WWDC Wish List: Apple Watch and watchOS 7

The operating system that drives the Apple Watch, watchOS, doesn’t get as much attention as macOS, iOS, and iPadOS. But as someone who wears an Apple Watch every day, any improvement to watchOS has the potential to improve my everyday life in numerous ways. That’s why I’ve constructed this humble list of features I hope we see at WWDC next week as a part of the forthcoming watchOS 7, due this fall.

Sleep tracking

Most people don’t think about it often, but the amount of sleep we get (or don’t get) can have a huge impact on our physical and mental health. The Apple Watch is a health-focused device—and that’s why Apple needs to embrace using it as a sleep tracker.

Yes, the Apple Watch is already capable of sleep tracking. There are sleep-tracking apps in the App Store, and if you can find some other time to charge your watch—while you’re showering, perhaps—you can use those apps to get a better sense of how much sleep you’re getting. But an Apple implementation would blow them all away, given Apple’s complete control over the platform and all its sensors.

Run away from the three-ring circus

Since the beginning, the Apple Watch has focused its fitness features on three activity rings: Exercise, Move, and Stand. It’s long past time that Apple allows Apple Watch users to define the rings that matter the most to them, rather than just using Apple’s choices.

apple watch activity rings Apple
Apple Watch Activity rings

Competitors such as FitBit allow users to attach fitness goals to specific activity, exercise, nutrition, and sleep milestones. I realize that not everyone is going to want to customize their rings, but I’d love to put a stake through the heart of the Stand ring forever and replace it with something more motivational. What about using the rings to encourage meditation or quiet time every day? What about using it as a way to encourage getting a better nights’ sleep? Even something simple as drinking enough water could be used as a motivator.

We’re all different. Our rings should be able to be different, too.

Measure oxygen saturation

One of the lessons we’ve learned about COVID-19 is that people can have perilously low oxygen saturation in their blood and not know it, and that seeking care when oxygen saturation begins to drop can potentially get them care earlier and promote a better eventual outcome.

My understanding is that the Apple Watch has been able to measure oxygen saturation for a while now, and in fact uses that figure to generate some fitness stats involving recovery, but that Apple hasn’t given users access to the raw saturation number. Perhaps this feature has been locked out because of stringent medical-device regulatory procedures. But given our current global pandemic, if every Apple Watch user has the ability to be warned if they’re having issues with their oxygen saturation, perhaps they should gain access to this feature?