Reviews

Apple Watch Series 7 reviewed: more iconic

A minor update can make a big difference, as the Apple Watch Series 7 fits its clothes a whole lot better than before. What makes the new watch stand out, and is it worth an update?

Apple has been making a smartwatch for a few years now, and it’s one that can cost a pretty penny, even if it delivers what is ostensibly a premium experience. Wearables come in different grades, mind you, ranging from the cheap-as fitness bands to the more expensive flagship territory that the Apple Watch sits in, but they can all seem a little off kilter from what a watch is. They get close, but it’s often a case of “close, but no cigar”.

Several generations in, however, the Apple Watch is really coming into its own, fitting its clothing better and looking more like a proper watch. It’s going to be pretty obvious that this is the best the Apple Watch had been, but is it worth an upgrade for owners?

Design

With a design that has seen Apple’s softened square firmed up over the past few years, the Series 7 is all about little touches to make this thing a little better overall.

You can see it in the edges and glass, where the soft dome of that top glass element now meets the frame in such a way, it’s next to impossible to see where they touch. It’s very pretty, as if a master industrial engineer came and said only perfection will do, and that’s what we managed in the end: design perfection.

We opted for the less expensive of the range, the aluminium chassis Apple Watch Series 7 in midnight, and while it doesn’t exude the premium look and feel of the more expensive stainless steel option, it still looks pretty spesh all the same.

The difference of the Apple Watch Series 7 in midnight (left) versus the blue of the Series 6 (right).

With no obvious glass edge, it’s almost as if the metal and glass were married at the right point, similar to that feeling we had when the first fully aluminium phones started rolling out. This is a made for purpose watch, and one that knows that as its identity.

Timepieces typically exhibit that. They’re unusual in the gadget world because their design is their personality, and that’s true of the Apple Watch Series 7.

Much like how a Hamilton Ventura offers a curious shape that is its identity, and Skagen delivers a beautifully slim analogue style with minimalist perfection, the shape of the Apple Watch is coming into its own and clearly not trying to be anything else.

Apple doesn’t pretend the Watch Series 7 is an analogue watch with a circular bezel like Samsung’s Galaxy Watch, but at the same time, it no longer feels even like an ordinary smartwatch. It’s a gradual step towards the watch being an icon, even if you’d never realise it under the hood.

Features

Under that glass and metal chassis, there’s a bit, but it’s not all that removed from the previous generations.

There’s a new processor, the S7 SiP, sitting alongside 32GB RAM and a whole heap of things, with the Apple W3 wireless chip, U1 ultra-wideband chip for finding things like in the Apple AirTag, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and dependent on how much you spend, 4G LTE.

You can listen to call through the Apple Watch over a speaker, talk to it using a microphone, a light sensor, gyroscope, accelerometer, SpO2 pulse oximeter, optical heart rate sensor, electrical heart sensor for ECG, altimeter, and compass. That’s all par for the course with the Series 6 Apple Watch we checked out last year, so there’s really nothing new here.

There’s more durability in the design, with improvements to the crack-resistant crystal and support for 50 metres of water, plus a choice of either aluminium, stainless steel, and titanium, all dependent on just how much you want to spend.

Display

The biggest change in the Series 7 is actually in the LTPO OLED screen, which has seen some the bezels shaved down from the previous generations, a noticeable difference from whichever model you might be coming from, or just plain impressive if you’re new to the whole smartwatch thing.

While the Apple Watch start with a 4.5mm border width, something you can still find in the now entry-level Series 3, it made its way to a 3mm border width in the last major shake up, found in the Series 4, Series 5, Series 6, and Apple Watch SE, the latter of which can still be found as the mid-point.

In the new flagship generation, Apple has almost cut that in half, pushing the screen almost right to the edge with a 1.7mm border width and bezels that are more difficult to discern.

Apple Watch Series 7 (left) versus Apple Watch Series 6 (right)

That change has seen the screen offerings for what you buy become a little different, with the choice of 40mm and 44mm in the Series 6 becoming a choice of 41mm and 45mm in the Series 7. It’s still the same choice: big or small, pick the screen size that suits your wrist better.

The physical size of the watch has changed slightly thanks to the glass sitting in more of a connected dome at the edges, helping to lessen the impact of the minimal edges. It helps make the whole thing appear seamless and legitimately thin, as if there’s no space for the OLED frame, no place where the solder and parts connect. It’s just there and pretty, framed barely by almost a hairline of black border and then whatever colour metal you chose for the Watch.

Owners of recent Apple Watch models will notice the difference as the bezel shifts from 3mm to 1.7mm, but original owners through to the Series 3 will see it more: in one shift, the Apple Watch goes from being a plucky smartwatch obviously framed to a thing of beauty hardly framed at all.

The change may appear minor on paper, but it makes a big difference to the look. While smartwatches are rarely going to hit timeless status — because unlike the real thing, they’ll always need to be updated, and eventually those updates will run out and hit end of life — Apple’s Series 7 Watch is as close to timeless as we’ve seen yet.

It’s not a Hamilton Ventura, but the Series 7 Apple Watch is edging closer to being iconic in the smartwatch world.

In-use

Using the watch is much the same, however, and with watchOS 8 onboard plus that bigger screen, it’s a pretty easy thing for anyone to get their fingers on.

You can navigate apps either by using the large map of icons or by scrolling through an app menu, and thanks to the larger screen, Apple has enabled a small QWERTY keyboard, which supports individual keys or gesture typing, something found in iOS for a few years and Android before that.

But that extra large screen helps a treat.

Apple Watch Series 7 (left) versus Apple Watch Series 6 (right)

While watchOS 8 adds a keyboard, using the Series 7 in general just feels like there’s no impediment to having to unlock the thing to pay with Apple Pay, or even check your notifications. Bigger numbers and button pressing makes for less mistakes, and that’s great news for your fingers, fat or thin.

You also get a couple of watch faces specific to the bigger screen, basically a small bragging right Apple has achieved

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Performance

That new chip isn’t likely to blow your eyelids off in the same way as the bigger screen, but it does make a difference, with no amount of lag in our time during our Series 7 Apple Watch review.

The time is of course snappy, as are most apps running through it, and we never picked up on any lag running the various apps you have at your disposal. It’s very similar to what we found last year on the Series 6, so even though there’s an update, Apple’s expertise has kept everything snappy all the same.

Health

Nothing has changed in regards to health, either, and you’ll see the same technology from the Series 6 lurking in this model.

It means the ECG is back around for another round, as is the SpO2 blood oxygen tracking, plus heart rate and all the fun tracking stuff that helps you monitor your fitness, as well. Accelerometer, compass, and altimeter, it’s all here, and whether you’re going for a long walk, a brisk run, or working out with the on-screen trainers in Apple Fitness, what was left over from the Apple Watch Series 6 is here to track you in the Series 7.

Battery

While nothing has changed in health, nothing has also changed in the battery, and the Apple Watch Series 7 performs more or less the same as the previous generation 6, and that thing didn’t win any favours, either.

As such, the Apple Watch Series 7 is one of those smartwatches that will struggle to hit a day of battery life, and likely need a charge either before you go to bed, while you’re sleeping, or when you get up to take a shower.

Charge before you go to bed or when you first get up to let it track your sleep, which it can do, but still isn’t as detailed as other wearables, such as the Whoop tracker and even what comes from Fitbit. Baby steps for sleep tracking, it seems.

Alternatively, stick the Apple Watch Series 7 on its charging bay while you sleep, and it’ll be ready for a full day’s worth of activities by the time you get up in the morning.

It’s a bit of a shame we haven’t seen the battery life improved, though not altogether surprising given the screen size and performance of the hardware.

However we also haven’t seen a shift in how the watch is charged, with Apple’s proprietary wireless charging plug still used, and no way to charge the Series 7 from an iPhone, or even its MagSafe chargers. It means if you want to keep your Apple Watch Series 7 charged as you travel, you’ll need to bring and plug in that proprietary Apple Watch charger just like you normally would.

Granted, it’s been updated to a Type C USB plug this year, handy for plugging into a recent MacBook, but it’s still annoying that it’s not on a wireless charging standard yet.

Value

Priced from $599 for the WiFi and GPS model or $749 for the 4G, WiFi, and GPS model, the Series 7 isn’t a staggeringly expensive watch, but it’s also not all that inexpensive either.

It’s a premium watch with a bigger screen, cooler look, and more durability, so the price is about right even if you want it to be better in some departments.

What needs work?

Primarily the battery life. Beyond the battery life, though, we can’t really wish for too much more.

The Apple Watch Series 7 is pretty — very pretty — and easier on the eyes than just about every other smartwatch out there. With the thinnest of edges and a sleek modern look, this watch stands out.

We just wish it stood out in battery life, too. Charging nightly is not a standard practice for a watch, and several years in, it really shouldn’t be the norm.

We get it: there’s more to a smartwatch than the tiny battery needed to keep most watches from doing the one thing they need to do, keeping time, but anything more than a day would be great. Two days would be something of an achievement, but years into development, one day of life is a bit of a struggle to agree with.

You’re buying a thing of beauty in the Apple Watch Series 7, but it’s a thing of beauty that much like your phone will probably need a charge fairly regularly.

Final thoughts (TLDR)

It’s worth pointing out that the Apple Watch isn’t just a watch. All a regular timepiece has to do is keep time, and maybe a couple of other functions. An Apple Watch (and every other smartwatch) will end up doing a whole lot more.

You can listen to music on it, type messages, dictate your words and have them sent in text, use it as a form of personal navigation, control your phone’s camera remotely, use a tiny calculator on your wrist, check your blood oxygen, your heart rate, your ECG, and more. An Apple Watch does a lot of things a regular watch won’t, and it does it all under a vibrant colour screen that looks unlike any other watch, as well, so hitting more than a day of life is understandably difficult. There’s just so much going on here.

It’s therefore hard to expect the Apple Watch battery life to improve beyond expectation, even if it’s the one thing we want. You know, aside for it working with devices outside of the iPhone, which we’d love to, but that won’t happen.

However the look can help tide you over.

This is a watch that looks more iconic than any smartwatch before it because it’s trying to be itself. It’s slightly bigger and easier on the eyes, and even though not much has actually changed, it feels more like a proper watch because less of the framing is as noticeable. That’s a big deal. If only we could get the battery to be better, too.

For most Apple Watch owners, there’s virtually no reason to upgrade. If you have a Series 4, 5, 6 or SE, the Series 7 is very similar, and may not bring a whole heap to the table, beyond pulse oximetry and a snazzier frame. Older models have a lot more to look forward to.

Ultimately, if you’re considering a smartwatch, Apple’s Series 7 makes a case that these things can become more iconic on their own. It’s not a major change, but it is one that stands out, and that might be all you need to be convinced.

Granted, it’s not like the the cool softened cone of the Hamilton Ventura that I’m not rich enough to own, nor is it quite like the markedly minimalist Skagen my wife bought for my wedding present that I adore. The Apple Watch is different, but it’s more iconic than ever, and despite its mediocre battery life, something you can more easily fall for than before. Recommended.

Apple Watch Series 7
Design
Features
Performance
Ease of use
Battery
Value
The good
Great looking wearable
Easily one of the best screens for any smartwatch
Larger display helps to make the Apple Watch stand out and feel iconic
Excellent health set trickled over from the Series 6
The not-so-good
Battery still struggles to hit a day
Still only works with the iPhone
Expensive
No major reason to upgrade: the only major differences between the S6 and the S7 are the screen size and a couple of new watch faces
4.3
Leigh :) Stark

A technology journalist working out of Sydney, Australia, Leigh has written for publications including The Australian Financial Review, GadgetGuy, Popular Science, APC, PC & Tech Authority, as well as for radio and TV since 2007.

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