watchOS 7 and Apple Watch Series 6 to feature sleep tracking, blood oxygen detection, new watch faces & more

At some point this year, Apple is probably going to launch a new Apple Watch, what would probably be called the Series 6, and now we know quite a bit about the unannounced smartwatch.

While nothing is official quite yet, a new report from 9to5Mac sheds a lot of light on what’s coming down the pipe regarding the next Apple Watch and the next big upgrade to watchOS, the mobile operating system that makes the smartwatch tick. That includes new watch faces, and, most importantly, a variety of new features. So let’s get right to it.

Blood oxygen detection

This has been a feature that’s been rumored for quite some time. And now it looks like the company is getting around to finally launching the feature in watchOS 7 and with the Apple Watch Series 6. However, it remains unknown at this time what software and/or hardware features will be required to make this feature work, so it’s at least a little possible it could arrive on older models, too. However, it may be a feature that’s only available for newer smartwatches, too.

We’ve heard in the past that Apple has been developing this feature in secret.

That’s not all, though. The report also indicates that Apple will upgrade the ECG app and functionality, reducing the inconclusive readings with heartbeats between 100 and 120 beats per minute.

Now, here’s what else is coming…

New watch faces

There will be multiple changes in this regard. That includes the Infograph Pro watch face. This will include a new element to the watch face: a tachymeter. That’s described as such:

To use a tachymeter-equipped watch for measuring speed, the chronograph is started at a starting marker of a known distance. At the next marker, the point on the scale adjacent to the second hand indicates the speed (in distance between markers per hour) of travel between the two. The typical tachymeter scale on a watch converts between the number of seconds it takes for an event to happen and the number of times that event will occur in one hour.

This will help the Infograph Pro watch face stand out, for sure. And it builds upon the Infograph and Infograph Modular watch faces that Apple introduced with watchOS 4 in 2018.

Next up, the ability to share watch faces. Each watch face in watchOS 7 will be identified as an individual file, and it will be possible for Apple Watch owners to quickly and easily share their watch faces with other users. Based on the early version of iOS 14 code this is all based on, users will be able to share specific configurations of their watch faces with other users. This will be handled through the Watch app on iOS.

The feature will add to the existing ability to customize existing watch faces with various colors, styles, and complications. Watch face configurations will be sharable as files that can be previewed in the Files app and shared with various methods including AirDrop from the iPhone.

There’s no evidence that watchOS 7 will support third-party watch faces (yet), but it’s easy to imagine how watch face distribution could be a building block.

Shared album support for photo backgrounds in watch faces are coming, too. Right now, photo support is available from group photos from albums and individual photos, so this will likely be a welcomed addition as an option. This will make it easy to add photos added to an album from other individuals, which could make for a lot more available options.

Sleep tracking

Finally, right? Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo had speculated earlier this year that we’d see built-in sleep tracking in the 2020 Apple Watch, and this report reinforces that idea. And let’s not forget that in December of last year Apple leaked its own sleep tracking app, a clear sign that the company was working on the functionality.

New information discovered in the early iOS 14 code supports our initial reporting, adding that a user can set a personalized sleep goal in the Health app on iPhone. The Health app will also include recommendations for improving sleep duration and quality.

This has been one of the most oft-requested features for the Apple Watch for quite some time, so it will be interesting to see how Apple rolls out the functionality. Especially when it comes to battery life.

Apple Watch and the kids

Schooltime is a natural extension of parental controls with watchOS 7. This will let parents choose which complications and which apps will be available for the kid(s) to use on their Apple Watch while they are at school. It will even let parents choose which contacts the kids can talk to, and what kind of music they can listen to.

Another big change: Apple Watch for the kids. It appears Apple is developing the idea to set up a kid’s Apple Watch with a parent’s iPhone:

Under the new model, a parent could activate and manage an Apple Watch for a child without requiring a second iPhone. This method will also offer parental controls including managing trust contacts and available music.

One more thing…

Control Center is going to get a possible new addition, with a toggle for sleep tracking. Noise detection may get a toggle as well. And these may appear in the Control Center for iPhone as well.

What’s more, beginning with watchOS 7, the report says that Apple Watch apps will no longer be based on extensions:

Finally, watchOS 7 will also change the architecture for Apple Watch apps. watchOS 6 added the ability to release standalone Apple Watch apps through the App Store — no more iPhone companion app required — but apps are still based on the previous extension architecture.

This is all very exciting. It will be fun to see what actually pans out and makes it to the final build of watchOS 7, and what we see as exclusive features for the Apple Watch Series 6 later this year.

Out of these new features, what stands out to you the most?