Apple Watch to get sleep tracking but co-founder wants folding iPhone

By Mark Gurman, February 27 2019
Apple Watch to get sleep tracking but co-founder wants folding iPhone

Apple is said to be testing a sleep monitor for the 2020 edition of its smartwatch, but Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says he'd rather have a folding iPhone – and doesn't want to wait too long for it.

First up, sleep tracking on a future Apple Watch (but probably not the fifth-gen model expected later this year) would bolster the company in the health- and fitness-tracking market.

Apple has been using the sleep-tracking feature for several months with testers at secret sites around its Cupertino headquarters, according to people familiar with the work.

If the functionality is successful in the testing stages, the company plans to add it to the Apple Watch by 2020 in an attempt to reduce a competitive advantage that longtime fitness-wearable developer Fitbit has had on the market.

Apple didn’t respond to requests for comment on the company’s plans.

A new Apple Watch wouldn’t be the iPhone maker’s first foray into sleep-tracking hardware. In May 2017, Apple acquired Finnish startup Beddit, which makes a sleep-tracking sensor strip. Apple sells the product on its website under the Beddit brand and launched an updated version at the end of last year.

As sales growth of its signature product, the iPhone, has slowed, Apple has pointed investors to its plethora of other devices, including the Apple Watch. Since the Watch went on sale in April 2015, it has become one of the most popular smartwatches, with an estimated 45% share of the global market.

Before Apple launches new health- and fitness-related features for the Watch, it puts the functionality through rigorous testing at labs around its campus. The company also conducts in-house testing for new sensors on exercise equipment such as treadmills and bikes and has analyzed the Watch’s swim-tracking feature with testers at on-site swimming pools, while testing chambers can mimic outside weather conditions and monitor users’ breathing and perspiration.

One practical necessity for sleep tracking in a smartwatch is a battery that can last multiple days. Each Apple Watch model to date is advertised as being able to last a day with the need to charge it each night. In comparison, Fitbit’s watches with sleep tracking are marketed as being able to last as long as a week on one charge.

Some options may include Apple increasing the Watch’s battery life or creating a way to run sleep tracking overnight as part of a low-power mode. It could also just require a battery charge in the morning.

Apple’s Health application on iPhones has included a tab for sleep analysis data since its introduction in 2014. Currently, hours slept data is provided by the alarm clock function in the iPhone’s Clock app. The app also can pull in data from third-party sleep monitors.

Fitbit’s sleep-tracking feature uses a heart-rate monitor and other sensors to determine when a user falls asleep, how long they are sleeping, and the quality of their sleep. It can differentiate between light, deep and REM sleep, according to the company’s website.

But for Steve Wozniak, who famously founded Apple alongside Steve Jobs in 1976 in the garage of Job's Silicon Valley home, would rather be able to slip a folding iPhone into his pocket – and he wants to do that sooner rather than later.

"Apple has been a leader for quite a long time in a few areas such as touch ID, facial ID, and easy payment with the phone,” Wozniak said in a Bloomberg TV interview. "They’re not the leader in areas like the folding phone, and that worries me because I really want a folding phone."

Competitors Samsung and Huawei both launched folding Android-powered smartphones this month.

That said, Wozniak remains broadly optimistic about Apple’s future. "They just got so successful on the iPhone and that was their whole business for a long time," he said. "Now they’re branching out so a lot of their businesses have been very good."

Mark Gurman

Mark Gurman covers consumer technology for Bloomberg

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