Apple Watch Series 5 missing features: Here's what we didn't get

There's a whole lot we didn't see at Apple's 10 September event
Apple Watch Series 5: Missing features

The new Apple Watch is official. It's called the Watch Series 5, and as the speculation and rumors suggested, it's not all that different from the Series 4.

We have an always-on display (finally), a titanium model and err, a compass among the highlights. So, there was a lot we didn't get that we really hoped we might see. The kind of things that maybe (maybe) Apple is going to save for its next big smartwatch launch.

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Yes, we will probably have to wait another year (or maybe longer) to see them, but here are the Apple Watch Series 5 missing features we desperately want to see on the next Watch.

1. Sleep tracking

Apple Watch Series 5 missing features: What we didn't get

We really thought the Apple Watch would finally get native sleep tracking, especially when news broke that the feature was incoming. But it's still sadly missing in action.

Apple acquired sleep tracking company Beddit a few years ago, and while the Cupertino company has launched a new Beddit monitor since, we've had nothing for the Watch.

A report from earlier this year filled us with hope that maybe Apple was ready to give us that feature, which has been present on rival smartwatches and fitness trackers for quite some time.

That report suggested built-in sleep tracking features for the Watch were incoming, and that Apple was already testing out the feature before rolling it out to its smartwatch. It suggested those features might roll out in 2020, so we're going to have to hang tight.

While there are Apple Watch sleep tracker apps available, Apple is clearly playing catch-up with its rivals in offering native sleep tracking. Here’s hoping that if it does land, it’ll be well worth the wait.

2. A new health sensor

Apple Watch Series 5: The features we want to see

The Apple Watch's ECG sensor was, and still is, a huge deal; by turning the Watch into an FDA-cleared AFib detector, Apple leaped ahead in the race for health wearables. Now it needs to keep leaping. With the next Apple Watch, we'd like to see more health sensors added.

An SpO2 sensor would make sense for its next play, allowing users to track their blood oxygen levels. This can be particularly helpful for sleep – it's why Fitbit is currently getting the tech cleared for its own wearables, and Garmin has been using it on many of its wearables. But it's not an area the Apple Watch is strong on, due to its short battery life.

3. A MicroLED display

Another significant design update that we didn't get is a new display technology. Rumors have been flying that Apple is working on a MicroLED display for its watches, which could see an upgrade in fidelity over OLED, the current benchmark. MicroLED displays use much less power, and are brighter, with better contrast ratios. They’re also thinner, which could mean thinner Apple Watches – an enticing thought. The rumors have this display update pinned for 2020.

4. Smart bands

We touched on smart bands in the past, and this is something that has been rumored for a long, long time, and they've been backed up with patent after patent. The latest suggests Apple could pack a camera into one. It's only a matter of waiting until they arrive, and 2019 feels like the optimal time.

These smart bands could be used to add features to the Apple Watch, such as a band that could read blood pressure (like the Omron HeartGuide) or something that can register your glucose level. They could even add non-health features.

As for how it would work, you only need to look at the iPad's Smart Connector, which can provide power to accessories while also syncing small amounts of data. It's entirely possible that Apple has learned how to shrink that tech, sticking it in the Apple Watch where bands fit in – in fact, some recently-filed patents suggest the Cupertino geniuses are working on such bands right now.

The patents show designs for a few Apple Watch bands. One houses a sleek notification indicator, while another has a self-tightening mechanism to determine the band's fit. The most interesting contains a biometric scanner that could unlock your watch or Apple devices by scanning the skin patterns and hair density on your wrist as authentication.

Naturally, Smart Bands would connect to the Smart Connector and draw power and transfer data – no need for extra charging, battery replacing or Bluetooth (as on the now retired ECG-reading KardiaBand).

5. Longer battery life

Apple Watch Series 5: The features we want to see

Look, we say this every year and we probably won't stop saying it for a long time to come, but if Apple can get that battery life to the 2-3 day mark, the Watch could become a viable sleep tracker. Unfortunately the Series 5 still promises an 18-hour battery life, which hasn't changed since the first Watch.

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Improving the battery life could mean sleep tracking, which could also mean making use of new health sensors and finally taking on Fitbit in the land of nod. One way to achieve better battery life could be MicroLED, a display technology that's more power efficient than the OLED display Apple currently uses in the Watch. The good news is Apple has been interested in MicroLED tech (see above).

New health features aside, the battery life on the Apple Watch is behind all the major rivals bar Wear OS. Apple could even sell a battery-extending smart band accessory that gives the Watch a boost.

6. More uses for NFC

Apple Watch Series 5: The features we want to see

The Apple Watch has NFC, but it's only used for Apple Pay and GymKit. Compare that to an iPhone, which gained the ability to use NFC for much more in iOS 12, like opening up your hotel room, using transit tickets and more.

It's called Background Tag Reading, and on a technical level it just means you only need to unlock your phone to use NFC. No need to open up separate apps. Why not extend this to the Apple Watch?

The Apple Watch doesn't exactly lend itself to opening apps up all the time, so NFC that was a little more instant and easier to use would be extremely helpful. A quick tap of your wrist could get you into your hotel room, onto your train and more.

7. More purchasing partnerships

Healthcare providers and insurance companies are super into wearables because they can keep customers healthier, which is a win-win for everyone. A lot of them, like John Hancock, have even started programs where you can get a subsidised Apple Watch (or Fitbit, or other wearable) if you maintain your fitness goals.

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It's a great idea, but it's one that Apple needs to actively court. Imagine if Apple struck deals with healthcare providers like Kaiser Permanente or gyms like 24-Hour Fitness, where members got subsidised Apple Watches as long as they hit their goals?

Apple would sell a buttload of Apple Watches, and it would be easier than ever to get one. Apple is already talking to Medicare providers to bring Apple Watches to at-risk seniors, so why not go big for everyone? The company is increasingly focusing on Apple Watch's health features, and this would be the next big step.

8. Android support

Apple Watch Series 5: The features we want to see

Even a year ago this might have sounded absurd, but hear us out: What if Apple let its smartwatch work with Android phones? The last few months have seen Cupertino open its walled garden more than ever: Apple Music on Amazon Echo speakers, AirPlay 2 and HomeKit on third-party smart TVs; even iTunes has found its way onto Samsung TVs. And Apple already gives Android users access to Apple Music through an app. What if it did the same for the Apple Watch?

There are some obstacles here, iMessage being a big one, Siri being another. It would probably mean a cut-down experience for Android phone users, but it would be a small price to pay for access to one of the best smartwatches, and might even encourage Google to push harder on Wear OS.

All we're saying is, think about it.


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