Technology

The new Apple Watch is bigger, but not much better


Pros

  • Bigger display

  • Quick charging

  • Solid fitness tracking

About the Apple Watch Series 7

A shot of the Apple Watch's profile, where the green tint is only visible in direct sunlight. In darker lighting, the green model looks black.

Credit: Reviewed / Jordan McMahon

Unless you’re in direct sunlight, it’s hard to distinguish the green casing from the black option.

  • Display: 1.9-inch 484 x 396 OLED
  • Processor: Apple S7
  • Navigation: A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS, BDS
  • Connectivity: LTE, Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, LE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, dual-band
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, gyro, heart rate, barometer, always-on altimeter, compass, SpO2, VO2max
  • Water resistance: IP6X certified, 50-meter water resistant
  • Audio: Microphone and speaker
  • Battery: Up to 18 hours
  • Memory and storage: 32GB

The Apple Watch Series 7 comes in two sizes: 41mm and 45mm, both of which work with a variety of bands. The 41mm model starts at $399, and the 45mm starts at $429. Both come in five aluminum finishes (Midnight, Starlight, Green, Red, and Blue), as well as stainless steel.

What we like

Bigger display

The Series 5 and Series 7 side-by-side, showing the difference in display size.

Credit: Reviewed / Jordan McMahon

The Series 7’s display (right) is slightly larger than previous generations, but it’s not as noticeable unless you have them right next to each other.

The design of the Series 7 hasn’t drifted much from previous models, with one exception: the display’s about 20% bigger this time around. You likely won’t notice the difference unless you’re looking at an older model, like the Series 5 or Series 6, alongside the Series 7, but in practice, the size increase does make it a little easier to read text. Apple’s added a few more font sizes for better legibility, too, making it easier to read things like turn-by-turn GPS directions.

Apple also used the larger display as an opportunity to introduce a new watch-friendly keyboard to watchOS, which allows you to hunt-and-peck or swipe your way across the keyboard to knock out a quick text or note. It works fine, but it’s still a watch-based keyboard, and in most cases, voice-to-text is more effective and convenient—barking a few words at a microphone is faster than hunting and pecking or swiping across a tiny keyboard.

There are also two new watch faces that compliment the new display size: Contour and Modular Duo. Contour uses a mock-analog watch face with the numbers filling out the edges of the display. This is meant to showcase the way the Series 7’s display wraps around the edges of the screen (sort of like an oil-filled watch, and it looks pretty neat, but it doesn’t add any more utility than another analog face would. Meanwhile, the Modular Duo face allows you to plop two full-width Complications, which are similar to widgets that can display information like weather and upcoming appointments, on its face.

While the smaller bezels and larger display of the Series 7 do make the watch nicer to look at and in some cases display more information, the displays on previous generations like the Series 5 and 6 are still perfectly fine.

Fast to charge

Battery life is about the same on the Series 7 as previous models, but Apple alleviated some charging woes by making its latest watch charge faster. The company claims eight minutes of charging can provide up to eight hours of sleep tracking, in case you need a little extra juice before dozing off for the night. That mostly checked out in our testing, and leaving the watch to charge for about half an hour gave us enough juice to get through the day, even without topping off the charge the night before.

This might not make up for less than ideal battery life (more on that later), but it still goes a long way. For instance, if you forgot to charge your watch before heading to the gym for a workout, or you need to make sure you won’t miss a ping later while you’re out with friends, that extra boost should be enough to keep your watch going until you can give it a full charge.

Improved fitness tracking

The Series 7 hardware is mostly the same as last year’s Series 6: the CPU is the same, and its fitness tracking features and sensors are nearly identical.

There’s one exception: the Series 7 can now automatically detect cycling workouts when you’re outside, so you no longer have to initiate your rides before heading out. In our testing, the watch picked up our rides about three minutes after we started, and did so reliably across multiple trips. Not even Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 can do that.

In general, the Series 7 consistently detects workouts, whether walking or cycling, fairly quickly after your movement initiates. If you’re keen on tracking everything manually, this won’t make much of a difference, but it’s nice to get the reminder so nothing gets left out of your daily metrics.

What we don’t like

Limited watch faces

A close-up of the Apple Watch Series 7, in green, showing the new Contour watchface, which wraps the numbers around the edge of the display.

Credit: Reviewed / Jordan McMahon

The Contour watch face looks nice, but it’s exclusive to the Series 7.

Aside from the two new watches exclusive to the Series 7, you can use all the same Apple-provided faces and customize them to your liking within the Watch app. There are plenty of faces to choose from, with both analog and digital options that vary in how much information they show on-screen, but you’re still limited to the options Apple provides.

That’s not a problem if you have a few you’re particularly into, but it still limits what is otherwise a pretty customizable device. You can change the widgets your watch keeps on-screen, carry around a few bands to swap out depending on your outfit, and install all the apps you need to get the watch experience you want. You can’t, on the other hand, head to the App Store and try out a few third-party watch faces that better suit your aesthetic.

There’s also the issue of how frequently Apple releases new watch faces. Usually, they’re left to watchOS updates, or released alongside new models, such as Modular Duo and Contour debuted with the Series 7. But even then, old models won’t get those faces, so the likelihood of getting new watch faces in future updates isn’t certain.

Battery life could be longer

There’s nothing wrong with a watch that has an all-day battery. The Apple Watch Series 7 delivers there, but that’s also about all it delivers. In our testing, we were able to get about a day-and-a-half of use out of a single charge. If you don’t regularly work out with your watch on, use it for voice dictation or spend a lot of time with the screen on, you might be able to squeeze a little bit more, but that’s with a new battery.

While it’s nice that Apple’s boosted the charging speed of the Series 7, that won’t do much for a battery that’s degraded over a year or two. It would have been nice to see Apple extend the Apple Watch’s battery life by a bit, rather than simply leaving it at giving it a faster charge.

Should you buy it?

Yes, if you’re using an older Apple Watch

An image of the Apple Watch's face in direct sunlight, showing that it's still legible, though not as visible as in the shade.

Credit: Reviewed / Jordan McMahon

Even in direct sunlight, you can still read the Series 7’s display.

As far as smartwatches go, the Apple Watch Series 7 is among the best you can get right now. Its display is bright and vibrant while showing plenty of information at a glance, its fitness tracking works reliably, and there are a variety of color options to choose from to make it your own.

That said, its battery life isn’t enough to get you through much more than a day, its watch face options are still pretty limited, and its differences over the Series 6 aren’t noteworthy enough to justify an upgrade for most people. If you’re still hanging onto a Series 5 or 6, it’s probably worth skipping the Series 7.

For first-time buyers and those upgrading from an older model, though, the Apple Watch Series 7 is an excellent buy thanks to its ecosystem of apps, always-on display, and robust fitness tracking.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

Meet the tester

Jordan McMahon

Jordan McMahon

Staff Writer, Electronics

Jordan has been writing about and reviewing technology since 2017, with products ranging from tablets and apps to fanny packs and home office gear.


See all of Jordan McMahon’s reviews

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