Apple Watch Series 5: The health features we wanted but didn't get

From native sleep tracking to fully customizable goals, if it were up to us the next Apple Watch would have gotten these healthy innovations.

Danielle Kosecki
Danielle Kosecki is an award-winning journalist who has covered health and fitness for 15 years. She's written for Glamour, More, Prevention and Bicycling magazines, among others, and is the editor of The Bicycling Big Book of Training. A New York native, Danielle now lives in Oakland where she doesn't miss winter at all.
Danielle Kosecki
3 min read

Update, Sept. 18: Read our full rated Apple Watch Series 5 review here.

Another year, another new iPhone (or three) and a new Apple Watch. This September, Apple unveiled the Apple Watch Series 5, with new finishes, an always-on display and a native compass. Despite our expectations, the Series 5 isn't a huge upgrade from the Series 4, which is now discontinued. It's lacking the wellness features we expected, such as sleep tracking -- though, there are a few workarounds to get your Apple Watch to track your sleep.

With WatchOS 6, we'll get two new Apple Watch health features, the Noise app and menstrual cycle tracking. Those will arrive Sept. 19 with a software update. Apple is also launching three health studies in partnership with leading medical research schools and organizations that you can join. For at least two of them, you'll need an Apple Watch and the forthcoming Research app, which is slated to arrive later this year.

Read more: 13 Apple Watch bands to get on Amazon

All in all, it was a light year for Apple Watch feature updates. Below, CNET editors call out the health features we hoped to get, but didn't.

Watch this: Apple Watch Series 5 is always on

Connect with other fitness trackers

I'd like better integration with other activity trackers. For example, being able to have a step competition with someone wearing a Garmin watch would be cool. I'd also like the ability to pair an Apple Watch with an Android phone or PC.

-- Caroline Roberts, CNET growth and engagement intern


My top three features are:

1. Better battery life (which we didn't get)
2. Always-on display (which we did!)
3. Coaching 

For coaching, I'd like to get some kind of actionable guidance that takes into account my individual data. For instance, if the Apple Watch knows how often I exercise, how much time I spend working out, and how many calories that burns, I'd like it to offer suggestions on what I can do to improve my performance or even lose weight.

-- Vanessa Hand Orellana, CNET editor


One of the most compelling Apple Watch health features, the ECG app, arrived last year.

James Martin/CNET

Fully customizable goals

I'd really like to see the "Stand" goal become optional. How much can one minute of standing per hour do for me, really? And if I stand all day at work, don't I deserve two straight hours of vegging on the couch? So far, closing the rings every day has been a big obstacle I don't care to overcome. 

-- Sharon Profis, CNET editor

Better movement stats

I wish I could customize the "Move" goal into a stat that makes sense for me. Right now, the Move goal is the active calories you burn through all kinds of movement each day, but that number is meaningless to me. Maybe I've been conditioned to track the steps I take and miles I walk each day by Fitbit, but I wish that red ring would give me the choice to reflect one of those metrics instead.

-- Sarah Mitroff, CNET editor


Currently, you can customize the number of calories you have to burn to close the "move" ring but not what the ring tracks. 

Angela Lang/CNET

More versatility

I'm not a fan of wearing a watch while cycling -- especially if I'm riding outside. I wish I could detach the Apple Watch case from the sport band and clip it to a chest strap, where it would track my heart rate and communicate with my bike computer. 

-- Danielle Kosecki, CNET wellness tech reporter

Advanced sleep tracking

I'd like to finally see a comprehensive built-in sleep tracker -- and enough battery life to support at least two consecutive nights. For a $400 watch, I don't think we should have to purchase a secondary sleep tracker. 

-- Amanda Capritto, CNET wellness tech reporter

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.