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Review: The Apple Watch Series 7 Offers Continued Refinements — But Do You Need It?

As is the case with all Apple products, a new year brings a new refresh to the company’s stalwart tech offerings. We’re now in the seventh iteration of the Apple Watch, the company’s flagship wearable. At this stage, a majority of the problems that plagued early installments are gone, leaving the brand to continue to improve little details. That’s mostly what’s at play here in the Series 7: minor quality-of-life upgrades that are more likely to be a huge deal if you’re looking to upgrade from a Series 4 or Series 5. Otherwise, there are minor tweaks from the Series 6 that likely aren’t enough to warrant running out and grabbing it. Let’s dive into our review of the unit Apple provided for us to test.

  

Apple Watch 7 Design

The Series 7 is going to look pretty similar to those familiar with Apple Watches; there’s the sleek touch screen face, the swivel dial and the toggle button. The version provided by Apple for review came with the standard silicone strap, as well as a more fitness-ready and fitness-friendly Nike version. However, the one place where the 7 is significantly different is in the watch face itself.

Apple upgraded the case to 45mm, which doesn’t seem like much — at first. But as someone with larger hands, that extra mm (my Series 6 is a 44mm) meant the difference between me being able to accurately touch the icons with my fingertip and an inaccurate press. The latter was an issue I ran into with some frequency on smaller case Apple Watches, so the widening of the case not only improves that user experience but also provides more information on the watch display. The screen itself is always on, as in previous versions, but feels slightly more vivid thanks to that larger case.

Oh, and Apple being Apple, it comes in a few different colors (both in the case and in the watch band), so you can better customize it to your iPhone or just your overall vibe.

Specs

  • Sizes: 41mm, 45mm
  • Storage: 32 GB
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Optional cellular
  • Durability: 50 meters of waterproofing; IPX6 durability
  • Sensors: Heart rate, ECG, Sp02
  

Setup

Setting up the Apple Watch Series 7 is going to feel familiar to anyone who has used Apple products. Upon opening the box, putting on the watchband and powering on the watch, you’ll need to pair the device to your iPhone. Walking through the installation, pairing, updates and downloads of various Apple Watch–enabled applications will depend on the strength of your internet connection, but the entire process takes about 30 minutes.

Apple Watch Series 7 45mm Featured Body Image 2

  

Apple Watch 7 Features

When it comes to features on the Series 7, there aren’t a ton of new features to consider over previous versions. The watch boasts a new WatchOS8, but it’s not hugely different from other versions of the software you may have installed on prior Apple Watches. Those who enjoy having photos for their watch faces will likely get a lot of the dedicated portrait mode function, which allows you to set a photo and then overlay the watch info. I tried it but found myself reverting back to the modular designs so that my most frequently used functions (calendar, weather, alarm, Spotify and workouts) were all right at my fingertips.

Speaking of modular designs, the Series 7’s increased real estate does allow for a duo of new modular watch faces, if that’s your thing. The first, “Contour,” provides numbers on the edge of the case. A smaller face would cluster the numbers too close together, so the increased size gives it a little more room to breathe. The second face, “Modular Duo,” allows you to stack two apps on top of one another with more detailed info on them. The best example is the one seen below, where I stacked DarkSky on top of my Activity; I get a chart of the next few hours of weather as well as my overall activity for the day. It’s handy if you want to get a lot of info right at a glance, but I typically kept to the standard modular design to quickly access my most frequently used applications.

Apple Watch Series 7 45mm Featured Body Image 2

  

Performance

Battery life has always held back the Apple Watch. Previous versions have focused on increasing the performance of the battery life and the Apple Watch 7 follows in the same tradition. Without question, the 7 features the best battery of any Apple Watch thus far. I was able to get about 26 hours out of a single charge, while using plenty of the watch’s features, including running workout tracking and bountiful amounts of notification relays throughout the day.

Apple touts its charging power as 33% faster than previous versions. In my testing, it took no longer than an hour to get a full charge. I found it pretty easy to either dock the watch first thing after waking up in the morning (I use my watch nightly for sleep tracking and as an alarm) or after showering from my evening workouts while I ate dinner. Either way, it’s a huge boost over the Series 6, thanks in part to this redesigned battery pack and that USB-C charger. There’s no Qi functionality for charging, which is going to be a bummer for those looking to go totally wireless. But you’ll definitely want to leverage the new cord included in the box, as it’s important to ensure you’re getting that faster charge time. We still wish that battery life lasted a full day and a half, but this is a really strong improvement over previous versions.

Overall, using the watch is faster — or at least feels that way. Switching between apps felt snappy and quick. Not only that, but tapping inputs on the watch sent signals to my phone much quicker than in previous iterations. A constant issue I encountered with previous watches was trying to switch songs while on a run; typically, I’d experience some sort of delay between when I’d tap the skip button, but the Series 7 instantly picked up on it. It’s a minor thing but it made it feel like the watch moves a bit quicker.

The increased screen size allows you to see more at a glance, too. Text messages can be responded to by using that previously mentioned included keyboard functionality. Some may enjoy this, but I found it both easier and better to just dictate messages through Siri than press tiny keys to respond to a text. The same traditional prompts remain if you’re so inclined to use them.

  

The Verdict

There are likely not enough brand new features in the Series 7 to make it worth upgrading from a Series 6 but, if you have anything below that, the Series 7 will feel well worth the $400 starting price (as with all Apple devices, there are multiple configurations to purchase depending upon your needs). Overall, the Apple Watch line remains the best smartwatch for Apple users, full stop, and the Series 7 continues to improve on an already strong product.

So Should You Buy It?

If you’re in the market for a new Apple Watch (specifically if you have an older version and are jonesing for an upgrade), without a doubt. There are more than enough new features here to make your purchase well worth it. If you have a Series 6 or even a Series 5, there’s nothing here that warrants rushing out to get one right away. However, those who do decide to upgrade will find a lot to love.

Pros:

  • Larger case means a larger screen
  • Improved battery life
  • Still the best wearable for Apple users

Cons:

  • Battery life could still be better
  • No one absolutely killer feature worth upgrading for

Rating: 8.5/10

Apple Watch Series 7 45mm

Apple Watch Series 7 45mm

  

What Are Some Alternatives?

If you’re looking for options that aren’t the Apple Watch Series 7, we have other selections for you.

1. Apple Watch SE

The Apple Watch SE is Apple’s value pick, which it promotes as “heavy on features [but] light on price.”

Apple Watch SE

  

2. Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

The only thing that comes close to matching an Apple Watch in terms of features and quality is the Samsung Galaxy Watch. This fourth iteration is the latest and greatest from the brand and a worthwhile alternative if you don’t want to spend the money on an Apple Watch or if you want to get out of the Apple landscape.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

  

3. Fitbit Sense Smartwatch

With its vivid display, great price, strong fitness-tracking features and sleek design, the Fitbit Sense is a great smartwatch for those who are more fitness-minded but still want some strong smartwatch functionality to tool around with. Either way, it’s a worthy contender and well worth a look.

Fitbit Sense Smartwatch

  

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