The Apple Watch is now easily the best smartwatch in the world
The Apple Watch is the most popular smartwatch in the world. According to Statista, Apple had an astonishing 55% market share from the first quarter of 2020. No wonder the Apple Watch is so popular too. It's fashionable, includes a variety of fitness tracking features, and built-in apps for everything from contactless payments to Uber and more.
But there was a key component that Apple Watch fans have been asking for for years: sleep tracking. That changed on Monday when Apple finally announced it was adding sleep tracking to the Apple Watch in watchOS 7, the latest version of the operating system that supports Apple's wearable.
With this one addition, Apple transformed its watch from a capable and popular wearable into the undisputed king of smartwatches. But not everyone will have access to the new feature.
Sleep tracking, the missing piece
The Apple Watch's lack of sleep tracking and the battery life of around two days were the main criticisms of the wearable. But with the additional sleep tracking, Apple has suppressed half of this criticism. How sleep tracking works.
First of all, it is not something that is activated automatically. You actually have to set a bedtime to let the watch know that you will be hitting the sack soon.
According to Apple, this does not mean that you have to go to bed at exactly this time each night, but that the watch looks for signals that indicate that you will soon be going to sleep.
The Apple Watch gives you information about how long you've slept, as well as an overview of your sleep data for the past 14 days. (Image: Apple)
Adding a bedtime also sends notifications for apps that you use a lot before you go to sleep. This could include meditation apps or prompts to start "scenes" in Apple's smart home app, which you can use to lock your doors and turn off the lights in your house from your phone.
Once you lie down for the night, your Apple Watch uses the built-in accelerometer to look for general movements and micro-movements from your breathing to determine when you're actually going to sleep.
When you wake up in the morning, you'll see a summary of your sleep, including the number of hours of sleep and the watch's remaining battery life.
New exercises and memories to ... wash your hands?
In addition to the sleep tracking feature, Apple announced a number of new exercises for the Apple Watch workout app. The supplements include dance training (for people who are far more coordinated than I am); a new core training (for people with more patience than me); a training for functional strength training; and a decay training.
In a rather surprising move, Apple also added a new hand wash timer to the Apple Watch. There are numerous apps out there that remind you to wash your hands for 20 seconds to make sure you wash away germs and bacteria, especially given the coronavirus pandemic. However, this is still an unexpected addition to the watch.
The function automatically detects the sound of running water and the movement of your watch when you wash your hands. A 20 second timer is then activated to ensure that your gloves are as clean as possible.
WatchOS7 offers a number of additional functions, including new fitness tracking options and hand wash detection. (Image: Apple)
In addition to new exercises and the detection of hand washes, Apple is expanding the watch's noise app. The feature that alerts you to sounds that are above safe to avoid hearing damage can now determine whether the music you hear in your headphones is loud enough to damage your hearing.
Then, of course, there's the ability to further customize Apple Watch faces with multiple complications through a single app, options to get faces from the App Store, and a way to share faces with your friends.
The only problem the Apple Watch is now facing is the two-day battery life. It's hard to imagine that Apple could add several days of battery life to the watch without significantly increasing the size to accommodate a larger battery, but it's still a legitimate criticism. Especially when watches from Fitbit, although not as powerful, can run for several days at the same time on a single charge.
Who gets these new features?
The first-generation Apple Watch is five years old, so they and the second-generation watch do not have access to watchOS 7. While it is a pain, as Apple says, the older wearables just can't handle the features of the latest Software updates.
The Apple Watch Series 3 is suitable for watchOS 7, but cannot use the hand wash detection function. Both the Apple Watch Series 4 and the Apple Watch Series 5 can take full advantage of all the new functions of watchOS 7.
I've been a supporter of the Apple Watch Series 3 for some time, mostly because Apple sold it for just $ 199, which makes it a great entry point for consumers who want to try a smartwatch. But with the news that it doesn't support hand wash detection, it's clear that Series 3 isn't long for this world.
The Apple Watch Series 5 is currently available on Amazon for $ 299 (up from $ 399). This makes it a more expensive, if more functional, option for buyers who want their own smartwatch.
For my money, I would wait to buy an Apple Watch until September or October, when Apple is likely to launch its Apple Watch Series 6. That's because the Series 6 is likely to have a more advanced processor and could offer a longer battery life than the Series 5. Apple can also lower the price of the Series 5 at this point.
If you don't currently have an Apple Watch, wait a few more months before diving. It will be worth it.
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