a period of pre-bed activities, like a meditation and sound app, designed to help you get out of your device and get ready for bed. Meanwhile, Wake Up borrows audio from iOS’s Bedtime app and uses haptic feedback as the alarm. If you move half an hour before the set (worst) wake time, it will ask you if you want to turn off the alarm and start the day.
Hand washing is an accidental addition here. As I noted in a feature earlier, it’s something the company has been working on for years now and casually comes when everyone is intensely focused on keeping their hands clean. This feature is disabled by default and you need to enable it. After starting to count 20 seconds with animated bubble numbers and giving you a small echo of congratulations when you’ve washed them the whole time.
It is designed to automatically activate when hand washing is detected through a combination of motion sensed by the accelerometer and on-board microphone, listening to the sound of running water and soap. Obviously hand-washing detection is surprisingly complex, but this feature works pretty well in this beta – although I still get a few false positives when washing dishes.
Another important addition is a hand-washing reminder, which can be set to pop on when you get home. Again, a great addition in a bug with a super-spread, air and surface virus is now raging across the globe. Handwashing doesn’t currently have a stand-alone app, but metrics for this feature are built directly into the health app, showing your activity over time.
There are four new exercise types currently monitored by the OS: dance, core workouts, strength training and cooling, including stretches and other post-workout activities. These additions take a bit more points than the original tracking features, as Apple works to position the wearable as a more complete fitness tracker. The included iOS app has also been redesigned, merging all the activities into a single view.
As always, there are a few new watch faces. Chronograph Pro adopts a design inspired by a tachometer. It’s a bit busy for my taste, but it’s not a bad design. The X-Large takes things in the opposite direction, with just massive digital time and a huge complexity right in the middle of the screen. Also, a new feature on the front panel is the ability to share the Watch Face with friends via text message.
The most interesting addition here is most likely the one that doesn’t have a lot of time on stage. Along with other operating systems, watchOS has a translation feature. Click on Siri, request a translation and then choose one of the following languages: Arabic, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian and Chinese (Mandarin). Say the words and it will read the translation out loud and show it on the screen. In cases where languages such as Chinese have separate alphabets, the text will be displayed in both Chinese and English transcription.
The process requires a few steps, but as someone who spent a lot of time handing over phones back and forth on a trip to Asia last year, this could be really helpful. Especially during the time when I really didn’t want to hand over my phone to anyone.
Some other features that need to be mentioned quickly:
- Cycling directions for Apple Maps
- Increased Hearing / Noise health indicators and maximum volume control on headphones
- Siri shortcuts are imported from iPhone
The final version of watchOS 7 is coming this fall.