The Apple Watch Series 7 doesn’t make any big changes to its predecessor’s winning formula, but it still reigns supreme as the smartwatch king for iOS users. The bigger display is a subtle upgrade that crams more into your view and the faster charging goes some way to making up for the battery life, that’ll still only just get you through a day. There might be more feature-packed watches out there for the running and fitness die-hards but for most people the Apple Watch 7 ticks all the right boxes.
- Much faster charging
- BIgger screen is great
- Wide range of easy-to-use fitness features
- Battery life remains a day
- No neutral black or silver aluminium colour options
- SensorsLots of fitness sensors including ECG, GPS and HRM
- DisplayNew larger 41mm and 45mm sizes with bigger displays
- Fast ChargingNew cable provides 33% quicker charging
Ahead of the Apple Watch Series 7’s reveal alongside the iPhone 13, many rumours had suggested this would be the year for a huge redesign – the likes of which have not been seen since the very first version of the wearable.
Often reliable online leakers and tipsters pointed to Apple carrying over its hard-edged iPhone, iPad and iMac aesthetic to the watch. While the reported designs looked nice enough, I felt they missed the point of a device that is meant to be worn. Hard edges are great for a phone – less so for a watch.
So I was relieved when Apple announced the Series 7 and it looked, well, pretty much exactly the same as every other Apple Watch.
Design and Screen
- New larger displays on both sizes
- Various finishes ranging in prices
- Works with all the previous straps
Apple Watch 7 has the same overall rounded look as before, the same support for straps and the same Digital Crown for navigation.
There are changes though, some of which are very welcome. It’s now more durable, thanks to thicker glass covering the screen. I’ve never cracked an Apple Watch before and have found them generally very resistant, but this just adds that extra peace of mind. It also adds an IP6X rating to the 5ATM water resistance, meaning that it’s finally resistant to dust. These are a couple of minor changes that should make a big difference in the long run.
Another difference is the new range of colours. These include Starlight (a goldy silver), blue, Midnight (a very dark blue), red and the dark green you’ll see in the review images here. This green is subtle and very tasteful, especially when paired with a nice band.
There aren’t really any neutral colours, unless you pay for the aluminium or titanium options which jack up the price a lot. This feels like an odd omission – where’s the plain space grey or silver hues?
The biggest visual change though is the larger screen. The previous 40mm size is now 41mm, while the larger 44mm model moves to 45mm. Apple has also pushed the displays further out, slimming down the bezel in the process. Compared to the Apple Watch Series 6, the new model isn’t obviously larger but I noticed that bigger screen right away. It’s not quite the jump we saw with the Apple Watch Series 3 to Series 4, but it still makes a notable difference.
Certain watch faces, like the Contour one pictured above, show off the new screen by pushing the digits right to the edges. While the Modular Duo face lets you have two full-size complications visible at once for the first time.
The best thing about the bigger display, at least on my 45mm review unit, is the larger touch targets in menus and the quick settings panels. The extra size makes everything so much easier to press. Apple clearly agrees with me as it has now added an actual keyboard into Watch OS 8. It is still very fiddly and best used sparingly, but it’s still good to have for situations where a canned response just won’t cut it.
Size aside, the display is also brighter. At least when you’re looking at the always-on portion, which kicks into life when you’re not directly looking at the screen.
Overall it really is a great screen. It’s sharp, bright and can get really dim for nighttime. The new sizes aren’t a reason to ditch an older model (unless you’ve got the Series 3 or older and feel the need) but they are welcome additions.
Fitness tracking and performance
- Wide range of sensors, including GPS
- Updated S7 chip doesn’t have big performance gains
- Lots of ways to keep active
Internally, the Apple Watch Series 7 is very much the same as the Series 6. It has all the same sensors and the S7 chip powering the wearable seems to offer the same performance as the S6. Navigation is smooth and always responsive.
There were rumours there might be swathes of new sensors arriving this year, however it now looks as if these will grace a future Apple Watch.
It’s not like the Apple Watch Series 7 is lacking when it comes to sensors, though. There’s GLONASS and GPS for tracking runs without a phone connected, altimeter, an optical heart rate monitor and blood oxygen monitor. It can also take an ECG reading, something that’s still not available on that many wearables and could help spot early signs of atrial fibrillation.
Of course, the Apple Watch 7’s sensors are better served as guidance rather than a true medical replacement.
The blood oxygen (SpO2) sensor was the big addition for Series 6 and it’s once again present. The experience is still slightly janky and often fails to gain a true reading, while the results it throws up aren’t exactly helpful. A healthy blood oxygen level is said to be 95-100%, however the app doesn’t really give you any extra information and it should really only be used as a guide. It’s a nice feature to have, but even a year on I am not convinced as to how useful it really is.
You also don’t get any automatic alerts for the blood oxygen features, so it won’t buzz you if it drops randomly. You need to manually go in and check the app to get a reading. Again this means you need to remember to do it to get any use out of it.
What has always impressed me the most about the Apple Watch is how well it makes me actually want to be active. The auto-workout logging, for example, remains the best I have used and it’ll typically buzz me when I start a run or a particularly taxing walk to make sure all the right workout data is being captured.
Apple splits the fitness features into two distinct areas – Activity and Workout. The latter lets you choose from a number of workout types which now include cycling-specific options, while the Activity area is a little more simple. Here the objective is to fill rings each day: move, exercise and stand. It’s basic stuff, but it works and if you’re not the most active person then this is one of the best things about the Apple Watch.
The GPS is also reliable and quick to connect, while the HRM churns out readings comparable to the competing smartwatches I’ve used. I did often have to move the placement of the watch to get a truly accurate reading and there were occasions where the readings seemed off.
I’d always say the Apple Watch isn’t the smartwatch for those you want the very best wearable for running, cycling and even swimming as there are just better options out there from the likes of Garmin. The Apple Watch 7 is more for the casual user. It gets the fitness job done, tracks multiple sports and does all this accurately while making the process easy to understand. Plus it has nice extras, like fall detection and a cellular option.
There are a number of other great health features here, including a new Mindfulness app (previously Breath) that’s part of WatchOS 8, This combines breathing exercises and reflective questions to try and help your mental state. I often suffer from bouts of heavy anxiety and have always found the reminders to take a minute to just breathe helpful, if not particularly in-depth.
Each Apple Watch Series 7 comes with three months of Apple’s Fitness+ service which is a very good platform full of various workouts and guided walks, There’s a guided walk from Stephen Fry, for example, and one from Naomi Campbell. Both were a nice alternative to a podcast. I’ve also had a good time with some of the Yoga workouts, too. You don’t need to have a new watch for these features, but if this is your first Apple Watch then there’s a lot of ways it helps you get more active.
- You’ll get about a day from a charge
- Much faster charging
- No plug included
Apple claims the Series 7 offers around 18 hours of battery life, and that’s about what I got between charges during the review period. This is with all the extras, like the always-on display, turned on. You might be able to stretch the endurance out for a few more hours if you turn off the always-on screen but it’s too much of a good feature for it to be worth it for me.
I have reviewed Apple Watches for years and it feels like the battery life is always the same. About a day of use, possibly a few hours extra, and nothing more. I would have liked to see it improved by now, especially as Apple has focussed on making sure its iPhones last longer this year.
Where there have been improvements is in the charging speeds and they do somewhat offset my battery life qualms.
Packed inside the box with the Apple Watch 7 is a new charging cable that enables far speedier charges than before. This USB-C-ended cable has a redesigned coil system in the magnetic puck that works with the improved coil in the watch itself to charge (as Apple says) 33% quicker.
You won’t get faster charging if you pair the newer charger with an older Apple Watch, nor will you get the same new speeds with an older cable on the new watch. You need that new cable and a Series 7 Watch for this all to work. This is a little annoying if you’ve invested in Apple Watch charging docks, or even Apple’s Magsafe Duo, as these will be limited to the older, slower speeds.
In use, the new cable and the charging speed improvements are very much welcome. A full charge takes 60 minutes and a 10 minute charge took me from 0-17% – that’s more than enough juice to track a night of sleep. I can then charge it up fully in the morning while I have a shower or have some breakfast. A charge from 10-90% took under 40 minutes.
The wireless charging method is still proprietary, so you can’t just bung it on any Qi pad you have around to charge a phone. You also don’t get a USB-C brick in the box, so if you don’t have one about then you’ll need to buy one. Any 5w or higher USB-C plug should work fine.
Should you buy it?
You want the best iOS smartwatch: The Apple Watch 7 is the best smartwatch if you’ve got an iPhone. It has a great screen, fast charging, fantastic software and plenty of fitness features.
You don’t want to be tied to an iPhone: These watches only support iPhones, so if you might switch to something else in the future then you might be better off with a watch that supports both, like a Fitbit Versa.
The Apple Watch Series 7 is the best smartwatch, but you’ll need an iPhone to use it. The feature-set, UI and overall design are so far ahead of any other smartwatch, including the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, that it’s a shame it’s off-limits to Android users.
As good as it is, if you picked up the Series 6 last year then there isn’t much here to warrant an upgrade. The stronger glass and bigger screen are welcome – just not reasons to upgrade. If you’re stuck on a Series 3, or have never had an Apple Watch, then this is an excellent choice if you want the full experience. There’s also the Apple Watch SE if you’re after a cheaper watch.
How we test
We thoroughly test every smartwatch we review. We use industry standard testing to compare features properly and we use the watch as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Worn as our main smartwatch during the testing period
Side-by-side GPS comparison with our best scoring smartwatches
Heart rate data compared against dedicated heart rate devices
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