The Apple Watch Series 7 Doesn’t Reinvent the Wheel, but Damn It Looks Good

The Apple Watch Series 7 Doesn’t Reinvent the Wheel, but Damn It Looks Good
Image: Lauren Rouse/Gizmodo Australia
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We’re basking in the glow of another new Apple Watch and you’ll be glad to know this is the best smartwatch Apple has made yet. But on the flip side, it’s not really that different from the previous generation.

It’s another year of incremental upgrades that probably aren’t enough to convince those with the newer Apple Watches to upgrade. However, the Series 7 does make a huge difference for those with older models.

If you’ve been waiting to upgrade, now is your time (pun intended).

Apple Watch Series 7

WHAT IS IT?

The latest smartwatch from Apple

PRICE

$599

LIKE

Bigger display, charges quickly

NO LIKE

No significant new health features

Bigger is better

apple watch series 3 vs series 7
Image: Lauren Rouse/Gizmodo Australia

The defining feature of the Apple Watch Series 7 is its bigger, brighter and better display.

Apple boosted the size of the Apple Watch Series 7 display with nearly 20 per cent more screen area and thinner bezels. It’s hard to really understand this until you see it side by side with the Series 3.

I have been devoted to my Apple Watch, having worn a Series 3 model since 2018, so I really did feel the difference when I put on the Series 7.

The larger screen simply makes things better. It’s brighter and bolder, and subtle changes in the user interface make everything smoother and cleaner to read.

The Series 7 is also the first Apple Watch that gives you the option of a full QWERTY keyboard in the Messages app. It’s surprisingly responsive and easy to use, and makes sending texts on your watch that much easier.

apple watch series 7
Image: Lauren Rouse/Gizmodo Australia

This is just one of the apps that is able to display more thanks to the larger screen surface, so while it’s a subtle improvement it’s a useful one.

The Apple Watch’s Always On Display has also received a boost in the latest model with an increase of 70 per cent brightness while your wrist is down. It makes it easier to keep an eye on the time without having to raise your wrist to activate the display.

Personally, the Always On feature doesn’t do much for me, not to mention you’re sacrificing battery life to use it, but if you want an Apple Watch that behaves like a normal watch, the AOD helps.

Design changes

Image: Lauren Rouse/Gizmodo Australia

As rumours indicated, the Series 7 watch received a small redesign with a slightly bigger frame at 41 mm and 45 mm over the previous 40 mm and 44 mm sizes.

This 1 mm difference makes barely a difference to the size or comfort of wearing the watch, but it has a remarkable impact on the screen and gives it more contoured edges for a larger display.

Apple also introduced some brand new aluminium colours for its Series 7 model, which include midnight (black), starlight (white), green, blue and red.

While colour is unlikely to be the deciding factor when dropping $600 on a new watch, it does offer another level of customisation that previous models were lacking.

To complement the new design of the Series 7, Apple has equipped the watch with a handful of new watch faces.

apple watch
Image: Lauren Rouse/Gizmodo Australia

‘Contour’ takes all the numbers to the edge of the watch face like a Salvador Dali painting, ‘Modular Duo’ allows you to customise and read two app complications as well as the time, and ‘World Clock’ packs all the major time zones into one display.

Again new watch faces probably aren’t the main reason you’ll buy a Series 7, but they’re a nice addition and it’s kind of the least Apple can do here.

Apple also touts the Series 7 as its most durable watch yet, with IP6X dust resistance and WR50 water resistance, plus a crack-resistant display. I’m not going to smash my watch to test this so we’ll have to take Apple’s word for it, but I’ve seen my Series 3 watch get pretty banged up over the years so I do appreciate the reassurance that comes with these design upgrades.

Fitness and health features

Image: Lauren Rouse/Gizmodo Australia

Apple has steadily been improving the health features in its smartwatch, but there isn’t really anything new in this department in 2021.

Series 7 can provide readings on things like blood oxygen, irregular heart rates and respiratory rate, and can (finally) take an ECG reading after the TGA approved it in Australia.

While these features are pretty phenomenal for a wristwatch, none are really new.

There is a new fall detection feature for cycling (which one of our writers tested the hard way) and a redesigned Mindfulness app for breathing and meditation. But apart from that? Not a lot to talk about.

Rumours suggest that Apple is working on packing new sensors into its watch, like blood sugar monitoring and dehydration sensors, but none made it into this iteration.

The upgrades here are all incremental, so if you’re holding out for new health sensors you’ll be waiting a while longer.

The Apple Watch does continue to improve its connectivity with Apple Fitness+ and I found everything moved a lot smoother with the improved S7 SIP. At 32GB of internal storage, you’ve also got plenty of space for all your apps, pictures and stupidly large updates.

These are all quality of life improvements and probably won’t make a difference to anyone coming from an S5 watch or above.

Apple Watch Series 7 Battery Life

Image: Lauren Rouse/Gizmodo Australia

While Apple still hasn’t boosted the battery life of the Series 7, it has introduced fast charging which might just be enough.

Apple claims the all-day battery life of the Apple Watch 7 will get you up to 18 hours. In my tests, I found this to be accurate and could easily get a full day’s use out of the watch, with the Always On Display activated, and then still continue overnight with sleep tracking.

The battery has never really been an issue for me with the Apple Watch because I typically don’t wear it to sleep and will usually charge it overnight. But I can recognise a bigger battery would be a priority for those who like wearing their watch 24/7.

That’s where fast charging comes in. Apple provides a new fast-charging cable for the S7 watch in the box, and using it will give you up to 80 per cent battery in just 45 minutes and a full charge after 75 minutes.

I was impressed by how quickly the Apple Watch juiced up thanks to fast charging and can say they really have delivered here. Considering you have to use the provided cable it’s not the most convenient solution, but it is the best option in the meantime.

Apple Watch Series 7: Should you buy it?

If you’re tossing up where to buy the Series 7, it really comes down to timing (sorry, pun intended again).

I’ve loved every second with the Apple Watch Series 7 but the improvements are obvious over my Series 3. If I’d been coming from a Series 5 or 6, I doubt I would’ve noticed as much of a difference.

The bigger display is really where the watch is packing here, and it is stunning, but is that alone worth dropping $599 on? Probably not.

If you’ve been waiting to upgrade from an older model like a Series 3 or 4, the Series 7 has a lot to offer you. On the other hand, if you’re waiting for more significant health and fitness features, maybe keep waiting until Series 8.

The Series 7 is no doubt Apple’s best smartwatch but it doesn’t reinvent the wheel.