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Despite a lack of hardware, WWDC 2020 brought some major software announcements for Apple’s main devices, including the long-awaited addition of sleep tracking in watchOS 7 – the only problem is that Apple has inadvertently written off the Apple Watch 5 by doing so.
Any Garmin or Fitbit user will know that, despite being one of the best wearable achievements of recent years, sleep tracking can be a killer on a smartwatch’s battery. Having a substantial battery to tackle 24-hour use is essential – something the Apple Watch 5 simply doesn’t have.
While the Apple Watch 5 can reach a similar all-day battery life like its predecessor, the device’s main USP – the always-on screen – has a consumptive effect, finishing the day with less juice in the tank than if the feature was switched off.
Apple is aware of this issue, with watchOS 7 set to alert users an hour before bedtime if the Apple Watch’s battery is unlikely to survive the night, prompting them to give the device a quick charge. It’s a decent workaround, but if Apple wants its wearables to truly be the best health trackers for consumers, it’s important to keep the Apple Watch on your wrist as often as you possibly can.
With that in mind, the only conceivable way the Apple Watch 5 could even handle sleep tracking on a single charge is by undergoing minimal use during the day, and having the always-on feature permanently disabled. Given said feature is the only major upgrade the Apple Watch 5 has over its predecessor, this conundrum begs the question: why buy the Apple Watch 5 at all?
If the Watch 5’s main selling point becomes redundant with watchOS 7, it only makes sense to save yourself some cash and opt for the far cheaper, yet still superb, Apple Watch 4.
Of course, this is only a temporary fix for a problem that may have an official solution by the end of the year – and the clue is in watchOS 7 itself. Left out of Apple’s WWDC presentation is the fact that Force Touch will be removed in the upcoming software update for compatible Apple Watches.
Force Touch utilised pressure sensors to allow different levels of feedback for the user, depending on how hard they pressed the Apple Watch’s screen. Having that technology on any device requires additional space that could otherwise be taken up by a larger battery, hinting that longer battery life could be Apple’s key concern for the Apple Watch 6.
After all, the removal of 3D Touch on iPhones saw a huge boost in battery life for the iPhone XR and the iPhone 11. With Force Touch out of the way, the Apple Watch 6 could be the first of Apple’s smartwatches to feature a multi-day battery life, and the ability to handle 24-hour use with ease.
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I’m excited to see Apple finally bring its wearable range in line with some of the more advanced health and fitness trackers on the market. But until the Apple Watch 6 comes out, there’s little reason to buy an Apple Watch 5 in the face of watchOS 7. Unless you’re dead-set on getting an Apple Watch this summer, stick with the Apple Watch 4 – it’ll get you the best of Apple Watch’s feature for a fraction of the price.