Apple Watch Series 7 full review
The Apple Watch Series 7 was the subject of numerous rumours and ‘leaks’ before launch, all pointing toward a complete redesign of the Apple Watch we’ve all come to know and love. As we now know, that wasn’t the case, with the Series 7 sporting the same square design, but that’s not to say there’s nothing new.
A 20% increase in screen size, improved wireless charging and better always-on display tech provide a refreshed Apple Watch experience, and although there might not be enough to tempt Series 6 owners to upgrade, those coming from an older Watch - like me, and my Apple Watch Series 4 - will find much more to appreciate.
Design & display
- Same overall design
- 20% larger display thanks to smaller bezels
- Better always-on display performance
When it comes to the overall design of the Apple Watch Series 7, not much has changed. It sports the same overall rounded look it has since its inception, with the same Digital Crown and side button on the right, and the same bevvy of straps available - although in a few new hues to complement this year’s range of colours.
That’s not to say nothing has changed though. Living on your wrist, there’s always a chance that your Apple Watch could get damaged in everyday use, so Apple decided to toughen its wearable up for the Series 7.
There’s a 50% increase in the thickness of the rounded crystal coating that protects the Apple Watch display, which should translate to better crack resistance. You’ll also find IP6X dust resistance to go alongside its WR50 swim proof water resistance for better protection at the beach, worksites and other dust- and water-prone environments.
It’s not indestructible by any means, but it should survive in more environments than ever.
There is also a range of new colour options for this year’s entry. The new range includes Starlight (a champagne-esque colour), Abyss Blue, Red, Dark Green and Midnight, a near-black shade of blue, which you can see in the images throughout our review.
The problem, and I never thought I’d say this about an Apple product, is that there aren’t any truly neutral colours at the entry-level, with simplistic colours like Silver and Space Grey getting the boot this time around. If you want a more discreet colour like Black or Silver, you’ll have to opt for the much more expensive Stainless Steel or Titanium variants.
The overall design might not be all that different to its predecessor then, but the Apple Watch Series 7 sports a new, larger display that makes a noticeable difference to the experience on offer.
Admittedly, the 1mm increase to the Apple Watch Series 7’s 41mm and 45mm casings might not sound like a big difference, but when combined with slimmer bezels - down to 1.7mm on each side - there’s actually a rather decent 20% increase in overall screen space when compared to the Apple Watch Series 6.
If you’re coming from the Series 3, it’s an even more impressive 50% jump in display size, making it a tempting option for those coming from older generations of Apple Watch.
There is a subtle difference even when compared to the Series 6, with the screen subtly curving over the edges to create a waterfall-esque look, but it’s no doubt a harder sell for those rocking last year’s Apple Watch.
The always-on display tech introduced on the Apple Watch Series 5 is present and accounted for in the Series 7. In fact, it’s 70% brighter in indoor environments than previous generations, making it easier than ever to discreetly check the time or incoming notifications without raising your wrist.
The larger display isn’t a game-changer, but the difference it makes is instantly noticeable; it’s easier to read longer messages, and interacting with complications and the various apps available on the Apple Watch is much more enjoyable too. There are even new watch faces on offer within watchOS to take advantage of the refractive edges of the wearable.
Smart features & watchOS
- Design tweaks take advantage of extra screen space
- S7 chip doesn't offer any notable performance gains compared to S6
- watchOS 15 offers a top-tier wearable experience
Of course, Apple takes advantage of the larger display with adjustments to its operating system, watchOS 15.
That includes larger buttons, making it easier to type your passcode and interact with apps, along with two new watch faces. Contour is ideal for showing off the refractive edges of the watch, with the numbers on the dial visible when looking at the Watch side-on, while Modular Duo is the first watch face to display two large complications at once.
There’s also a new swipe-powered QWERTY keyboard that uses Apple’s predictive QuickPath tech to make sending messages a slightly less frustrating experience. It works well much of the time, though the lack of context and iffy results when sending a new message means it’s much better suited to replies.
Similarly, Apple has added three new text sizing options that make it easier to read on-screen text if you struggle with reading smaller text.
But while the larger display is a welcome change, it’s one of few notable changes when it comes to this year’s wearable - and that includes the processor. While it may be marketed as the S7, it doesn’t seem to deliver any notable boost in performance over the S6 in the Series 6.
That’s not to say that the experience on offer is sluggish in any way though; in fact, coming from my ageing Series 4, the Series 7 feels incredibly responsive in operation. The wake time is near-instant, apps rarely hang on loading screens and complications update notably quicker than with my older Apple Watch.
So, while Series 6 users might not notice much of a change in day-to-day performance, those coming from an older Apple Watch will certainly appreciate the performance improvements Apple has made over the past few years.
It’s very much the same story in the sensors department too; it sports the same GPS, optical heart rate monitor, blood oxygen monitor, electrical heart-rate sensor, always-on altimeter, compass and fall detection as the Series 6.
It’s a broad range of sensors that make the Apple Watch Series 7 a versatile smartwatch, especially for those focused on fitness and health, but there’s nothing new in that regard aside from improvements to fall detection, which now also works when you’re riding a bike.
Aside from that, it’s very much business as usual with Apple’s smartwatch, providing one of the best smartwatch experiences (if not the best) on the market. There’s a reason why there are over 100 million Apple Watch owners after all!
watchOS 15 provides an intuitive smartwatch experience with customisable watch faces and interactive complications not only designed by Apple, but your favourite third-party apps too.
Pair that with a wide library of apps available on the smartwatch, built-in Siri support with speaker playback, the ability to take calls (and even make them if you opt for the cellular model) and you’ve got the perfect smartwatch experience - as long as you’re on iOS, anyway. As with previous years, the Apple Watch Series 7 isn’t compatible with Android, and you’ll need an iPhone to go through the setup process.
Fitness and tracking
- Extensive exercise tracking
- Day-to-day fitness tracking
- Basic sleep tracking
The Apple Watch Series 7, like its predecessors, offers a fairly robust health and tracking system that lets you keep on top of your everyday life, including tracking stand hours, calories burnt and minutes of exercise and displaying them in intuitive rings on your watch face and within the Activity app, as well as in-depth, exercise-specific exercise tracking.
The Apple Watch Series 7 has the ability to automatically detect when you’re doing a handful of exercises, like walking and running, with impressive accuracy. For most forms of exercise though, you’ll be better off selecting it from within the dedicated fitness tracking app, Workout, with options ranging from running and swimming to pilates and more niche forms of exercise like Australian football and hunting.
There’s a new Siri-powered coach that’ll let you know important metrics like distance milestones, time splits and more, either via the Apple Watch speaker or a connected pair of AirPods.
It’s a handy feature that lets you focus less on looking at stats on your wrist and more on getting into the groove of the exercise - hearing my latest KM split certainly made me more motivated on my first 5K run in a few months - but it’s worth noting that it isn’t easily disabled, and might be a tad annoying in an indoor environment like a gym if you’re not wearing buds connected to your Watch.
The metrics displayed on-screen will depend on the exercise you’re doing, ranging from heart rate, calories burnt and distance to more exercise-specific metrics like time splits and cadence when running, with more metrics available via the Fitness app on your iPhone. In fact, that’s an area that the Apple Watch Series 7 improves upon, with more accurate stats for e-Bike cycling.
There’s also basic sleep tracking functionality available on the Apple Watch Series 7. It has been improved with watchOS 15, also now capable of tracking your breathing rate through the night, but it’s still basic compared to sleep tracking from even budget trackers like the Xiaomi Mi Band 6, lacking crucial data like stages of sleep.
The exercise, movement and sleep data collected by your Apple Watch feed into the Health app on your iPhone, giving you a more holistic view of your health in general, with an insight into trends over longer periods of time that could provide a better insight into your current fitness levels and motivate you to improve in future.
It’s not the best fitness tracker out there, but if you want one smartwatch that tracks most exercises fairly well, the Apple Watch Series 7 is a solid option.
- Lasts longer than 18-hour claim, but it's not multi-day
- New charging system provides fast charge capabilities
- Move from USB-A to USB-C on charging cable may frustrate some
One area that remains completely unchanged is battery life, and considering that some rivals offer true multi-day performance, some might be disappointed to see the same 18-hour claim from the Series 7. However, when you consider the always-on display (which is brighter this year) and the bevvy of sensors and tech packed into the wearable, that’s still pretty admirable.
Of course, the 18-hour claim will depend on what you’re doing on the watch, as performing battery-intense tasks like GPS-enabled fitness tracking or using the Apple Watch to make calls via cellular will drain the battery much quicker - but the reverse is also true.
On an average day without any exercise tracking, I comfortably made it through an entire day without needing to charge the Watch.
In fact, I managed to squeeze nearly 28 hours of use out of the Series 7 during testing with what I’d consider average use, using the Watch for notifications, quick calls and to check the weather, though that dropped near to the 20-hour mark when I used the Apple Watch to track a 40-minute run during the day.
Regardless, it’s no secret that you’ll be charging your Apple Watch most days - and that is an area that Apple has enhanced with the Series 7. It’s a two-part improvement, with an enhanced charging coil design in the bottom of the Series 7 to speed up the charging process and an upgraded magnetic charging cable too.
The end result is an Apple Watch with decent charge speeds, offering 59% in just 30 minutes in testing, and it goes from flat to full in just over an hour, making it easier to top up the wearable either before bed or when you first wake up in the morning. The Watch is also capable of getting enough juice for 8 hours of sleep tracking from just 8 minutes on the charger for those that want to gather sleep data.
It’s easy to spot the difference between new and old Apple Watch chargers, with the newer variant sporting an aluminium case similar to that of the iPhone’s MagSafe charger, and it connects via USB-C rather than USB-A too. The latter will likely be an annoyance for some, especially when there isn’t a charging brick in the box.
It’s worth noting that you can charge older Apple Watches on the newer charger, but they won’t see an increase in charge speed like with the Series 7.
Yes, of course, I’d love to see an Apple Watch with 2-3 days of charge to free myself from the daily charge cycle, but if it comes at the cost of performance, features or the general Apple Watch experience, I’m more than happy to stick with improved charging speeds.
The Apple Watch Series 7 is a premium wearable, but it’s a bit cheaper in the UK this time around, starting at £369 for the 41mm variant with an aluminium case, while the 45mm variant will set you back £399 - a saving of £10 in both cases. In the US, it starts at the same $399 and $429 respectively, with prices increasing depending on the combination of case material and straps.
Here’s an overview of current pricing, with cellular variants costing an extra £100/$100 on top:
- Apple Watch Series 7 (41mm, Aluminium, GPS) – £369 / $399
- Apple Watch Series 7 (45mm, Aluminium, GPS) – £399 / $429
- Apple Watch Series 7 (41mm, Stainless Steel with Sport band, GPS + Cellular) – £599 / $699
- Apple Watch Series 7 (45mm, Stainless Steel with Sport band, GPS + Cellular) – £649 / $749
- Apple Watch Series 7 (41mm, Titanium, GPS + Cellular) – £699 / $799
- Apple Watch Series 7 (45mm Titanium, GPS + Cellular) – £749 / $849
If you’re interested, you can buy the Apple Watch Series 7 from the Apple Store in the UK and US, along with third-party retailers like Amazon and Best Buy. We cover where to buy the Apple Watch Series 7 separately for those interested, and if you want to find out how the Apple Watch compares to the competition, we’ve got a roundup of the best smartwatches too.
The Apple Watch Series 7 doesn’t do a whole lot different to its predecessor, but it still has everything that an iOS user would want from a smartwatch, including Siri support, a range of customisable watch faces, a strong ecosystem of watchOS apps and tight integration with iPhone.
There’s also a plethora of sensors that help you track metrics including heart rate and blood oxygen levels, along with impressive exercise tracking capabilities that provide a good picture of your overall health. It’s just a shame that sleep tracking is still so basic, years after its initial introduction.
The big improvement is, of course, the larger display. Though the 1mm case increase to 41mm and 45mm may not sound like much, combined with slimmer bezels, it actually represents a 20% increase in screen size, and combined with refractive edges, it’s noticeable in use.
Combined with software tweaks that take advantage of the extra screen real estate, it’s easily the strongest feature of the Watch Series 7, but maybe not enough to tempt Series 6 users to upgrade. For those coming from an earlier iteration of Apple Watch though, the upgrade is more substantial.
The 18-hour battery life isn’t the best, and there are smartwatches that can provide more in-depth exercise tracking, but for most iPhone users, the Apple Watch Series 7 is the perfect smartwatch.
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