Following WWDC last week, Apple's VP of Technology Kevin Lynch has taken time to discuss the Apple Watch's new sleep tracking and hand washing features in watchOS 7 with publications like The Independent, CNET, and TechCrunch.
While some third-party apps provide very detailed sleep analysis, Apple's implementation of sleep tracking is fairly basic, focusing only on duration of sleep, movement disturbances, and heart rate. Lynch told CNET that this simplicity was an intentional decision, noting that Apple did research and found that extra data was not entirely useful.
"Movement of your arm is an input, but it's not a complete picture of what's going on inside your brain," said Lynch, as an example.
"You can't really coach yourself to have more or less REM stages," he added. "We felt like that wasn't the best way Apple could add value here on sleep. We focused on the transition to the bed, which we think is way more actionable, and will result in people getting a better night's sleep, which then has secondary effects of perhaps your REM stages sorting themselves."
Lynch said that, through research, Apple ultimately determined that duration of sleep is the most important metric.
"In any of these adventures we go on when building things here we ask, what will make the most difference for people that, from a mainstream perspective, will be easy, helpful and empowering," Lynch told The Independent.
Like many other health features on the Apple Watch, the Sleep app provides positive reinforcement only. If users meet their sleep goals, they receive positive feedback, but if they do not, the Watch stays silent.
"There could be anxiety that people have about going to sleep, and that anxiety itself can actually cause more problems in terms of going to sleep," Lynch told CNET. "Many people are already well aware that they haven't been getting enough sleep, and so we're not adding to that, but we are positively acknowledging when you have achieved your goals."
As for hand washing coaching in watchOS 7, Lynch told TechCrunch that the functionality was the result of "years of work." The feature encourages users to wash their hands for a CDC-recommended 20 seconds by providing a countdown with haptic feedback. If a user opts in, the feature automatically activates when the sound of hand washing is detected.