Apple is testing sleep tracking functionality for the Apple Watch and, if all goes well, intends to add it to the wearable by 2020, according to a report from Bloomberg. Citing anonymous sources, Bloomberg reports that Apple has been testing the feature at secret sites near Cupertino for several months.
Apple hasn't responded to requests for comment on this matter, but when MobiHealthNews spoke with Apple VP of Health Sumbul Desai last week, she did address the company's plans for sleep, albeit in an oblique manner.
"I would just say that we always integrate our whole ecosystem and make everything usable with our ecosystem," Desai said in response to a question about whether Apple planned to bring its Beddit device into closer integration with the rest of its product suite. "Sleep, from a physician’s standpoint, we don’t ever view one piece as being the whole picture. It’s sleep, it's activity, it’s nutrition, it’s your heart health. And so we view all of that together. We’re excited about the work that’s going on with Beddit and it’s an amazingly important effort to us."
Why it matters
In addition to Desai's observation that sleep health is an important aspect of overall wellness, sleep tracking is also currently a competitive advantage that Apple Watch's competitors have held over it for years. Almost every other dedicated health tracker tracks sleep, and many other smartwatches, such as the Fitbit Versa, do as well.
From a sensor hardware standpoint, nothing is holding Apple back. In fact, through the use of third-party apps the Apple Watch has been able to not only track sleep but even detect sleep apnea.
What's the trend
Sleep has always been something of a black mark on the Apple's otherwise comprehensive wellness monitoring. In fact, when the Watch first launched, MobiHealthNews noted the conspicuous omission of sleep tracking from the Series 1, speculating that it was most likely a result of the device's short battery life compared to competitors like Fitbit and Withings.
"Why did Apple hire a sleep expert like Roy J.E.M. Raymann from Philips Research — a senior scientist at Philips Research who founded the Philips Sleep Experience Laboratory and who led projects related to sleep and activity monitoring — if its wearable doesn't track sleep?" we wrote at the time. "While app developers or even Apple itself could take advantage of the sensors already built-in to the Apple Watch to add sleep tracking features, that probably won't make it a popular sleep tracker. At least not if you want it to wear it during the day too, because it needs to be charged at night."
Certainly Apple has shown an interest in sleep, both in its hire of Raymann (who has since departed the company) and when it bought Beddit in 2017. Just recently the company quietly launched a new version of the Beddit device.