Do the Apple Watch sleep tracking apps beat a $40 fitness bracelet?

Do the Apple Watch sleep tracking apps beat a $40 fitness bracelet?
Not only is the Apple Watch the most popular wearable out there but it also enjoys the rare advantage of being cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration for two health-related features - its advanced method of monitoring the heart rate, and the Watch’s ability to detect and eventually notify the user of a potentially dangerous irregular heart rhythm.

While this unprecedented FDA designation is all fine and dandy, we've been hearing that Apple is prepping to turn the Watch into a sleep tracker, and yet this option is yet to officially materialize. While the belated feature may be a tangential proof that it might be putting the same rigorous research and statistical approach it did when it developed the ECG function, you as an owner may be a bit miffed that it's taking so long. What can one do?

Well, there are plenty of affordable sleep trackers out there, for once, but you can also roll one into the Apple Watch via third-party apps like Pillow or Sleep++. That's exactly what we did, comparing a night's sleep reading from honor's excellent affordable fitness tracker, the Band 5, and a freemium app like Pillow loaded on the Apple Watch.


Apple Watch vs Honor Band 5 sleep tracking


Honor's newest Band 5 can be had for less than $40, and is a direct competitor to the heretofore king of affordable fitness trackers - Xiaomi's Mi Band series. It, however, has more functions like SpO2 oxygen capacity tracking. Here's what we found after a week or so of carrying the affordable Band 5:


Pros

  • Great battery life - up to 10 days with smart heart rate and sleep tracking on
  • Useful SpO2 oxygen capacity stats
  • Rich activity tracking options, including free training and swim style reports
  • Call and message notifications

Cons

  • Screen not very responsive when wet, hard to switch off swim tracking
  • Awake time number is hit or miss


What we were most interested in, however, is how its dedicated sleep tracking mode compares to the Apple Watch with third-party apps loaded. Well, we'll save you the suspense, both do the job, with the caveat that for the Band 5 it takes negligible toll on battery life, whereas the Apple Watch drains quite significantly. Here are a few comparison screenshots:


As you can see, both honor's Band 5 and Apple's Watch recognized the times you went to sleep and woke up almost in lockstep. 

There are, however, differences in how the apps count REM/deep/light sleep ratios, as Pillow counts time in bed while awake, too, so the stats vary as a result. We'd trust the dedicated band more, as it gives more detailed breakdowns, while the final sleep quality verdicts that the Apple Watch gives are somewhat dissimilar depending on the app and its interpretations.

Long story short, there is a reason the Apple is still not adding sleep tracking towards the growing list of the Watch's abilities, and it's not because it can't do it, there are plenty of sensors on the back to go around. While sleep tracking will help Apple catapult the Watch as an indispensable health and fitness accessory, raising its profile even further, it will add to the drain out of the Watch significantly, and battery life is already a low point for the world's most popular wearable. 

In the meantime, while Apple squares that battery life circle, you can easily grab a smart fitness bracelet like the versatile Band 5, and sleep both better and more comfortable than with the Apple Watch on hand if you want to track your sleep on the cheap and easy.

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6 Comments

1. mackan84

Posts: 631; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

Autosleep is a better app on AW, I use it every night

2. sgodsell

Posts: 7577; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

If Apple added built in sleep tracking and even more tracking, or other capabilities. Especially if some of those apps are currently doing those capabilities or offer those features today, then it would kill off those other apps on Apples app store. This would be more fuel for the DOJ, and all the other companies that are after Apple right now. Talk about unfair to the people that made apps for the AW.

6. IT-Engineer

Posts: 578; Member since: Feb 26, 2015

As if Apple never added functionalities from existing apps in the AppStore and banning those apps right afterwards!

3. Topspliff

Posts: 36; Member since: Sep 21, 2013

I use the Mi Band 1S, as it has a heart rate monitor, does sleep tracking and has a 30 day battery, I do have a Samsung Gear watch, but I take that off at night, this band is more like a bracelet, very comfortable, you can swim with it on etc, its simple which is what I wanted for a sleep tracker, and it cost $10, which I don`t think you can moan at.

7. Kohai

Posts: 51; Member since: Jun 04, 2010

The best combo nowadays is a good and cheap smartband and a nice watch...you get the of both worlds: style and features

10. whatev

Posts: 2413; Member since: Oct 28, 2015

Lmao, some trolls saying if apple added some functionality to the Apple Watch then it would kill apps that do that, but then they are the same who say the Apple Watch is a bad choice because it doesn’t have some of those functions built in, conclusion, Apple is evil either way, lol ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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