Apple Watch Series 7 review: Bigger than you think

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited October 19
Despite lacking new health features or performance improvements, the larger display on Apple Watch Series 7 makes it a compelling upgrade and the best smartwatch you can buy.


Apple Watch Series 7


At first glance, trying to spot the differences between Apple Watch Series 7 and previous models is difficult. The body style remains unchanged, contrary to rumors earlier this year, and there are no additional sensors for health tracking.

But all of that changes once you turn on the display.





During its lifetime, Apple Watch has received two significant display size upgrades. Going from the rectangular, postage-stamp size display on Series 3 to the rounded corner display on Series 4, and now increasing the size from Series 6 to Series 7.

Apple Watch Series 7 on left, Apple Watch Series 6 on right

New Display and Design

Apple Series Series 7 comes in 41mm and 45mm case sizes, just one millimeter larger than the previous Apple Watch Series 6. Unless they are held side-by-side, it will be difficult to notice any difference. The only obvious change is the speaker grill on the left side which is now one slit instead of two.



The real story is the increase in display size. Apple Watch Series 7 has a 20% larger display than previous models. It may not sound like much, but the increase in screen size, plus the physically larger casing creates a striking difference when compared to older models. Elements of the user interface seem to flow over the curved glass.

Apple Watch Series 7 also has a 70% brighter stand-by mode when your wrist is down. While Apple only mentioned the brighter display when in stand-by, it seemed to be brighter outdoors as well when compared to Apple Watch Series 6.

Apple Watch Series 7 on left, Apple Watch Series 6 on right


Overall, the larger and brighter display is noticeable even coming from last year's model. By default, Apple Watch Series 7 doesn't display more text in a list or email, but users can lower the text size one notch to increase the amount of content on screen. Those who typically increase font sizes through Accessibility would certainly benefit from the larger display.

Keyboard and Watch Faces

Unique to Apple Watch Series 7 is a full QWERTY keyboard available when responding to text messages or email. It's curious that previous models didn't receive the full keyboard with watchOS 8, but the tap targets on the smaller displays may be unusable.


Full QWERTY Keyboard


Tapping an individual letter on Apple Watch keyboard is passably accurate, but a better option is using it as a swipe keyboard. A majority of the time, swiping to type a response worked well. I would still default to dictating messages via Siri on Apple Watch, but I'm glad the keyboard option is available.

Also available on Apple Watch Series 7 are two new watch faces, Contour and Modular Duo. Contour is a colorful option with numbers pushing all the way up to the edge of the display. It allows for two small complications in the top-center and bottom-center positions.


Contour Watch Face


Modular Duo is a compelling new choice that provides a small complication in the top-left corner, and two large landscape complications on the watch face. Infograph Modular watch face, which is available on previous Apple Watch models, only allowed for one large complication.

Users can display a multi-hour weather forecast, heart rate graphs, and other large complications while still retaining legibility. Apps like Watchsmith provide even greater customization options such as placing a large photo in one of the complication areas.


Modular Duo Watch Face on Left

Performance and Charging

Apple neglected to mention the processor powering Apple Watch Series 7 during its "California Streaming" event. While the new chip is labeled S7, it is functionally the same as the S6 found in last year's Apple Watch.

In other devices, a lack of performance improvement could be a concern, but having used the Apple Watch Series 6 for the past year I can attest that speed is never an issue with this processor. Swiping between watch faces, playing a podcast, or opening third-party apps is fast and fluid. There is no waiting around for an app to open or load in day-to-day use.


AnyList on Apple Watch


One of my favorite apps to use on Apple Watch is AnyList. Made for grocery shopping, AnyList can sync lists between users, arrange items by category and store, plus it's available on iPhone, iPad, and even Android devices. Scrolling through AnyList and checking off items on the larger display was a great experience.

Apple Watch Series 7 also touts fast charging, up to 33% faster than its predecessor. Charging for just 8 minutes can provide up to 8 hours of sleep tracking. But users do need to provide their own 5W USB-C power adapter to take advantage of those charging speeds.

Fitness Tracking

One of the most popular use cases for Apple Watch is health and fitness tracking. Unfortunately, no new sensors or features were added to the Apple Watch Series 7.

As with last year's model, there is a blood-oxygen sensor, built-in ECG app, heart rate notifications, and fall detection.

Tracking activity and workouts remain the same as previous Apple Watch models, but the larger display is helpful when trying to view workout stats mid-exercise.

Durability

Apple Watch Series 7 is swimproof with WR50 water resistance, also shared by Apple Watch SE and Apple Watch Series 3. Apple also claims the front crystal is the strongest ever on an Apple Watch being 50% thicker at its highest point.



New to this year's model is IP6X dust resistance. To test its durability, we took Apple Watch Series 7 to sand dunes and dropped it multiple times.

After taking multiple hits and being close to buried in sand, we were able to wash it off with no scratches or damage found. The Digital Crown was stuck immediately after testing, but after a few turns felt just like new.

Should You Upgrade?

For those who have never owned an Apple Watch, this year is a great time to try one. During its six-generation life span, Apple Watch Series 7 is one of only two major upgrades in display size. Even compared to last year's Apple Watch Series 6, the increase in screen size is obvious and attractive.



Apple continues to sell the Apple Watch SE at $279 and Apple Watch Series 3 at $199. While the lower price may be tempting, we advise against buying Series 3. With a much slower processor and significantly smaller display, users would be better off looking for used Apple Watch Series 4 or newer models.

Apple Watch SE is a compelling option and great for kids or friends and family who are less technologically inclined. While it lacks an always-on display and ECG functionality, it outperforms Series 3 in every other category.



Those looking to upgrade from older Apple Watch models, like the Series 4 or 5, will gain blood-oxygen monitoring, larger display, and increased performance. If those features are beneficial, it's a great time to upgrade.

The hardest decision comes for those with Apple Watch Series 6. Apple Watch Series 7 maintains the same performance as its predecessor, there are no new sensors, and battery life remains the same. But for heavy Apple Watch users, and those who would like larger text without sacrificing visible content, Apple Watch Series 7 is a compelling upgrade.

Apple Watch Series 7 starts at $399 for the 41mm size in aluminum, and $429 for 45mm. Color options in aluminum include Midnight, Starlight, Green, Blue, and Product Red. Users that want cellular connectivity in the aluminum finish adds $100 to the price tag.

Stainless steel models come in Silver, Graphite, and Gold finishes starting at $699, and Titanium models in natural and Space Black start at $799.

Pros
  • Larger display

  • Two new watch faces

  • Full QWERTY keyboard

  • Faster charging

  • Very durable
Cons
  • No new health features

  • Processor is unchanged

  • No third-party watch faces/li>
Score: 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy

AppleInsider readers can save on every new model in the Apple Watch Series 7 Price Guide, with instant savings and exclusive discounts at your fingertips.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    That’s what she said!
    alanhwilliamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 10
    Good review. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 10
    Solid review with a perfect title: "Bigger than you think." It's really hard to explain what a difference a bump in screen size can make to someone who has only owned a 4-6 series Apple Watch. And with Apple regularly touting triple digit improvements on the newest models of products, I can understand how a 20% bump in screen size might sound meh. But having experienced the "bigger than you think" difference that a bump in screen size made when I went from the Series 3 to 4, I knew I was getting the 7 even if the only improvement was the 20% bigger screen. (Which has turned out to be the main improvement of note.) I have no doubt it will better my user experience way beyond what that modest increase would suggest. 

    Special note to Apple Insider: price guides for the Watch are all well and good, but it would be an even bigger help to readers if you could track which major retailers have stock of Watch 7. Except for a few less favored models, it seems to be out of stock everywhere, but I'm not sure if that's an accurate assessment. 
    edited October 20 watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 10
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,697member
    I'm wondering about this increase in screen size. 
    Is it an actual, usable increase?  
    Or, did they "simply" wrap the display around the curved glass as it dips into the case?
    ....  From the pictures, it looks like at least some of it came from wrapping it around.

    If it's the former, I can attest to its benefit from my experience going from a Series 1 to a Series 4.  It made a very big difference in the functionality of the watch -- especially while trying to read the face while running (which is hard not matter how big it might be!).

    But, if it's the latter, then I wonder how beneficial it will be in practice?  Through the video he repeatedly pointed out that most of the difference was from making the font smaller to fit more on -- which suggests that the usable screen real estate has not increased that much.

    In any case, fast charging would be, for me, a major upgrade because I hate being without my watch for safety reasons.  But, since I wear it at night (both for safety reasons and sleep tracking), I have to wait for it to recharge each morning.  Faster charging would relieve some of that pain.
  • Reply 5 of 10
    Upgraded from a Series 4 thinking it would be a small upgrade… I’m enjoying the Series 7 WAY more than I expected. The new darker aluminum black is soooo nice. The big display is awesome and the qwerty keyboard (works surprisingly well) really changes how I use it already. 

    Who wants to buy my series 4 with no bands or chargers??? Lol
    edited October 20 GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 10
    I'm wondering about this increase in screen size. 
    Is it an actual, usable increase?  
    Or, did they "simply" wrap the display around the curved glass as it dips into the case?
    ....  From the pictures, it looks like at least some of it came from wrapping it around.
    Usable, not wrapped. This has been Apple's point in why they don't mimic Android and do edge to edge screens on iPhones--it may look cool, but the screen space at the edges isn't usable. 
    edited October 20 GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 10
    I ordered the 7. It’s only $219 with my trade in, which I think is pretty reasonable. I wanted to upgrade for the bigger and brighter screen and then secondly for the faster charging.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 10
    I am going to dive into the Watch thing, and have but one question.  My wrist is 9 1/2 inches in circumference, and it would appear that even with the larger watch, would not come close to fitting my apparently fat wrist.  Aside from losing weight, is there an aftermarket alternative with longer length bands, and if so, is the watch capable of making band changes?  I really would appreciate some guidance on this.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 10
    crowleycrowley Posts: 9,096member
    chuck1252 said:
    I am going to dive into the Watch thing, and have but one question.  My wrist is 9 1/2 inches in circumference, and it would appear that even with the larger watch, would not come close to fitting my apparently fat wrist.  Aside from losing weight, is there an aftermarket alternative with longer length bands, and if so, is the watch capable of making band changes?  I really would appreciate some guidance on this.  
    Yes

    https://www.imore.com/best-apple-watch-bands-extra-large-wrists
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 10
    crowley said:
    chuck1252 said:
    I am going to dive into the Watch thing, and have but one question.  My wrist is 9 1/2 inches in circumference, and it would appear that even with the larger watch, would not come close to fitting my apparently fat wrist.  Aside from losing weight, is there an aftermarket alternative with longer length bands, and if so, is the watch capable of making band changes?  I really would appreciate some guidance on this.  
    Yes

    https://www.imore.com/best-apple-watch-bands-extra-large-wrists
    Thank you.

    watto_cobra
Sign In or Register to comment.