The Apple Watch began as more of a curio but has become a key part of the company’s annual property lineup. The Apple Watch Series 7 is the company’s best effort yet, but it definitely feels like more of an incremental upgrade — just as the Series 6 felt a little light on new features a year prior.
That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to like, though. The Series 7 is easily the best smartwatches for Apple users, with a slightly larger, wrapped-around display that minimizes bezels to increase screen space and give the UI room to breathe.
There’s also faster charging when using the included “puck”, but battery life remains an area where Apple needs to improve. Still, the Apple Watch Series 7 is a gorgeous piece of tech, and remains one of Apple’s most personalizable devices, with tweakable watch faces, swappable bands, and different pricing and material options.
If you’ve not got an Apple Watch yet, this is the one to go for, but if you’re already wearing anything from the last couple of years, it’s a little harder to get excited.
Apple Watch Series 7: Display, design and build
- Biggest Apple Watch screen ever
- Always-on display (optional)
- Available in Aluminum, Stainless Steel, or Titanium, with 41mm or 45mm case sizes
As you’d expect for something you wear on your wrist, an Apple Watch is an expression of who you are and your tastes just as much as it is a piece of tech. To that end, Apple’s latest model doesn’t buck the design trend it set with the Series 4, but does make some smart tweaks.
For one, the display is 20% larger than the Series 6, and while it’s not too noticeable side-by-side, it becomes apparent once you put it on. Everything gets closer to the corners, giving UI elements more space while thoughtfully making some things, like buttons, easier to press by making them bigger.
The display is still always-on, too, although as with prior models you can turn that off to increase battery life. You’ll still find one side button and the Digital Crown as the only controls (other than the touchscreen).
Something that has changed is screen sizing — the Series 7 comes in 41mm or 45mm variations, although existing bands will still fit. That adds an extra 1mm to each option, although the screen puts that to good use.
While there are a variety of color options, there are three material options; Aluminum, Stainless Steel, or Titanium. Our review unit is the Stainless Steel version and comes with a blue sport band.
Apple Watch Series 7: Features
The strength of the Apple Watch has long been that it can do more than the majority of fitness trackers. While devices from FitBit or Garmin hone in on run tracking and other metrics, Apple’s WatchOS has often had greater ambitions. At present, it finally feels like it’s close to being where it needs to be.
WatchOS 8 is a relatively slim update, adding new workout types and improving smart home functionality, while finally adding a more usable keyboard for message quick responses. Still, the platform is mature enough now that it has its own App Store, with many of your favorite iPhone apps offering Watch experiences. Whether it’s your email, your to-do list, your calendar, or a third-party fitness app like Strava, your watch can do more than ever.
That’s to say nothing of the features it ships with right out of the box. There’s an ECG, blood oxygen sensor, an altimeter, and excellent fall detection with emergency SOS calling functionality, along with calls and messages that mirror your iPhone — so no clumsy interfacing is needed to transfer contacts.
There’s also NFC functionality for Apple Pay, and 32GB of onboard storage for apps. That space can also be used for downloaded music or podcasts, either from Apple’s own options or third-party choices like Spotify and Pocket Casts. This makes the Apple Watch ideal to grab for a run, letting you connect your Bluetooth headphones and leave your phone at home.
Speaking of workouts, the list of the ones supported on the Apple Watch Series 7 continues to grow. There are staples like running, cycling, and walking, but there are new additions arriving regularly. The last few years have seen Fitness Gaming, Dance, Pilates, and Tai-Chi arrive.
Sadly, sleep tracking remains a bugbear on Apple Watch, even with the Series 7. It’s there, managed through the “Sleep” app, but it can be fiddly to set up. There are some excellent third-party options, though battery life can make them all more hassle than they need to be (more on that later).
Apple Watch Series 7: Perfomance
Apple has really honed in on annually upgrading the chip within the Apple Watch, but in truth, anything after a Series 4 at this point is unlikely to feel sluggish.
The S7 chip this time around will have you snapping between apps and watch faces in a flash, while the U1 chip helps the Series 7 join the list of devices that can be found through the Find My network of Apple devices.
The W3 chip found on board will mean a stronger connection to Apple earphones, too, so AirPods or Beats users will get a more secure connection for audio than standard streaming. That said, Bluetooth is an option for third-party cans, too, and in our testing audio was crisp. You’ll need a cellular option to stream your Spotify playlist while out for a run, though, and depending on signal strength you may have to wait for a track to buffer — but it’s not unlike using your phone in that case.
Once your Bluetooth earphones are paired, you’re all set, although we should note that if you do use Apple’s own audio options, you’ll often find they’ll go back to pairing with your phone each time if you use them there. Thankfully, you can swap over in a few taps.
In terms of accuracy, we’re pleased to report that the Series 7’s GPS tracks about as well as you’d expect. Garmin’s more fitness-focused options may offer more precise measurements, but we tested it alongside an iPhone 13 Pro Max, a Fitbit Charge 5, and an Apple Watch Series 5 and found each to arrive at the same step count and track distance to within a few meters of each other.
Apple Watch Series 7: Battery life
The Apple Watch is generally touted to have all-day battery life, but by turning off the always-on display it’s actually possible to get about a day and a half of regular use. Sure, multiple workouts or streaming audio will bring that down considerably, but it’s not bad — it’s about what you’d expect from an Apple Watch.
The trouble is that the competition is so far ahead. A Fitbit Charge 5 will regularly hit 5 to 7 days of battery life before needing a charge, making it much easier to keep on your wrist while sleeping for more accurate sleep tracking.
Apple is at least attempting to push its sleep tracking with fast-charging on the Apple Watch. You’ll get about 50% of battery in half an hour, more than enough to track your sleep, but you’ll need to use the new style of charger that comes with the box. This means you’ll need to remind yourself to charge your watch if you’re looking to track sleep on a regular basis, and that’s one more thing to remember before bed.
Sadly, there’s no power brick, so you’ll want to use your iPhone’s USB-C brick or buy a new one. For all of the Apple Watch’s features, we’d just like the battery on the Series 8 to last a lot longer.
Apple Watch Series 7: User reviews
While many users have noted the incremental upgrades, some have been quick to praise the improved fall detection. If you fall, the Apple Watch will allow a user to alert an emergency contact.
Others are fans of the way the Apple Watch can unlock your Mac while wearing it, or the fact it’ll let you unlock your phone even while wearing a face mask.
Some reviewers, sadly, found out about the lack of a charging plug the hard way and resented having to purchase one as an extra.
Should you buy the Apple Watch Series 7?
As the culmination of a product line that’s really come into its own after some initial scepticism, the Apple Watch Series 7 is simply the finest smart watch out there right now.
If you already have a Series 6 or a Series 5, though, it’s tough to recommend investing in it. The screen isn’t as transformative as early leaks had suggested it would be, and the battery life remains much less than competitors are offering.
If this product isn’t for you
If you’re an Android user, an Apple Watch won’t serve you much better than a Fitbit. In that sense, we’d recommend the Fitbit Charge 5.
For Apple users, you can likely find clearance deals on the Series 6, or Apple offers the Apple Watch SE — a budget-conscious Apple Watch that’s essentially a Series 4.5. In any case, we’d seriously advise against the Series 3, since it’s starting to show its age now and feels ripe for being taken out of circulation.