We’re up to the fourth iteration of Apple’s wearable, and the thing still can’t natively track my sleep. The Fitbit has been doing that almost from the beginning, and Apple has looked a little silly for lacking the feature. However, Bloomberg is reporting that Apple’s finally started testing sleep tracking, and it could appear on an Apple Watch as soon as soon as 2020.
That means it won’t arrive in this year’s refresh (Apple has refreshed the watch every fall since 2016, and there’s nothing suggesting that won’t happen again this year), but next year’s refresh.
That’s got to be some kind of fancy sleep tracking! Typically, there are two kinds of sleep tracking currently available. One that simply measures how long you’re horizontal to approximate how well you slept, and another, sleep stage tracking, which uses the wide variety of sensors in modern wearables to make an educated guess not only on how long you slept but how much of that sleep was the coveted REM kind.
Sleep stage tracking has been available on Fitbit for some time, and it’s also already available on the Apple Watch via a number of apps. In fact, when I woke up this morning, Sleep Watch, a watchOS app, asked how well I slept and showed me that I not only go more sleep than usual last night but that I managed to pack in nearly 6 hours of REM sleep.
What could Apple’s sleep tracker—which would theoretically appear on the sixth iteration of the Apple Watch—possibly do in addition to REM tracking that warrants the long delay?
As Bloomberg suggests, it might have less to do with the tracking and more to do with what powers it. The Apple Watch struggles to last 24-hours on a charge, and for many people, a watch with a viable sleep tracker will need to last even longer.
Right now, I have to be very mindful of charging my watch each night just before bed so it can track my sleep and function as an alarm clock. I plop it on the charger while I’m doing normal pre-sleep stuff like brushing my teeth and refilling my humidifier. I have had more than one person tell me they couldn’t put up with doing all that; maybe Apple, with an army of market researchers, has found that the general public feels the same way. Which means that 6th-gen Apple Watch could have far superior battery life than what we make do with currently.
At least I hope that’s the case. Otherwise, Apple’s sleep tracking app will simply be comically late to the party. We’ve reached out to Apple for comment and will update if they respond.