Apple Watch series 6 and watchOS 7 rumors: Blood oxygen levels, sleep tracking, and more

What’s in store for Apple’s wrist-wearable health computer this year?

apple watch series 5 display
Christopher Hebert/IDG

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Apple has delivered a new Apple Watch every year since the original in 2015. And they’ve all been unveiled during the company’s September event, along with the new iPhones, and shipped shortly after (with the exception of the first model, which shipped in April of the following year).

We don’t expect this year to be any different. We’ll likely hear about the successor to the Apple Watch Series 5 during Apple’s big fall iPhone event. What will it have in store for us? Here we compile the latest rumors, leaks, and speculation about the Apple Watch Series 6 and watchOS 7.

Blood oxygen saturation

A report from 9to5Mac about new features found in an early version of iOS 14 describes low blood oxygen saturation notifications, similar to the current notifications for heart rate.

The hardware Apple uses to measure heart rate is a type of plethysmograph, which should be technically capable of measuring blood oxygen levels in the way some other products do (like some Garmin watches). This may be a feature limited to the new Apple Watch hardware, or it might come to some existing Apple Watches.

Sleep tracking

Apple has long been rumored to be developing sleep-tracking features for the Apple Watch. The latest report called it “Time in Bed tracking” and was just before the reveal of the Apple Watch Series 5 last year, causing most observers to think it was coming with that watch. Apple even accidentally left a reference to the “Sleep app” in screenshots for the Alarms app. Whoops!

apple watch sleep IDG

Apps like AutoSleep add sleep tracking to your Apple Watch, but we hope for an official Apple solution this year.

If Apple goes another year without some sort of sleep tracking function, it’s going to look really bad—its chief competitors like Fitbit have had this for years now.

Kid watch features

You can currently link your iPhone to multiple Apple Watches, but you can only have one active at a time. Changes in iOS 14 and watchOS 7 are said to change all this. A parent can give an Apple Watch to their child, and pair it with their own phone, in addition to their own Apple Watch.

The parent would then have typical parental control features like the ability to limit contacts and music. A new feature called “Schooltime” would allow the parent to limit which apps and features could be used during certain hours (it’s unclear if this would also be geo-fenced to make the limitations active only when the child is at school).

Watch face sharing and Infograph Pro

Another new feature of watchOS 7 and iOS 14, users will be able to use the share sheet to send watch faces to other users. There are enough watch faces now, with enough customization options, for this to be a useful feature. We still would like to see a sort of “FaceKit” framework for developers to make custom watch faces, with appropriate limitations and controls in place.

Also mentioned is a new Infograph Pro face which will feature a tachymeter (a function used to measure speed).

Improved water resistance

A report from late 2019 mentioned that Apple is changing the material used for the circuit board in the Apple Watch, which then supposed that this would mean faster performance (it does not, necessarily, mean this).

But it also mentioned that the watch would have improved water resistance. The model 4 and 5 Apple Watches are already water resistant to 50 meters, but Apple says you should only really swim with your watch, not engage in snorkeling, scuba diving, or water-skiing. Perhaps enhanced waterproofing is meant to allow a little light under-the-surface activity, or maybe it’s just to increase it’s resistance to forceful water entry (like the aforementioned water skiing).

MicroLED display

All Apple Watch produced so far have used OLED displays, which are durable, thin, and feature fantastic contrast. Apple has been working on MicroLED displays for a long time now, according to the latest rumors, and it might use the new display technology first in the Apple Watch. Some reports say that the 2020 Apple Watch (the Series 6) would be the first to get such a display, other say it’s further out.

MicroLEDs could have a lot of advantages for the Apple Watch. They’re even more power-efficient than OLED (especially at brighter settings), at least as thin, able to produce very fine detail or high resolutions in a small space, and have excellent response time and control over refresh rate. It could be a critical component in Apple dramatically increasing the battery life of the Apple Watch.

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