Apple Watch Series 7 Review

The display is the key upgrade on this Watch and it looks fantastic

by David Phelan
SRP: £369.00
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Apple Watch Series 7 Review

The new Apple Watch looks very similar to last year’s model but has a powerfully effective new display that’s much bigger than before, in a case that’s still attractive and wearable. While performance is similar to before, there’s faster charging, cool new Watch faces and neat new colours to enjoy.

The Good

  • Stunning display
  • Improved robustness
  • Faster charging

The Bad

  • Battery life still only one day
  • Design changes very subtle

What is the Apple Watch Series 7?

This is the latest smartwatch from Apple. Although it’s the seventh model, it’s only the second time that Apple has updated the design of the Watch since the first version launched in 2015. Most strikingly, this includes a bigger, brighter display, a curvier-edge body and faster charging.

There are no new health sensors this time around, though the main ones found in Series 6 are all still there, of course. These include a heart rate sensor, blood oxygen monitor and an ECG capability.

The new design promises to be more durable, with a dust ingress rating for the first time, on top of the swim proof rating that means it’s fine to a depth of 50 metres (if you can swim that deep).

It also promises faster charging than previous watches, which is handy if you plan to wear it in bed to track your sleep, for instance.

Design

There were rumours, from highly reliable leakers and analysts, mind you, that the Apple Watch would this year adopt a wholly different design, one that would more closely match the flat-edged design of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13. But the Watch that appeared proved all those analysts wrong. I’d say that Apple’s good taste won out, assuming the other design was being considered, because this one, though a very subtle change from Series 6, looks much classier, more elegant and more serious.

It’s very marginally bigger than last year’s Watch, with the case height now 41mm for the smaller Watch, 45mm for the larger – the Series 6 came in 40mm and 44mm sizes.

Apple Watch Series 7
Apple Watch Series 7

That’s a change from recent Watches, which for Series 4, Series 5 and Apple Watch SE have been the same size as Series 6. Previous to that, the Watch sizes were 38mm and 42mm.

Somehow, by the way, Apple has managed to make all older bands and straps compatible with the new Series 7, so your collection, stretching back to the first Watch from 2015 will still work. This is important as Apple has emphasised how easily customised Apple Watch is, how you can make it your own with a loud silicone strap for sports, a metal link for business or a leather band for dressy occasions. So, to suddenly retire a bunch of straps would not have proved popular with Watch devotees.

 

... Apple’s good taste won out 

The display is the biggest change in the new Watch, more on which later. But the edges here are different on the new model – it has more gently rounded corners Apple says, though to be frank you have to look very closely to see any difference. It’s a subtle design update, to be sure.

A word on set-up: Apple has improved this a lot. With Series 7 and watchOS 8, pairing your Watch with your iPhone is a faster experience and Apple has removed a minor pain point: the app view.

When you launch an Apple Watch for the first time after set-up, it gaily animates the screen to take you to the galaxy of apps on board, arranged in a grid of round icons. All very well, but you may prefer to see the apps in an alphabetical list instead. Until now, you’ve always had to set up the Watch and then dive into the app grid, find Settings, and power through several menus before you get the option to switch to List View. Now, it’s an option presented during set-up, which is much better. It’s a subtle but welcome change, like many on this new Watch.

Apple Watch Series 7
Apple Watch Series 7 - side view

There’s one big change which you just can’t see: the increase in durability. Apple says that the subtly changed design makes the front crystal (glass on the aluminium Apple Watch, sapphire crystal on stainless-steel and titanium versions) more crack-resistant because it now has a flat base internally. Additionally, the material of the crystal is thicker by 50 per cent than on Series 6.

All of which matters because you want the tiny computer on your wrist to be as robust as possible. That ties in with that first-ever dust ingress rating of IP6X to go along with the water-resistance of 50 metres.

 

It’s a subtle design update, to be sure

The final part of the design jigsaw is the range of colours and materials. As last year, there are three case finishes, aluminium, stainless steel and titanium, the last of which is the pricier Apple Watch Edition.

Stainless steel comes in gold, graphite and silver, titanium in natural and space black, all of which matches last year’s models.

Apple Watch Series 7
Apple Watch Series 7 - aluminium frame colour options

If you want everyone to see at a glance that you have a brand new Series 7, you’ll need the aluminium Watch. It comes in five colours including PRODUCT(RED) and blue which are different from the corresponding colours from 2020. Then there’s midnight, which is black with a strong dark blue element and starlight which is silver pepped up with notes of gold. Finally, there’s green, which is a very dark bottle-green. In some lights it looks black, but in others, the green shade shines out.

Display

The display is the key upgrade on this Watch and it looks fantastic. Although the size of the Watch itself is barely any bigger – you don’t notice any difference when it’s on your wrist, though it is marginally heavier – but when you look at the display, the larger size is consistently evident. Apple says there’s almost 20 per cent more screen area than Series 6 (and 50 per cent more than Series 3).

The result is a screen that is much more sumptuous than before, more immersive, if a display on the wrist can be immersive. The display looks as impressive as it is because the border around the screen is noticeably thinner than last year, allowing Apple to squeeze in much more display in a similar-sized case.

Apple Watch Series 7
Apple Watch Series 7 - display

The glass has a refractive edge which makes the connection of display to glass so seamless that it blurs the distinction between them. The curvature of the glass also has a visual effect: you can tip the Watch to a very oblique angle and still see hints of the screen. Handy if you’re sneaking a look a the time in a meeting, for instance.

Speaking of which, the Series 7 has an always-on display, first introduced on Series 5, which dims the brightness when not active but remains visible. Never more so than now, with a screen brightness that is as much as 70 per cent brighter than before. Whatever the figures, the difference is easy to spot.

 

... the gorgeous display [...] takes you aback each time it comes on

The bigger display has other knock-on effects. You can read more text in an onscreen message, for instance. The calculator app has bigger buttons that are easier to tap (and one of them is marked TIP and is very useful). And there’s a new Series 7 speciality, a QWERTY keyboard for replying to messages. As well as tapping on the keys, you can also use the QuickPath system from the iPhone where you drag your finger around the display without lifting it and machine learning guesses what word you’re trying to say. Personally, I still prefer dictating my replies, but both work well.

There are also two new Series 7-exclusive Watch faces. Just like in classic watches, Apple adds what it calls 'complications' to its Watch faces: day and date, phases of the moon and so on. In Apple’s case, these complications go further to show, for instance, the current weather, battery level, your next appointment and more. Here, Modular Duo uses the space to fit in two complications in great detail, and Contour squashes the digits showing the hours out to the very edges of the display.

Features

Apple Watch has put health and fitness features to the fore for some time, and though there are no new health sensors, the cutting-edge elements are still there. So, you can measure your blood oxygen levels, take an ECG and measure your heart rate. It also tracks your heart rate in the background so that it can notify you if the rate is suddenly unexpectedly high or low.

Then there’s Fall Detection, which has been improved with the latest watchOS 8 software. If you fall down hard and don’t move for 60 seconds, the Watch sets off an alarm to alert anyone nearby, and will ring chosen contacts and the emergency services. Now, it works if you’ve fallen from a bike as well. You understand I haven’t tested this by throwing myself from my bicycle, but I’ve tested the original Fall Detection and it works well. By default, it is set to off unless you are over 60.

 

...  Apple has removed a minor pain point

Of course, there are plenty of apps for the Watch (20,000 in total), so you can, for instance, get directions on your wrist, which means you don’t need your iPhone in your hand to find your way in a sketchy part of town at night. It’ll track your calories burnt and has scores of workouts, some of which like an outdoor walk or run kick in automatically. And there’s Apple Fitness+, a suite of beautifully shot video workouts you can watch on iPhone, iPad or Apple TV. It uses the Apple Watch to measure your heart rate and integrate that with the video onscreen in real time. Fitness+ costs £9.99 a month, though you get the first 3 months free when you buy a Watch.

Apple Watch Series 7
Apple Watch Series 7

Sleep tracking has been enhanced to measure respiratory rate while you sleep, though this new feature works on earlier Watches running watchOS 8, too. Sleep tracking has been controversial on the Watch because you need to charge it some time and if you wear it night as well as day, finding the time for the daily charge can be tricky. Series 7 has a faster charge which helps with that.

Performance and Battery

Apple Watch battery life has always been 18 hours, though in my experience it easily lasts more than a full day, though not a second day, so nightly recharges are necessary. Unless you use sleep tracking, in which case, when? Well, Series 7 comes with a new charging puck and cable (though there’s no charging plug in the box) which means that it charges faster, in fact 33 per cent quicker than the last model. Charge for 45 minutes and it’ll go from flat to 80 per cent, so you could put it on the puck while you shower in the morning, for instance. Or charge before going to bed: eight minutes of charge is enough for eight hours of sleep tracking.

 

... greater performance speeds aren’t really necessary this time around

That’s only for Series 7 and the new puck, though it will do it with any charging plug with a USB-C socket.

Apple says that performance on this Watch is the same as Series 6. Usually, users expect a performance boost with each successive phone, tablet or smartwatch. But the truth is that this Watch is fast, and greater performance speeds aren’t really necessary this time around.

Conclusion

You could be fooled into thinking this isn’t much of an upgrade: similar performance to Series 6, no new health sensors, comparable design. But then there’s the gorgeous display which, at first at least, takes you aback each time it comes on, it’s so much bigger than before. And brighter, with that cool refractive edge. Not to mention a user interface which has been optimised for the new screen.

The increased durability is also a big part of the equation here, adding peace of mind for the rash or the clumsy. The new colours are attractive and appealing, and the faster charging is a real bonus.

If you don’t need the health features, you could save money by choosing the also-excellent Apple Watch SE which has comparable performance but a slightly smaller display.

Overall, this is a subtle but effective upgrade over Series 6 and a big step forward compared to any other Apple Watch. The Apple Watch has always been the leading smartwatch from any manufacturer, and Series 7 keeps Apple out in front.

Scores

Build Quality

10

Design

.
9

Display

10

Ease of use

10

Operating System

.
9

Features

.
9

Value for Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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